Wonder Rush: A new app for Dash by our high school intern!

This post is by Graham Hughes, our high school intern who recently published Wonder Rush, his first app, to the App Store. Graham is a rising senior at Woodside Priory High School in Portola Valley, CA. He is passionate about robotics and enjoys backpacking and reading old absurdist literature in his free time. He worked on this project completely independently with a bit of inspiration from Dash and mentorship by software engineers at Wonder Workshop. We are incredibly proud of him and can’t wait to play with the robot he builds next! 

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I have spent the last three years of high school as a computer aided designer on my FIRST Robotics Team. This summer I interned at Wonder Workshop as an app developer to improve my programming ability. When I began working here this summer, my mentor Orion prompted me to design a simple control scheme for Dash in order to familiarize myself with C#. That small project blossomed over the summer into Wonder Rush.

As the sole developer of Wonder Rush, I was in charge of programming, designing a visually appealing layout, modifying art for icons, buttons, and backgrounds, creating immersive animations, editing audio clips, and ensuring legal compliance. It was a huge project, and I thank Orion, Leisen, and all the other awesome people on the Wonder Workshop crew for helping me make it happen!

You can download Wonder Rush, a new app for Dash, in the App Store! Wonder Rush provides Dash with an entirely new dimension of play designed to unleash kids’ creativity with four unique control themes: Supercar, Tank, UFO, and Horse. The app uses Dash’s onboard sounds, lights, and movements to provide an immersive and entertaining experience.

After I finish my internship this summer, I am hoping to apply some of my new skills to designing a graphical user interface for a project I am working on with a friend. Our goal is to build a cheap, small, and reliable humanoid robot that can climbs stairs, open doors, and interact with a variety of objects in a human environment.


Join the Blockly Puzzle Master Challenge!

Did you know that you can win a FREE Dash & Dot t-shirt by solving Blockly puzzles? Once you defeat the Terrible Troll of Trepidation, you will be awarded for your bravery and hard work with a Certificate of Mastery. Just grab an adult, take a screenshot of your certificate, and send it to ideas@makewonder.com.

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If you are amongst the first 50 kids who complete the challenge, we’ll ask you for your shipping address, and you will receive a free t-shirt in the mail! You’ll also get bragging rights and your name listed on our blog! Check out the contest rules below.

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New Version of Blockly with Puzzles and Variables


Today, you can download our new version of the Blockly app for Dash & Dot that brings in-app puzzles, advanced concepts such as variables, multiple event blocks, and several small and big improvements. It is now available on Android and iOS.

I am excited to tell you about the in-app puzzles and challenges available with this update that provide the guided play for Blockly that a lot of you have asked for. We believe in open-ended play that is child-directed — but we also realize the value of instructions and guidance that helps children get started without your help. In the new version, we have overhauled the getting started experience with introductory puzzles. In addition, we will be releasing new puzzles downloaded into the app regularly.

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We developed these coding puzzles with feedback and advice from computer science teachers who have taught at elementary schools for many years. Blockly is by far the favorite app for over 500 schools around the world that have Dash & Dot, and now your children can benefit from their experience and teaching style at home.

Blockly was created at Google, and we have redesigned and re-imagined it to be more child friendly and much more usable with robots like Dash & Dot. In that process, we had to leave out some advanced concepts until we figured out the right user experience, tested it extensively, and created the right learning tools for them. Today’s update brings several of these advanced coding features to the app: variables, conditionals, operations, and multiple when events. We have also exposed a few new sensors from Dash & Dot in Blockly that weren’t available before. Check out the details of how we thought about our re-design of block-based interfaces.

Please also share this week’s episode of the Dash & Dot Show with your kids. It has a tutorial on variables:

This summer, create your own coding camp as you get ready for the next school year. And there’s more! We are giving a free tshirt to the first 50 kids that successfully defeat the Terrible Troll of Trepidation in one of our advanced challenges! Just email a screenshot of your certificate to ideas@makewonder.com! Contest rules here.

