About Project Bloks

Bloks prototyping

This project kicked off in 2013, when a small group of interaction designers and programmers in Google Creative Lab got together. We wanted to help get the powerful ideas of computational thinking into the hands of younger kids by building on the long-standing academic research into using tangibles for learning.

We started small — doing extensive research into the existing lineage of tangibles, so we could figure out how to push the conversation forward. Pretty soon the project gathered pace, garnering interest from Google’s Education and Research teams, and along the way we developed relationships with Paulo Blikstein, Director of the Transformative Learning Technologies Lab, Stanford, and IDEO, experts in human-centred design.

Creating a platform that does the technical heavy-lifting for developers, designers, and researchers means they can focus on innovating, experimenting and creating new ways to help kids develop computational thinking. The project is still in active research.

Project Bloks is a collaboration between Research at Google, Google Creative Lab, Paulo Blikstein (Stanford University) and IDEO. Additional member of design team: Arnan Sipitakiat (Chiang Mai University).

Many thanks to:
LEGO® Education, code.org, Raspberry Pi, Mirobot, Exploratorium, Science Museum, Ben Alun Jones, Genevieve Smith-Nunes, James Sheahan, Jim Bailey, Miles Berry, OLogic, Paula Zuccotti, Sheena Vaidyanathan.

FAQ

  • What is Project Bloks?
    Project Bloks is a research project with the goal of developing open hardware platform to help developers, designers, and researchers build the next generation of tangible programming experiences for kids. Creating a platform that does the technical heavy-lifting for developers, designers, and researchers means they can focus on innovating, experimenting and creating new ways to help kids develop computational thinking.
  • Who is behind Project Bloks?
    Project Bloks is a collaboration between Research at Google, Google Creative Lab, Paulo Blikstein (Stanford University) and IDEO. Arnan Sipitakiat is also part of the team
  • What are you researching and developing?
    A hardware and software platform that helps developers, designers, and researchers build the next generation of tangible programming experiences for kids. So far we have created a system which consists of two types of boards — the Brain Board and the Base Board — as well as interchangeable Pucks. The pucks can have different forms and can be programmed with an instruction (e.g. turn on, move left, jump, play music). When you place a puck onto a Base Board, the board inherits that puck’s instruction through a capacitive sensor. The Brain Board provides power to the Base Boards, and when multiple Base Boards are connected to it, the Brain Board can read their instructions and communicate them to any connected object.
  • Why tangible programming?
    Kids are naturally a playful, social bunch. They learn by touching things, building stuff, and playing together. Project Bloks is researching physical programming as a way to teach kids how to code — more like the way they naturally learn things. There’s a long-standing history of research into this topic — head here to find out more.
  • What are the technical specifications of the system?
    We are still in active research. For more details about the prototype hardware and software features head over here.
  • Can I buy it?
    The project is still in active research. A full development kit does not currently exist and the Coding Kit is a reference device that is not commercially available. If you are interested in partnering with us, get in touch.
  • Why is it called Project Bloks?
    Anything created with the Bloks platform will have a block-like structure. Equally, blocks are a simple and elegant form of tangible learning.
  • Where can I read more about the context and potential of Project Bloks?
    Read the Project Bloks position paper.
  • Where can I see Project Bloks in the real world?
    IDEO’s Coding Kit will be available for kids to play with at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, CA and at the Science Museum in London, UK. Please check their respective schedule of events over the course of summer 2016.
  • I’m a teacher, how can I get involved?
    We are looking for teachers and other participants from around the world who would like to help shape the future of Computer Science education by remotely taking part in our research studies. If that’s you, sign up.
  • I’m a developer, how can I get my hands on the Bloks platform?
    We are looking for developers and other participants from around the world who would like to help shape the future of Computer Science education by remotely taking part in our research studies. If that’s you, sign up. If you are interested in partnering with us, get in touch.
  • I’m interested in this project. How can I get in touch?
    You can email us. (Please note: unfortunately we are not looking for additional schools or groups to test the Coding Kit with at the moment).