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!

img_1675 img_1676

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:

Review: littleKids playing with littleBits

littleBits, Programs, Reviews

I’ve used littleBits with my middle school technology club to great effect. The simplicity of changing things up and flexibility of the multiple bits is really appealing. When I brought a kit home to show my own kids, ages 4 and almost 7, it was a different experience, but pretty rewarding! Here are some things you can do if you play with littleBits and littleKids.

Robot Basics:

  • What is it?

littleBits is a collection of modules, or “bits” that each has a specific function. There are power bits, switch bits, sound detecting bits, buzzers, lights, and many many others. The bits can be combined in numerous ways, and can be added to other projects for even more functionality.

Review: Squishy Circuits

Programs, Reviews, Squishy Circuits

Robot Basics

  • What is it? Squishy Circuits are a set that helps you explore circuits and electricity using dough.
  • What’s in the Box? I used this set: http://squishycircuitsstore.com/kits.html
  • How Much? $25.00 for one set, plus cost of supplies for dough.
  • Age Range? Our program was for Grades 3 and up, but I think you could go as low as Kindergarten or 1st grade.
  • How Did We Acquire it? My library purchased sets after I played with sets we acquired through the ILEADUSA grant funds.

What we did

I set up the Squishy Circuits as part of my library’s new “Library Makers” programs. We are focusing on different ways to incorporate the making movement and also STEAM initiatives. Additionally we are just hoping to try a lot of new programs. Our program was for grades 3 and up. We ended up with 3 kids, one in middle school and two third graders. All of our attendees were girls, which I thought was kind of great.

I set out the two squishy kits and the dough. I also printed out a bunch of the ideas for making circuits from the squishy circuits website: http://courseweb.stthomas.edu/apthomas/SquishyCircuits/

The kids just experimented with the kits. They had a very good time thinking creatively and it was an easy program to run.

Time Involved

It is pretty minimal. I just had to spend about a half hour making the dough and then another half hour playing with the circuits before the program.

One-time or Recurring Program

We set it up as a one-time program, but this could easily be repeated.

Skills Needed

Motor skills to work with the dough, the rest is easy.

Good Stuff

I really enjoyed running this program. I think there is a lot of value in programs with smaller numbers. You get to talk to the kids and see what they are thinking. Squishy circuits could be done with bigger groups, but some of the magic of this program was that it was a smaller group.

Frustrations

I had trouble with one of my doughs, it was overly sticky. But I think that was the bakers fault. Although the dough still worked for the circuit.

Ending Thoughts/Observations

Try Squishy Circuits, it really is very simple.

Overall Rating

Great, give it a go.