Although Google is often the subject of critics’ raised eyebrows regarding some of the decisions that they make, they frequently manage to strike a cord with the public with other efforts. A new education tool they are launching is likely to be one of those initiatives that garners praise for the company while also pushing forward an agenda of improving the world around them. Today Google announced a new collaboration with Paulo Blikstein of Stanford University and IDEO to launch Project Bloks, an open hardware platform to build a physical coding experience especially well-suited to teaching kids how to code.
In pursuing the creation of Project Bloks, Google relied on a large body of research regarding the effectiveness of experiential, hands-on learning techniques to make tangible programming accessible to children. Google indicates the challenge to making this possible in the past has been the resources and time required to develop hardware and software. For this new partnership, Google opted to create an open platform so that designers, developers and researchers can innovate and experiment on computational thinking tools for kids.
The Project Bloks system that has been created is composed of three primary parts. There is a “Brain Board” built on a Raspberry Pi Zero that is the main processing unit. The Brain Board provides power to the constructed systems and has an API capable of sending and receiving data from the other parts. The Brain Board is also capable of sending instructions to other devices using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth so that kids can see the results of their programming efforts.
There are also “Base Board” pieces that are fitted with haptic motors and LEDs to provide real-time feedback. The Base Boards also have a capacitive sensor that is used as a conduit for commands from the third component, the “Puck.” The Pucks can be programmed with different instructions like “turn on or off”, “move left” or “jump.” Developers and designers will be able to build the Pucks with different shapes and forms to help guide kids in understanding their functions. Google also points out that all that is needed to create a Puck is a piece of paper and conductive ink at a minimum.
Bringing all of these components together, Google and IDEO created a reference device called the Coding Kit. Kids can use the Coding Kit to create instruction sets to control other devices like a drawing robot.
Google is currently soliciting educators, developers, parents and researchers to take part in research studies and to help move the project forward. You can check out a video from Google showing Project Bloks in action below and do not be surprised to see more updates about this in the future.
source: Google Research Blog