Resources and organisations for teaching kids to engineer / code stuff

This is not yet an exhaustive list. Please comment if you know of any other resources to mention!

Hardware & Software

  • Lego Big Blocks - the classic! Our 2 1/2 yearold daughter loves these. You can build simple animals, towers, houses etc.
  • Boxes for building towers - I forget the brand name but our daughter has a box of boxes(!) that she loves. It's just a set of about 10 colourful boxes; each one a little smaller than the previous one such that they all pack away into the largest box (a little like a Russian doll). It's great for building towers. Surprisingly good fun!
  • TED Talk: AnnMarie Thomas: Hands-on science with squishy circuits
  • Little Bits - little electronics building blocks which snap together with magnets.
  • adafruit have a Young Engineers section of their shop (including Little Bits)
  • Snap Circuits
  • Hot Wires
  • Cambridge BrainBox Electronics Kits - several kits. Similar to Hot Wires and Snap Circuits.
  • Superstructs Starter Set - We bought this for our 2 1/4 yearold. I was hoping that it would be easy to assemble the pieces but it's actually quite physically tough to force some of the pieces together (even for an adult!). You often have to apply quite a lot of pressure and must do so within quite a narrow range of angles. As such, I'd hesitate to recommend these for younger kids. But, that said, our daughter does like this kit, even though she can't get many of the parts to connect together. She can build simple little creations and she often demands "Mummy / Daddy, build new car!" Of course, the toy is meant for 3 year olds upwards, so I'm being a little unfair writing a review based on our 2 1/4 yearold's experiences! It's entirely possible that a patient 3 year old would be able to assemble the pieces with little trouble.
  • play-i Bo and Yana robots
  • Lego Mindstorm kits
  • Graphical programming languages for kids:
  • Built It Nuts and Bolts - (we bought the "construction starter set" for our 2 yearold daughter. She likes fiddling with it although it'll be a while before she can build anything substantial with it. But she loves asking me and her mum to build robots for her! At 26 months she's just about getting the hang of putting a nut on a bolt and taking it off again, although she still needs a lot of help with that.)
  • MOSS - The Dynamic Robot Construction Kit. By Modular Robotics - "Build your own robots with MOSS! Simple, fun, magnetic robot construction kits. No coding, no wires, oodles of configurations!"
  • Goldie Blox - "Building Games for Girls." And cool promo video!
  • Circuit Scribe - "a rollerball pen that writes with conductive silver ink. It makes creating circuits as easy as doodling."
  • MaKey MaKey - "Turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. It's a simple Invention Kit for Beginners and Experts doing art, engineering, and everything inbetween"
  • Circuit Stickers - "Circuit stickers are peel-and-stick electronics for crafting circuits. Use them to add electronics to any sticker-friendly surface: paper, fabric, plastic, the sky's the limit!"
  • Meccano do a couple of plastic kit for years 5 and up. http://www.meccano.com/uk/products/models.html I don't think they have any motors or cogs in these kits though.
  • Big Trak
  • Primo Cubetto - for 4 yearolds up. Looks awesome. "Program" a robot to move using a simply physical interface. Apparently also works for advanced 3 yearolds.
  • Ozo Bot - tiny programmable robot (using visual programming system). Looks cute!
  • CHERP (Creative Hybrid Environment for Robotic Programming) - "a hybrid tangible/graphical computer language designed to provide an engaging introduction to computer programming for young children in both formal and informal educational settings. With CHERP you can create programs for robots like the LEGO Mindstorms RCX and Lego WeDo, as well as the KIWI research prototype... CHERP's wooden blocks contain no embedded electronics or power supplies. Instead CHERP uses the computer’s embedded camera or a standard webcam connected to a desktop or laptop computer to take a picture of your program, which it then converts into digital code"
  • Kamigami - "lightning-fast, origami-style robots that you can build yourself! Our robots are perfect for those looking for a fun, spring-to-life, do-it-yourself project that won’t break the bank. It’s a great educational tool for kids that want to get an early start in robotics, engineering, and biology, as well as a great platform for makers that want to dig in and take robotics to exciting new places."
  • Siftables - "MIT grad student David Merrill demos Siftables — cookie-sized, computerized tiles you can stack and shuffle in your hands. These future-toys can do math, play music, and talk to their friends, too. Is this the next thing in hands-on learning?"
  • Osmo’s iPad kids games - "Osmo’s hardware is the combination of an iPad stand and a small mirror that clips onto the iPad’s front-facing camera to redirect its field-of-view onto the table in front of it. This is being combined with some dedicated iPad apps and accessories for different games." https://www.playosmo.com
  • Technology Will Save Us (based in the UK) sell kits such as the "DIY Electro Dough Kit" and "DIY Thirsty Plant Kit" and "Micro bit activity pack" and DIY synths and other stuff.

KIWI and KIBO by Kinder Lab Robotics

Young kids programming robots with wooden blocks.

