Creating a development platform
for tangible programming

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Introducing Project Bloks

Project Bloks is a research project. Our aim is to create an open hardware platform to help developers, designers, and researchers build the next generation of tangible programming experiences for kids.

Brain Board piece and other different details Brain Board piece and other different details

Kids naturally play and learn by using their hands, building stuff and doing things together. One of the benefits of tangible programming is that it makes code physical, so kids can play with it.

Ultimately, our goal is to enable kids to develop computational thinking (a set of foundational problem-solving skills) from a young age through coding experiences that are playful, tactile, and collaborative.

Creating an open platform for designers, developers and researchers will remove the technical barriers that get in their way: so they can focus on innovating, experimenting, and creating new ways to help kids develop computational thinking.

The project is inspired by previous academic work in the field and is still in active research.

For more in-depth information, read the Research section.

What we've developed so far

We’ve created a modular system for tangible programming made up of electronic boards and programmable pucks — which enable you to send instructions to devices when connected together.

A set of bloks connected together which send a wifi signal

The individual elements

The system is made up of pucks, Base Boards, and the Brain Board.

3 type of Pucks
Pucks

These can have different forms, interactivity and can be programmed with different instructions (e.g. turn on/off, move left, jump, play music).

Image Representing Base Boards
Base Boards

When you place a puck onto a Base Board, the board reads that puck’s instruction through a capacitive sensor. You can connect multiple Base Boards together.

Image Representing Brain Board
Brain Board

This provides power and connectivity. When you connect multiple Base Boards to the Brain Board, it can read their instructions and send them via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to connected devices. It’s built on a Raspberry Pi Zero.

What could be created with the system

The boards can be covered with any material or form you like and arranged in different ways, to create very different experiences. Here are some ideas for what you could create using the system, prototyped in paper.

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Sensor Lab

This kit would allow you to experiment with sensors and map an input to an output, like switching on a light if the temperature dropped.

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Music Maker

With the Music Maker you could compose a track using computational thinking by inputting different instruments, layering and looping sounds, and then playing it through a wireless speaker.

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Coding Kit

With this kit you could put physical code together to send instructions to toys around you — like controlling a robot to create some art.

Why we’re doing this

Creating an open platform for designers, developers, and researchers will remove the technical barriers that get in their way: so they can focus on innovating, experimenting, and creating new ways to teach computational thinking to kids.

Watch the film to find out more.

Developing on Project Bloks

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What’s next?

Project Bloks is still in active research. To further inform the development of the project, we’ll be conducting more research over the course of the summer into the opportunities for tangible programming and the Bloks platform.

Register interest

If you’d like updates on the progress of the project, please sign up.

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