As the global focus on computing curricula intensifies and parents continue to push their kids towards STEM subjects in the hopes that leads to better opportunities later on in life, the proliferation of “coding kits” aimed at kids is keeping pace.
Much of this seeks to teach the fundamentals of programming in an age-appropriate way, often incorporating robots, or a drag-and-drop coding interface – like MIT’s Scratch.
One interesting example of this is Robo Wunderkind, whose makers are currently rattling the tin on Kickstarter.
At the core of this programming kit are a collection of modular sensors and motors, which users can connect by simply snapping them together. The components are blocky enough to be comfortably grasped by clumsier, younger fingers. Then, if the user so desires, they can adorn their creation with Lego, giving it a unique design.
What’s particularly interesting about Robo Wunderkind is its approach to programming. While many kits are pigeonholed to a specific age group, Robo Wunderkind spans a few, offering several different programming interfaces that vary in complexity and sophistication.
Users as young as five can control their creation by building their own control panel and pressing each button to see what happens. This is designed to work irrespective of the child’s reading ability.
The next step up is slightly more sophisticated, and introduces the child to concepts like flow, iteration, and conditionals. The robot is programmed through a drag-and-drop interface, but is still primarily visual in nature, and doesn’t have much written text.
Older kids can program the device through a block-based programming language based on Blockly and Scratch, while for more advanced users, the device comes with a Python and Arduino-compatible API. This exposes the core functionality of the device, while also allowing the user to gain experience similar to real-world commercial environments.
At the time of writing, Robo Wunderkind had raised over £9,000 of its £39,000 goal. Backers can grab a unit for $149, a 25 per cent discount on the usual retail price of $199.
Of course, we’d be remiss in our duties if we didn’t remind you that crowdfunding campaigns always carry an element of risk. Only back this if you’re comfortable with the potential for delays or potential failure. ®
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Rojenx is a leading concept artist who work appears in games and publications
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