Bloxel Builders

Programs, Reviews

Basics:

  • What is it? Bloxels is a “hands-on platform for kids to build, collaborate, and tell stories through video game creation.”
  • What’s bloxel whats in the boxin the Box?  a black gameboard (13 x 13 grid) with a variety of small colorful cubes.  An idea booklet was purchases separately. (It looks like they’ve restructured things since we bought our Bloxels… the guidebook looks like it is now included.)
  • How Much?  $49.95 plus the free app for “Apple, Android & Kindle phones and tablets.”
  • Age Range?  box says ages 8 and up.  I agree. I think younger kids could use it, but the ability for the game to tell a story requires developmental skills younger kids don’t always possess.
  • How Did We Acquire it?  Library purchase after Bloxels blew up my Twitter and Facebook feeds this Spring after the NY Toy show. Ultimately the library bought 12 Bloxel boxes.

    Ideas for Use

This summer (July 2016) we had a Bloxels Club, a four week program where we all learned to use Bloxels.  I had this great idea that kids would create boards and share them with the other participants in the Club.  A few took advantage of this, but mostly they wanted to make their games and play.

We are continuing Bloxel Clubs this fall.  We’re having Bloxels 101, which is a registered program.  The Bloxel Club won’t be registered.  We have a dozen boxes to use.

Time Involved

We learned together.  Okay, I watched some of the tutorials before the club, and tried things out, but mostly watching the tutorials is all you need.  Then, be prepared to spend lots of time creating your story / game.

One-time or Recurring Program

I would say recurring. Bloxels has updated their app and the Bloxel board is needed to advance your game.  Kids are going to want to use the board.

 Extension Activities

All the elements needed for the game are included in the app.  Follow the tutorials and build your game with characters, animation, and options for enemies (purple blocks).  The ideas are limited to your imagination.

Skills You Need

Well, I’m not much of a game player.  So I needed to get some gaming chops….like jumping. I’m a lousy jumper.

Creativity.  The ability to tell a story.

Other Tools You Need

  • A working device (iOS or Android) and free app.

Bloxels has a lot of education tools.  Since I’m not a teacher and my purpose in using Bloxels is informal education, I glanced at the materials but created my own worksheet.  It was a brainstorming document that I hoped would help kids create stories in their games. If my theme is underwater, what do the bad guys look like? (Sharks, crabs, octopi).  What would powerups (pink) look like? (oysters with pearls)

Also, you need a light colored table for using the camera on the Bloxel board.

Good Stuff

The animation builder is fascinating. Once again, the tutorial is great.  My game was underwater, so I needed some underwater bad guys. My octopus couldn’t really move back and forth because I used all thirteen columns.  So I changed the colors of the octopus arms.  If you look in the lower left hand corner, it looks like the octopus is moving!  Crabby actually is moving.  I did that!

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Frustrations

The only frustrations we experienced were with devices.  The program was advertised that kids had to come to the program with a working device with the app pre-installed.  Since kids tend to get their parents castoff devices, a few of them weren’t working.

Everything Bloxel related was great.

Ending Thoughts/Observations

I love Bloxels.  I like the creativity involved. Game creation with an informal coding language (color blocks) is a great activity for all ages.

Overall Rating: Bloxels is great. Highly recommended!

Here’s a few screenshots of my game:

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I just had to tackle DIY bouncy balls

Programs

Here at Robot Test Kitchen, we’re big proponents of learning from failure. Sometimes I take it a step further and see a fail as a challenge, and that was the case with DIY Bouncy Balls. After reading Heather’s post and seeing that picture of cup full of multicolored goo, I knew it was something I would eventually try, and I finally got around to it this week. I knew it would be a challenge, and I started by googling “DIY Bouncy Ball Fail” and read through a few of the results before coming up with my hypothesis — it all hinges on finding the right amount of cornstarch. I experimented with several batches before coming up with the best proportions and technique. This is not a difficult project, but it is tricky to get it to work, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it this effectively if so many people hadn’t graciously and/or humorously shared their struggles (Thank you, Heather!).

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Did I have any difficulties? You bet. I capped the program registration at 16, but I ended up with 25 (I had enough supplies on hand, but it took a lot more running around —  a couple of amazing parents pitched in to help out). I left the bouncy balls I made the day before the program out on a shelf and that’s how I learned you really need to keep them in a ziploc baggie or they’ll harden; my program attendees just had to take my word that the colorful rocks I showed them had been bouncy the previous day. And of course, as any youth librarian who has ever presented children with cornstarch, Borax, glue and food coloring knows, there was a lot of cleanup involved.

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Ball 1 ended up being the bounciest; by reducing the cornstarch in attempts 2-3, they didn’t retain their structure. Ball 4 was the most pleasantly round yet still bouncy.

So here’s my recipe:

  1. In the first cup, combine 1/2 teaspoon Borax with 1 Tablespoon VERY WARM water. Stir well.
  2. In the second cup, combine 1 Tablespoon glue, 1 Tablespoon cornstarch, and a few drops of food coloring. Stir well.
  3. Pour the water/Borax solution into the glue/cornstarch solution and stir; it will quickly form into a nice glob.
  4. Remove the glob from the cup, shake off excess water, and roll it into a ball between your hands. It helps to blot the ball and your hands with a paper towel.
  5. Once it’s rolled and blotted enough, it should bounce quite well. Manage your expectations though — this is all about learning and creating, and the ball will not be the same as the kind you get in a vending machine for a quarter.
  6. Store it in a ziploc baggie.

Overall, it was definitely worth the mess.

True Confessions: Faking it…and Feeling Good

Programs, True Confessions

Yesterday was a pretty great day for me.  I had my first Homeschool Hangout…a place where homeschool kids can spend time at the library.  We did a tour, talked books, and played with LittleBits.  During the program, I asked what sort of things they’d like to do and playing with robots and computer coding came up.  Verdict: I didn’t panic.

Yesterday afternoon I met with an instructional coach for the local school district.  He’s been witness to some of the technology realia we have (Cubelets, Dash and Dot, Beebots, etc.). We met to discuss how we could incorporate these materials with a sixth grade class at one of his schools.  We met for about 90 minutes, playing together, bouncing ideas off one another.  It was a great collaboration and I learned a lot from him.  That’s not new.  But what blew me away was his comment that he learned from me.  What? How is that possible?  We ended our meeting with two and possibly three different collaborations in the schools next month.

This morning, the lightbulb went off.  I’ve been faking this technology stuff for about 18 months, and finally, it’s stuck.  The faking it til I make it?  I think it hit.  Now, am I as knowledgeable as Jacquie?  Not on your life.  But I’m right where I need to be.

Everything we’ve talked about on Robot Test Kitchen: failing and trying again, perseverance, being open to new things.  It’s all come together.

I’m gonna make it after all!
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