Google reveals Project Bloks – Tangible programming experiences for kids

Creating a development platform for tangible programming

Google today announced a research project aiming to create an open hardware platform to help developers, designers, and researchers build the next generation of tangible programming experiences for kids.

Kids naturally play and learn by using their hands, building stuff and doing things together. One of the benefits of tangible programming is that it makes code physical, so kids can play with it.

Ultimately, their goal is to enable kids to develop computational thinking (a set of foundational problem-solving skills) from a young age through coding experiences that are playful, tactile, and collaborative.

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 help kids develop computational thinking.

The project is inspired by previous academic work in the field and is still in active research.

For more in-depth information, read the Research section.

The system is made up of pucks, Base Boards, and the Brain Board.

These can have different forms, interactivity and can be programmed with different instructions (e.g. turn on/off, move left, jump, play music).

Base Boards
When you place a puck onto a Base Board, the board reads that puck’s instruction through a capacitive sensor. You can connect multiple Base Boards together.

Brain Board
This provides power and connectivity. When you connect multiple Base Boards to the Brain Board, it can read their instructions and send them via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to connected devices. It’s built on a Raspberry Pi Zero.

The boards can be covered with any material or form you like and arranged in different ways, to create very different experiences. Here are some ideas for what you could create using the system, prototyped in paper.


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