As we dive headfirst into our automated future, getting our kids interested in coding is becoming just as important as reading, writing and arithmetic. The latest project to join efforts from Fisher-Price, Google and Osmo is Algobrix, a Lego-compatible learning platform where youngsters build colorful bots and play with code.
"We are starting to see robots in hospitals, schools, and even our homes," Dr. Danny Eizicovits of Algobrix noted. "By teaching our kids to communicate with our robotic counterparts, we are hoping to give them the proper tools, and competitive edge in a world that is moving further towards robotics every day."
Eizicovits and Amir Asor joined forces in April 2016 to form Algobrix, aiming to "enhance and redefine how children learn to code." That vision has resulted in a play-based learning platform aimed primarily at 5 to 13 year-olds – though kids of all ages can get in on the coding-block play action (as you can see in the photo below) – where kids build a chunky Lego-like robot and then use function and parameter blocks to wirelessly tell it what to do over Bluetooth.
The first step of the process is to build a robot to command. There are a number of Algobot designs to choose from, each constructed using Lego-compatible components. At the center of each Algobot is an Arduino-compatible processing brain, and a collection of light, proximity, sound and touch sensors wrapped in Leg-like brick skins can be added to the mix. If the kids have traditional Lego pieces boxed away, they can break those out and add to the suggested designs to create their own unique bots.
The coding part of the setup comes in the shape of brightly colored blocks, each with its own functions, commands and parameters. The blocks are connected together to form a chain of commands for the robot to follow once the sequence has been triggered. All without so much as looking at a computer or smartphone screen or getting buried in complicated coding language.
The developers say that block-coders will learn the basics of programming in a fun hands-on way, while also getting to grips with multi-threading, loops, IFTTT, setting parameters, program debugging and more. Activity cards help keep the ideas flowing and various play mats are available to challenge coders to sequence commands so that the bots move around and hit target zones as they go. And the best news for parents is that they don't need to know any coding to get involved.
"Algobrix changes what is stereotypically a boring, confined experience to a playful, intuitive, and fun learning experience while maintaining a high, positive correlation with coding languages that leave a lasting impression," said company co-founder Amir Asor.
The Algobrix project is currently raising production funds on Kickstarter, where pledges start at US$125 for a 300 piece Algobot with sound and distance sensors and LED light blocks. A kit that includes an Algobot and coding blocks starts at $149. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in February 2018. The pitch video can be seen below.