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Project Bloks: Googles latest effort to encourage kids to code

  • Date Published: June 28, 2016

Google has already worked with design company IDEO to create a "Coding Kit" using the system, which is being tested with children and schools.

This is all part of the company's wider efforts around kids and programming, which also include the Blockly visual-programming library; the Made With Code initiative aimed at teenage girls, and the CS First summer coding program in the US.

"This is not just about teaching kids how to code: Let's teach you Java so you can become an engineer.' It's about this being a fundamental skill: as fundamental as reading and writing in terms of how to approach problems, and giving kids a language for creative expression," says Jayme Goldstein, team lead at Google Creative Lab, where Project Bloks was created.

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"That's what spawned the Code.orgs and the Hour of Codes and the Scratches and the Raspberry Pis. Our approach with Google is in line with that others are doing: that kids should be creative with technology, not just consumers of it."

Google's blocks (or bloks) aren't a commercial product, yet. Instead, they're an architecture for other people to build physical coding kits - from academics wanting to run tangible-programming research projects to startups developing coding toys to sell via Kickstarter.

"It's about whether we could create an underlying technology to enable researchers, developers and designers to go and make more tangible coding experiences, and push the area forward," says Goldstein.

That openness is key to the project. The base boards can be made of wood, plastic and other materials, as can the pucks - with potential in the future for people to 3D-print their own components.

"The important thing about these pucks is they are very cheap and easy to make, and you can make them out of any material. A designer might want to make their pucks very high-end out of plastic, or out of wood or 3D-printed parts, or even with paper and foam. There's a real DIY side to this," says Wilbert.