Google and Play-i Pilot a New Strategy for CS Education

Google and Play i Pilot a New Strategy for CS Education

Alexei Vera Diaz explains the concept of loops in Spanish to his daughter, Emilia.

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.

Google and Play i Pilot a New Strategy for CS EducationWe 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.

Creature Creator

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:

Google and Play i Pilot a New Strategy for CS Education

A creation using glitter stickers and a Lego Friends jungle set!

Maze

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.

Google and Play i Pilot a New Strategy for CS EducationGoogle and Play i Pilot a New Strategy for CS Education

Dance Battle 

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!

Google and Play i Pilot a New Strategy for CS Education

Dan Chao, Play-i software engineer, helps kids strategize their dance moves.

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!)

Google and Play i Pilot a New Strategy for CS Education

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!

Google and Play i Pilot a New Strategy for CS Education

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!

Announcing the Play-i Apps

We’ve gotten a lot of excited emails asking when our apps will be available. While they are not available in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store yet, we thought we would share a sneak preview below!

Announcing the Play i Apps

Go is where everyone will begin with Bo and Yana. Here we have the getting started tutorials, a remote control, and some fun surprises along the way! Go is where your child will learn all about Bo and Yana and become comfortable controlling the robots.

Announcing the Play i Apps

Blockly was developed using a visual coding language for more advanced kids. Commands are dragged onto the screen, telling Bo to do things like turn left when it senses a wall or run away when it hears a clap. Yana can do things like change light colors when tapped! Blockly was originally developed by Google. Your child can become familiar with a version of the language here: https://blockly-games.appspot.com/

Announcing the Play i Apps

Xylo teaches loops as your child tells Bo to play different melodies on our Xylophone!

Announcing the Play i Apps

Path allows your children to tell Bo where to go by dragging their finger along the screen. Virtual worlds like a race track make play even more imaginative! By adding in sounds, events, or loops, your child can create a real race day experience. Events and sequences are shown visually, which is easier to grasp for little learners.

This is just a quick update on what we have been up to while we work on getting Bo & Yana to you. We hope you are as excited as we are! As always, if you have questions, email support@play-i.com

 

Our Warranty Policy

At Play-i, we strive for perfection. We want our customers to be 100% happy and satisfied with their purchases, so we have made some important updates to our policy!

Our Warranty Policy

Drumroll please……our warranty policy is finalized! Many of our supporters have been asking, and the answer is finally here. We will have more info on how to return the robots later in time, but this is a general overview.

Our Warranty Policy

If you want more information, click through this link! As always, if you have questions, please email support@play-i.com!

Destroying Toys to Make New Toys

Destroying Toys to Make New ToysMy name is Bitzy and I am a mechanical design intern at Play-i. I work on designing some of the accessories for Bo and have been a part of Play-i’s design and prototyping process.

Designing good toys requires asking many questions: What do we want the play experience to be like? Will kids want to play with Bo & Yana for a long time? Is it easy for kids to use, or will they get frustrated and give up? How does the product help us meet our goals of delivering fun and education?

We start with the product design ideation process.

Research

First we look at similar products already on the market. What features have made them succeed or fail? Why do kids like them? We often order lots of toys and products. We play with them for a bit, partially to get a sense of the play experience, but let’s be honest, mostly for the fun of it.

Dissection

The next step is to take them apart! Parents, if you want your kids to learn about how things are made, have them take things apart. It’s amazing what you can learn about mechanisms, manufacturing, and design from taking toys apart.

Analysis

After dissecting the toys to see how they work and function internally, we look for toys that imitate what we want to do in the most efficient way. For example, if we wanted to make a dancing robot, we would pick up another dancing toy, do some surgery, and analyze the mechanisms that make the robot dance.

Prototype

Once we have decided on the right implementation, we iterate through the prototyping process. Things rarely work well on the first design. A good approach to designing a complex product, assembly, or mechanism is to break it down into fundamental modules that can be independently tested. This modular process of testing is very common in programming as well and is known as unit testing.

Destroying Toys to Make New Toys

We like to start the design process by failing fast. By having the savvy and the tools that allow you to fail quickly, you can debug and improve the design until it is ready for the next step: designing for manufacture.

5 Steps to Making Perfect Robots

5 Steps to Making Perfect Robots I’m Jonathan and I think robots are awesome. I’m a certified Teaching English as a Foreign Language teacher with degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering, so it’s truly a pleasure to be working on Bo & Yana. Since joining Play-I’s Hardware team in March, I’ve been focused on implementing improved features, design validation, and preparing Bo and Yana for volume manufacturing.

