If the astonishing success of littleBits is any indication, there’s a huge market for ‘intro to electronics’ products that are much more capable than the classic Radio Shack ‘springs and components stuck to cardboard’ kits or even the very successful littleBits. FlowPaw is the latest entry in this space, combining the sensor module paradigm of littleBits with a largish microcontroller, digital and analog pins, and a great programming interface.
The big innovation in the FlowPaw is the FlowStone programming language. It’s a graphical programming language that allows young creators to connect blocks, modules, and functions together with virtual wires, but also allows the editing of different modules with Ruby. Best of both worlds, there.
The FlowPaw kickstarter includes rewards for just the FlowStone software, or the FlowPaw electronics board with a bunch of modules. Already, the team has LED, relay, accelerometer, buzzer, and capacitive touch sensors, along with a Bluetooth and speech recognition module. They’re working on a few more advanced modules for GPS, pressure, DC motor control, and RFID as well.
The Arduino IDE only brings the ire of actual EEs and People Who Know Better™, but if you’re teaching robotics and programming to kids, you really don’t want something as simple as a text editor with a ‘compile’ button. For that educational feat, a graphical system would be much better suited. [Julián] has been working for months to build such a tool, and now miniBloq, the graphical programming tool for just about every dev board out there, has a new release.
The current version of miniBloq can be downloaded from the gits, with versions available for Windows and *nix. The IDE is written with wxWidgets, so this could also be easily ported to OS X.
The Arduino is an excellent first embedded development kit, provides a great introduction to electronics, and has the potential to get children into programming. [David] thinks throwing C at non-programmers isn’t the best way to learn programming, so he developed ArduBlock , a graphical programming language for the Arduino.
We’ve seen a number of graphical, block-based programming languages in our time, most notably Scratch. [David] found a project called OpenBlocks that serves as the basis for Android App Inventor.
[David] forked the OpenBlocks project and started working on his new graphical programming language. ArduBlocks uses the Arduino IDE, so everything possible in C with an Arduino should be possible with ArduBlocks. There’s a lot of thought put into the design of the blocks – the first iteration was far too ‘busy,’ but [David] cleaned it up and made the projects understandable.
For an absolute beginner, we couldn’t imagine anything better. ArduBlocks would be great for children, and we can’t wait to see a proper implementation of ArduBlocks with a touch screen.