Teaching Kids to Program Electronics

Programming has grown from a niche career to a useful skill across many industries and specializations. Computers and electronics are now ubiquitous and any child growing up today benefits from knowing how to operate, construct, and program them. That’s the proposition that Piper takes to heart with their Piper Computer Kit which empowers children to build their own Raspberry Pi based computer, and then use that computer to assemble and program electronics.

What they needed was software that teaches children how to program those electronics, and that’s where I come in. Working with Piper I designed and produced Piper Code, a Blockly based educational experience that walks kids through assembling and programming their own electronics projects.

Rapid Prototyping and User Testing

Working on a tight schedule we jumped into production right away, getting our first Piper Code proof of concepts in front of playtesters. User testing feedback was critical as electronics projects with the Rasberry Pi required a lot of attention to detail that was difficult for young children. We playtested wherever and whenever we could. We brought Piper Code to classrooms, brought students into the office, and visited families in their home. All of this feedback went back into improving the experience.

The Basics

We wanted our students to learn programming fundamentals they could take with them into other languages and environments so we set up a curriculum that teaches the basics of programming. Based on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) we built a program that taught students how to be computational thinkers and innovative designers. Learning how to use variables, loops, lists, events, and how to critically debug a program are all part of becoming computational thinkers..

Learning to Build Games

To become innovative designers each of our students crafted physical electronics games, and the program culminates with them creating and programming their own games. Throughout the program, the children build simple games like Beat the Buzzer, Simon, and a Dice Roller using breadboards, buttons, and jumper wires.

Empowered to Create

The kids the students gain throughout the course combined with the electronics tools in the kit lets kids create their own electronics projects. This sets children up with the technological expertise that they will need throughout their lives, empowering them to create their future world.