This past weekend, Google’s Education team and Play-i hosted our first hands-on programming event for Googlers and their kids! With our launch right around the corner, we’re interested in seeing our bots in action–-dancing, helping, and navigating obstacles—using Google’s open source visual programing interface, Blockly. We had a great turnout— with 85 kids and 65 parents– for a full day introducing programming concepts to kids (and curious siblings) between 8 and 12 years old.
We believe that this graphic display of code is useful for kids 5 and older and were proud to see Blockly encourage computational thinking strategies. Blockly transforms basic programming statements like loops and conditionals into shapes that “click” when they fit together like puzzle pieces in a drag-and-drop interface. Check it out here.
We split the kids into two groups: a Blockly Games group and a Play-i robots group. We ran sessions simultaneously, while offering a technical tutorial for Googler parents interested in developing on our Android API. After lunch, the two groups swapped rooms. The Blockly Games lounge was configured in a relaxed, self-directed environment filled with massive bean bag chairs and Chromebooks. Children could either work on their own or collaborate with a neighbor. So long, computer labs of yore!
The Play-i room was filled with robots running around and ordered chaos! The kids were divided up into groups of four and rotated along the five activities we had planned for the day.
Using Legos and art supplies, the kids transformed Bo & Yana into animals from earth or other planets! Then they made the robots move around and make sounds that their animal would! People made some pretty elaborate creations like this:
Can you get Bo through a maze to meet up with friends on the other end? It was especially exciting when kids worked together to successfully complete the maze. We are definitely doing more activities with concrete goals in the future.
So you think a robot can dance? You betcha. We had some sweet beats going that robots could dance to. Once the teams were done programming their dances, the bots (and the kids) launched their own dance offs!
Clean Up Robot Island
One of the best use of robots is to have them do chores for you! During this activity, children were able to navigate the robot to clean up lava rocks! We were especially impressed when one of our attendees managed to move the whole dumpster with the rocks into the corner of the play space. (Nice job, Kira!)
Hack it Yourself
We wanted to see what the kids could come up with themselves and give them opportunities for open-ended play, so one of the activities was do it yourself. Children were able to use the robots for a variety of things including telling stories and “arresting” adults in the room who were in its way!
We are off to a great start with our collaborations and events! In the coming weeks and months, we will be hosting more of these and even inviting you to host your own. Keep checking our site and blog for more information!