So you’re gathering your brood together for a family fun night. You’ve got your TV – check. Sofa for four – check. Chips and salsa – check. Educational board game?
If you don’t have one yet, you’d better scramble to get one. 2015 has seen the rise of the newest of trends – educational board games. Games that purport to teach your kids chemistry, math, and physics.
This week, a group of teens is following in those footsteps. They’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new educational board game called codingFarmers that aims to make it less difficult and more fun for young children to begin learning programming.
Two of the teens, Vineet Kosaraju and Nikhil Cheerla, founded MathAndCoding, a non-profit organization, over a year ago, aiming to reach young kids early, and to teach them the basic concepts of programming. They have taught over 1000 students in local libraries, and won many accolades, including the Jefferson award for the public service as well as the commendation from the San Jose Mayor, for public service. Nikhil and Vineet have started coding when they were very young and are very passionate about it. According to them, “every kid should learn how to code at an early age. Learning a programming language is like learning a foreign language.
This week, the teens along with Nikhil’s younger sister, Anika, launched “codingFarmers” on Kickstarter. The game’s main premise is to teach kids real programming concepts and the Java language in a fun and intuitive way, and as Nikhil describes it, “sneak in the learning”. In this game, the farmers are racing to reach the barn first by avoiding the obstacles, recharging and knocking each other out.
The game cards have instructions written in English, as well as Java code. By playing with these cards a few times, kids start to associate between the code and English text. This is less intimidating way to learn the programming concepts and syntax than starting them with a heavily syntaxed programming language.
These cards expose children to all the basic concepts of programming like arithmetic and logic operations, conditional operations, flows and loops. Players who decode all the game cards correctly have a better chance of winning – which encourages children to learn the concepts quickly. The game can be played in numerous ways. In one game, kids who play only with Java cards have more choices to move when their turn comes, encouraging them to transition to Java cards only.
The teens prototyped several game boards and have kid-tested that the game delivers on the fun + learning theme. They were surprised to find how quickly kids adapt to the Java cards. As Nikhil says, “we thought it would take at least 3-4 rounds with the action cards but kids were ready to move to Java cards after one play. The surprising thing is, when they were playing with Java cards, they were helping each other decode the game cards. This fosters lot of team and co learning”.
Nikhil, Vineet and Anika are trying to raise $6000 to manufacture the first set of game boards. The response from the community has been overwhelming. They are offering board game sets as rewards for anyone who pledges. They say that the game sets will ship in November, in time for the Christmas holidays!
They also plan to use all the sales from the board game to sustain their non-profit and continue to expand computer science education among kids.
To learn more about the campaign, check out their Kickstarter at URL goo.gl/EUbi4g (coding Farmers: The Java Programming Board Game For Kids).
MathAndCoding URL: www.mathandcoding.org