Getting youngsters interested in coding!

Code Club LogoScratch and Arduino

For about 3 months now I’ve been toying around with the idea of developing a club that would give youngsters the option to get stuck in with coding and robotics.

But as usually happens my main line of work came in the way, but I was pleasantly surprised when a friend forwarded me a news article about an initiative to get young children coding, and appropriately named the Code Club ! They aim to register as a charity so are asking for donations to help them reach the £5,000 needed to do so. They then plan do develop a 12 week course to introduce programming to youngsters through a very visual coding environment called Scratch.

I did my (unscientific) research on the topic and from what I’ve been able to gather it’s just not that exciting for most kids to get stuff moving on the screen. They need to be able to touch and play with what they are making.

But the idea of using a visual environment is a great one, so being a robotics enthusiast I realised that making a basic robot that can move about, make some sounds and possibly draw with a pen would have a significant effect on their interest in the activity. Doing some more searching I found out about the existence of S4A (stands for Scratch for Arduino) and as Arduino is a very simple tool for this it makes sense to build a robot platform around that! Some of the work in getting a hardware platform has already been done within the Scratch-IO project, all that’s missing is a ready-made hardware bot platform to plug it in.

Scratch for Arduino in use

The key thing here is that the platform needs to be simple enough for teachers and parents to set up for their kids to play. The exciting thing is that with the launch of Raspberry Pi the whole set-up is significantly cheaper and can potentially be done in a living room in-front of the TV.

I now have a new project on my hands, so if anyone has any ideas about what the bot should look like, what features it should have, then please add your thoughts in the comments below