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:

Ten Dollar Tuesday: Take Flight

Programs, Ten Dollar Tuesdays

Learning about the forces of flight is cheap, easy, and fun (really!).

Supplies: Paper, masking tape, paper clips, scissors

1. Discuss the forces of flight: Lift, Weight, Thrust, and Drag. You’ll just want to provide a very basic understanding of these concepts.

2. Discuss how the forces of flight work on paper airplanes, such as how the large or heavy paper stock will have more weight, and how careful folding can result in less drag.

3. Provide books and templates to make a variety of paper airplanes, and use masking tape to mark a practice range to test them. Paper clips and tape can be used to experiment the effect of adding weight to different parts of the plane.

4. At the end of the program, have the participants compete for the farthest flight. I’ll give them three throws for their best-flying plane with the opportunity to make adjustments to the plane between throws.

Coding Club: It’s Not Just About Coding

Programs

We had our first coding club for 4th-8th graders a couple weeks ago, and I’m glad to say it was a success. Here are a few things that helped it go smoothly:

  • Because my coding experience is limited and my workplace encourages cross-departmental collaboration, I co-planned it with a librarian from adult services who has more of an IT background.
  • At the beginning of the program, I told the participants that it was coding club, not coding class, and that they were encouraged to contribute and teach others.
  • We had a plan for what we would demonstrate, but had plenty of flexibility within this plan depending on our attendees’ interests.

While we were demonstrating a game created with Scratch, a 5th grader asked if he could show a game he had made. I was apprehensive for a moment because his behavior while in the library is frequently disruptive, but he calmly and capably stood in front of the room and demonstrated the game he had made, described how he had built it, and showed how it could be modified.

It was awesome. After so many interactions in the library where we had to remind him about his behavior, I saw this boy absolutely shine. This is what makes it worth stepping out of our comfort zone. To some extent the programs we do are not about coding, or robotics, or basket-weaving. It’s about us connecting with the community, and giving community members of all ages a chance to learn something new and share what they know.