Google has come up with a new open hardware platform called ‘Project Bloks’ that aims to help kids code. The project also aims to help children create cool gadgets and also develop problem-solving skills using tactile, playful and collaborative coding experiences. Google has designed the system to allow developers customize, rearrange and reconfigure different types of programming experiences.
Project Bloks comprises of three core components — Brain Board, Base Boards and Pucks. When connected together, one can create set of instructions for connected devices, such as tablets or toys, and it can be sent over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. For instance, one can build a coding kit to create art or control a robot.
“We believe that when children learn to code, they’re not just learning how to program a computer —they’re learning a new language for creative expression and are developing computational thinking: a skillset for solving problems of all kinds,” Google wrote in a blog post.
Brain Board: Built on Raspberry Pi Zero, it is the system’s processing unit that also powers other boards. The system can take different form factors and can also be made from different materials. This gives developers the flexibility to create diverse experiences to help kids learn different things, right from playing with sensors to composing music and more.
Base Board: Having a modular design, the base board reads instructions from Puck using a capacitive sensor. It is fitted with LEDs and haptic motor to offer real-time feedback to end-users. These boards can also use brain board’s built-in speaker to trigger audio feedback, if required. Being modular, base boards can be connected in different orientations or in sequence for creating different program flows.
Pucks: It is what makes Project Bloks versatile by brining flexibility of software programming commands. One can easily program pucks with different set of instructions such as jump, move left or right, or to turn on or off. That’s not all; pucks can be in the shape of dials, buttons or switches. As pucks don’t have any active electronic components, they are pretty inexpensive and easy to make. For creating the most basic puck, you’ll need a piece of paper and some conductive ink.
The Coding Kit: Not everyone knows how to make the best use of the system, and to help developers and researchers, Google has joined hands with IDEO for creating a reference device. Kids can easily put code bricks together and create set of instructions for controlling connected devices and toys.
To begin with, Google will be testing the reference design in small group of schools, before finally expanding the program.