TanPro-Kit: A Tangible System to Help Children Learn Programming concept
Created by Danli Wang, Yunfeng Qi, Yining Shi.
Learning programming can have positive impact on children development. However, the abstract nature of programming concepts becomes a barrier for children to learn programming. New approaches are needed to help children overcome the barrier.
TanPro-Kit is a low-cost, tangible system designed for children aged 5 to 8 to learn programming concepts. The system includes two major components: programming blocks, with which children play maze games based on system instructions, and a LED Pad, which uses animations and sounds to give children feedback on how well they arrange blocks in a game. The system was built with LED, RFID, wireless and infrared technologies to keep low cost. Through a user study with 28 children, we found that TanPro-Kit can help children understand programming concepts, develop their problem-solving skills, and encourage them to collaborate in activities.
In this project, I designed and implemented the system by using Arduino, accelerometer, RFID identification, infrared communication, wireless module, sensors, and LED matrix.
In addition, I wrote the paper: TanPro-Kit: A Tangible System to Help Children Learn Programming that is submitted to The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI). It received 4.0(possibly accept) and 3.0(neutral) from the primary review who recognizes the system is innovative and solidly engineered.
TanPro-Kit is composed of two parts: programming blocks and a LED Pad. Children use programming blocks to play maze games. Based on a given game that specifies starting and ending points, as well as some path constraints, children line up several types of programming blocks to build a path. The LED Pad can detect what programming blocks have been used by children, and then provide real-time feedback about the progress and result of the game.
Each block has a microcomputer, an infrared transmitter, an infrared receiver, and a wireless module. Blocks can be lined up one by one to form a block sequence. When a new block is added to the sequence, the new block is activated by the infrared signal of the adjacent block in the block sequence, and then the new block sends its identity code to the LED pad with wireless signals. At the same time, its own infrared transmitter is activated and is ready for triggering the next programming block that may be added to the sequence.
The LED pad can identify the programming blocks that are added into a block sequence, check whether the block sequence meets the program semantics based on the given game, and then provides feedback to children. The pad is implemented with microcomputer, RFID reader, sensors, wireless module and LED matrix, and functions as the processing and feedback unit. Its major components include a LED box, and a set of maze game sheets to specify which game to play.
We conducted a user study with 28 children. The result shows that TanPro-Kit can help children understand programming concepts, develop their problem-solving skills, and encourage them to collaborate in activities.