Primo – Using Wooden Toys to Teach Programming
Primo Toys have created toys to teach children how to program. They have created a wooden robot called Cubetto to teach the basics of coding through adventure and play.
You have some coding blocks, each block is an action which you can combine to create programs.
Forward Left Right Function
You then place the blocks on the control board to tell Cubetto what to do, then hit the blue button to execute the program. It is designed to be hands-on play, the same way that a child would play with building blocks.
This is from a blog on the Primo website, they explain why wood was their choice of material:
“Cubetto and the Interface Board are designed to be touched and handled. It was vital to choose the right material and for us, that meant a natural material. We made observations in kindergartens and discovered that toddler toys and games made of wood are the most loved by children. Wooden blocks are timeless toys for kids. Parents are also reassured by the fact that wooden toys are tough enough to stand up to being handled by toddlers!”
They explain their idea of how to Cubetto can be used to introduce coding:
“Physical blocks represent algorithms, or sets of instructions. These are placed along a curved line. They are run in sequence when the child presses the big, blue go button. This introduces children to the idea of a queue. After executing the commands, children watch Cubetto’s actions and, if necessary, reset his position and replace blocks to alter his programming. This introduces children to the concept of debugging. Just as in ancient times, objects or tokens can be used to make complex concepts more manageable.
At first glance, it may appear that forward, left and right are the extent of the commands available. In fact, it goes deeper than that. In real coding it is crucial that programmers consider technological limitations; resources are never unlimited. Cubetto teaches this side of coding for kids too. At the bottom of the Interface Board is a Function Line. Children discover for themselves that a blue block on the Interface board will carry out all of the instructions in the Function Line.
For example, the following configuration would cause Cubetto to move forward twice.
But what if the child was asked to move Cubetto forward four spaces, but only given two forward blocks and two function blocks? The child would eventually reason that the function blocks act as multipliers, allowing the instructions packaged in the Function Line to be carried out twice, as in the following diagram.
By limiting the number of blocks available in coding games, we are able to introduce kids to the concept of finite system resources. Cubetto’s movements and the physical blocks provide all the necessary feedback for girls and boys to discover the logic of coding through touch.”
You can read the whole blog here