Dash and Dot

Robot. Responds to voice, navigates objects, dances, and sings, Use Wonder, Blockly, and other apps to create new behaviors for Dash.

Lego WeDo

Bee Bot

Specific building projects

  • Build dens out of scrap cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, bottles etc. The kids draw where they want windows and adults cut out the windows for them. Use plastic tube 'telephones' between the dens. Use simple electronics (batteries, switches, lights, door bells etc).
  • Doodlebot
  • Marshmallow Challenge - build the largest structure out of spaghetti (or thin bits of wood?) and marshmallows (or blue-tack?)
  • Use syringes and pipe to make simple pneumatics, to add to constructions made of cardboard etc
  • stop-frame animation (lego, plasticine, real people etc!)
  • 'use this cardboard and junk to make a space rocket'. Maybe put up poster-size images of real space rockets (or use a projector).
  • build cranes from syringes, rulers etc.
  • make plasticine conduct
  • The TanglibleK Robotics Programme - Revising Developmental Assumptions through New Technologies

Organisations and websites

UK

  • Technology Will Save Us - lots of cool educational electronics kits
  • FIRST LEGO League (FLL) - for 9-16 yearolds
  • Lego Education
  • The IET Faraday - Free teaching resource for science, design, tech, engineering, maths. 11-19 yearolds.
  • Fire Tech Camp - "Kids learn to create their own video games, mobile apps, and robots during a week long daycamp"
  • Code Club - "A nationwide network of volunteer-led after school coding clubs for children aged 9-11"
  • Little Miss Geek
  • Turing Lab - "Inspiring children to explore the world through code"
  • Mission Explore - "Mission:Explore is a unique and inspirational way for children to explore and learn about their world... it's a free treasure chest of playful and rewarding activities that fight boredom and nurture curiosity."
  • Meetup: People teaching kids to code in London - "A meetup for anyone who teaches programming or electronics to kids: in schools, through after-school or weekend clubs, or even just at home. Teachers, volunteer instructors and parents are all welcome."
  • London Knowledge Lab - "a unique collaboration between two of the UK’s most prominent centres of research – the UCL Institute of Education and Birkbeck. The Lab brings together computer and social scientists from a very broad range of fields"
  • UCL Institute of Education
  • Maker Club

Evolving robots

Articles and Videos

Academic Papers

  • Bers et al. Computational thinking and tinkering: Exploration of an early childhood robotics curriculum. Computers & Education. 2014. DOI:10.1016/j.compedu.2013.10.020. Abstract: "By engaging in construction-based robotics activities, children as young as four can play to learn a range of concepts. The TangibleK Robotics Program paired developmentally appropriate computer programming and robotics tools with a constructionist curriculum designed to engage kindergarten children in learning computational thinking, robotics, programming, and problem-solving. This paper documents three kindergarten classrooms’ exposure to computer programming concepts and explores learning outcomes. Results point to strengths of the curriculum and areas where further redesign of the curriculum and technologies would be appropriate. Overall, the study demonstrates that kindergartners were both interested in and able to learn many aspects of robotics, programming, and computational thinking with the TangibleK curriculum design."
  • Benitti, F. B. V. Exploring the educational potential of robotics in schools: A systematic review. Computers & Education, Elsevier, 2012, 58, 978-988. DOI:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.10.006. Abstract: "This study reviews recently published scientific literature on the use of robotics in schools, in order to: (a) identify the potential contribution of the incorporation of robotics as educational tool in schools, (b) present a synthesis of the available empirical evidence on the educational effectiveness of robotics as an educational tool in schools, and (c) define future research perspectives concerning educational robotics. After systematically searching online bibliographic databases, ten relevant articles were located and included in the study. For each article, we analyze the purpose of the study, the content to be taught with the aid of robotics, the type of robot used, the research method used, and the sample characteristics (sample size, age range of students and/or level of education) and the results observed. The articles reviewed suggest that educational robotics usually acts as an element that enhances learning, however, this is not always the case, as there are studies that have reported situations in which there was no improvement in learning. The outcomes of the literature review are discussed in terms of their implications for future research, and can provide useful guidance for educators, practitioners and researchers in the area."
  • Blikstein, Paulo. Gears of our Childhood: Constructionist toolkits, robotics, and physical computing, past and future. Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children, 2013. DOI:10.1145/2485760.2485786. Abstract: "Microcontroller-based toolkits and physical computing devices have been used in educational settings for many years for robotics, environmental sensing, scientific experimentation, and interactive art. Based on a historical analysis of the development of these devices, this study examines the design principles underlying the several available platforms for physical computing and presents a framework to analyze various platforms and their use in education. Given the now widespread use of these devices among children and their long history in the field, a historical review and analysis of this technology would be useful for interaction designers."
  • Blikstein, Paulo. Digital Fabrication and ‘Making’ in Education: The Democratization of Invention. In J. Walter-Herrmann & C. Büching (Eds.), FabLabs: Of Machines, Makers and Inventors. Bielefeld: Transcript Publishers.

Videos

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