The hardware team is devoting significant bandwidth to supporting our manufacturer as we go through several pilot builds of Bo & Yana (see our manufacturing launch plan here). We are partnering with one of the world’s leading toy manufacturers; in fact, there’s a good chance that your children already have at least one toy from them. Even with their 30+ years experience, there’s still a lot of work that goes into making sure we ship high-quality robots on schedule.

5 Steps to Making Perfect Robots

Here are some things our hardware team is working with our manufacturer on:

1) Validating Design

We’re making sure that the every feature on the robot performs to our high standards. Up until now, we’ve only had a handful of robots to test, which doesn’t give statistically significant results. Ramping up production means we have lots of robots to test, giving us the ability to observe performance on a large number of units to ensure the best quality.

2) Improving Design For Manufacturing

From the very beginning, we’ve been focusing on mistake proofing. For electronics, this means making sure that each wire harness connector can only plugged in correctly.

3) Testing Fixtures

All of our robots go through a series of tests as they go down the production line. There are 12 circuit boards in Bo that get assembled at different stages in production, so these tests make sure that all the connections are made properly and work together as expected. We collect performance data on each of the features to weed out marginal units. This data makes it easy for continuous product improvement.

4) Life Testing

A group of units from each build we do goes off to our quality lab, where they are played with continuously for 8 hours a day. We are looking to see which parts of the design fail and how long it takes for failures to develop. Proactively finding design weaknesses allows us to make improvements to the robot before they ever make it to your homes and into the hands of your children.

5) Compliance Testing & Certification

We’re working with 3rd-party testing facilities to ensure that our robots comply with all laws for each country where our robots will be sold. In a few days they’ll begin testing for FCC compliance and certification from Bluetooth SIG.

We’re all very eager to see Bo and Yana launch into full production in the coming weeks, but not without making sure we’ve crossed all our t’s and dotted all the i’s. In doing so, we spend a fair amount of time at our manufacturer in China and will continue to do so throughout production launch and volume ramp-up.

 

Little Programs for Little Learners

Throughout the summer our researchers have been testing our robots and apps with kids in museums and summer camps. We’re paying close attention to what brings smiles to children’s faces and gets their minds racing. Over and over again, we’re finding that kids love turning Bo & Yana into characters, making Bo zip around the room, and programming Bo to behave in their own creative ways.

Little Programs for Little Learners

Coding enables children to shape their own worlds, and our in-app challenges will inspire them by showing what’s possible. Here are some fun open-ended activities your child can do with Bo to play and learn in their own way.

1. Hello world

Children say “Hello” in all kinds of ways. Some say it out loud while jumping up and down while others wave and smile. There are many ways your child can program Bo to say “Hello” too. Try coding Bo to light up and go “Ooo” when you clap or go forward and backward when you press a button. Kids will delight in showing the world how they programmed Bo to make an introduction.

2. Story time

The next time you read a story to your child, try programming Bo together to play one of the characters. Children love telling stories with their playthings, and they can turn a little blue robot into any character they choose. Program Bo to show a character’s emotions or act out different parts of the story as you read them. Make Bo shake its head and frown when your narrator recites their dislike for green eggs and ham, or transform Bo into a wild thing who snarls and rolls its terrible eyes. By letting your child add their creative flavor to storytelling they will continually seek out great stories.

3. Helping hand

Children love turning Bo into their little helper. Strap a tray or a lasso to Bo or just program it to push building blocks, food, toys, or anything else they desire. Kids’ eyes will light up when they see their little blue robot delivering gifts to their friends or retrieving tools from across the room.

4. Everybody dance now

Turn up the tunes and kids will start dancing. With just a little bit of code they can program Bo to join in their fun. They’ll enjoy making Bo move back and forth to the beat or just bob its head and flash its lights as they dance around Bo.

5. Teach someone else how to play

Teaching is just as fun for children as learning. Have your child program Bo to do things like shake when you clap or zoom forward when you wave your hand in front of it. Once they’ve coded some cool things for Bo to do when you interact, they can demonstrate what they programmed to a friend or family member. By leaving a button press un-programmed they can use it to teach someone new how to program Bo.

We can’t wait to see what other awesome projects your kids create with our robots! If you have any ideas for challenges, please share them too in the comments!