Google wants more kids to learn coding so it's building Project Bloks, an open hardware platform that anyone can use to create “tangible programming experiences for kids.”
“Tangible programming” means kids will learn how to learn the fundamentals of coding with the use of physical blocks that they can play and experiment with. The most important feature of these blocks are that they can represent codes and commands. Basically, instead of sending lines on a screen, kids will be putting blocks together to code.
“It’s more in tune with how they naturally play: building things, moving around,” saidJayme Goldstein, team lead at Google Creative Lab, where Project Bloks was created
Here’s how it works. Project Bloks has three basic components: the “Brain Board,” “Base Boards,” and “Pucks.” Think of Pucks as instructions. They can make something turn on and off, move left, jump or play music depending on what they’re programmed to do. There can be all kinds, shapes and forms of Pucks to suit whatever instruction they hold. Pucks that make an object turn left, for example, can have an arrow to the left.
These Pucks are then mounted on a Base Board. These Base Boards allow the blocks (and the Pucks sitting on them) to connect together. By connecting the Pucks and Base Boards together, coding can be read like “Turn left, then jump, then play music.”
Then, the Brain Board is exactly what it is. It connects to the Base Boards, reads the code, and relays the instructions to the object the child is coding to. It’s also the Brain Board’s job to power the whole thing.
With these three components, creatives can essentially build any programming experience they want to for kids. “Creating an open platform for designers, developers, and researchers will remove the technical barriers that get in their way: so they can focus on innovating, experimenting, and creating new ways to teach computational thinking to kids,” says Google.
They can make a set of blocks than are made to represent a music maker with Pucks that can produce beats, sounds and control volume, for example. And so far, Google, together with product design company Ideo, has already created a reference design they're calling the “Coding Kit.” It comes with a Brain Board, Base Boards and Pucks that let kids control anything from a tablet to a robot. The coding kit, however, isn't for sale. It's what they're using to test Project Bloks in schools and on real kids.
Project Bloks is still in its early days, however. There’s lots more that needs to be doing in terms of research and development. But, with Project Bloks, the possibilities are endless and the potential is enormous. We're definitely excited for it.
Watch the video below to learn more about Project Bloks.