We love to hear from you, and we want to keep improving the experience you have with Dash & Dot.

Happy coding!

Vikas Gupta
CEO, Wonder Workshop, and Dad of 2.

Making block-based coding more intuitive for young children

Block-based programming environments like MIT’s Scratch and Google’s Blockly have been successful in introducing coding to children in classroom environments. Developers of Scratch, Mitch Resnick and the MIT Media Lab, have done outstanding work in lowering the floor for learning computer programming by encouraging tinkerability and removing syntax requirements.

Organizations like code.org advocate for computer science to be taught in all classrooms. Systemic change is slow, however, and not all students, especially those who live in underserved communities, have access to schools that teach it. Studies have shown that children (notably girls) lose interest in STEM subjects in middle school, and we think it’s important to introduce these concepts early in elementary school.

At Wonder Workshop, our goal was to make block-based programming fun and accessible for children ages 7+ without the help of adults and to provide a high ceiling that would engage children progressing to advanced concepts. When we put Scratch and Blockly in front of children without any directions, many of them struggled to get started. We knew that we had to improve the user experience and refine through user research.

Using a robot helps in making learning to code hands-on and fun for young children. We made our interfaces visual so kids could easily make connections between what they were building and how it would be expressed in the real world. Coding, by nature, is open-ended, free play. However, learning requires scaffolding and a need for guided play. Our focus was to keep cognitive load for children low, and this informed our design choices at every stage. Finally, we applied these learnings to some of the more advanced concepts such as variables to bring them to children ages 9 and older.

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Happy Father’s Day from Wonder Workshop

To all the superhero dads,

You really inspire us. And we wanted to thank you for encouraging and inspiring your kids to accomplish amazing things. To imagine, create, try hard, and blow away everyone’s expectations. Here’s a tribute to you with some of our favorite projects sent in by dads in our community. 

This Father’s Day, spend time with your child to build something special together. Tag your creations with #madewithdad when you post them to Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter!

Have a wonderful Father’s Day, 

The Wonder Workshop Team

Dash & Dot at AltSchool!

School’s out for the summer, but here at Wonder Workshop, we are in the midst of many exciting plans. During Spring 2015, Wonder Workshop had the unique opportunity to run an eight week Robot Bootcamp session at AltSchool’s Fort Mason microschool. Through March and April, the WW team introduced 8 AltSchool students ranging from ages 7-11 to Dash & Dot and programming concepts through our Blockly app. We were excited to try out project and lesson ideas in a group setting, and learned a great deal from the students in this pilot program.

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Each week’s lesson started off with the introduction of new programming concepts through an “unplugged” activity. For example, when learning about algorithm design, Grace M. (age 9) described the routine of waking up in the morning, brushing her teeth, picking out her clothes and getting ready to go to school. The kids then folded paper airplanes and played a dice game to reinforce the concept of algorithms as a set of step-by-step instructions you follow to solve a problem. Then, using Blockly, Dash & Dot, students then designed their own algorithms to accomplish a goal with the robots. Some kids created their own obstacle courses or games to play, and used Blockly to program their robots’ ways to their end goals.

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Robot Bootcamp ended with a show and tell for parents! Students showed off their new Blockly skills while solving our robot maze, using all of the knowledge they acquired during the course. We were thrilled with the results, and are excited to partner with AltSchool to conduct Robot Bootcamps in the future, rolling out to more locations this fall and throughout the school year! During the summer, our engineers and researchers will be working with AltSchool’s STEM and Maker Camps while developing new and exciting challenges and project ideas to debut this fall and beyond!
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Special thanks to Katie Gibbons, Joyce Lin-Conrad, Maria Tranquilli, and of course, the students and parents at AltSchool Fort Mason! We are thrilled to partner with an organization that believes in using technology to personalize and augment learning and to empower the creative spirit in kids. We can’t wait to see what’s next!