A Cardiff-based father of two has launched a coding club for primary school children, focusing on teaching modern ideas through the art of colourful crafts and online support resources.
The Craft Computer Club has launched a 30-day funding drive, via Kickstarter, to provide computational thinking and coding skills through traditional methods – scissors, paper and glue.
Former Silicon Valley software developer Dan Bridge initially developed The Craft Computer Club for his five-year-old daughter, who, like all other children, loves to cut and stick. “As friends and family asked if they could use it too, I realised I could be on to something," he said.
"My aim was to make it easy for anyone to use, and I have designed it particularly for parents who may not feel technically confident, but want to help children adopt 21st century skills in a way that doesn't involve simply sitting in front of a screen.
"As the UK government launches initiatives such as the Year of Code and shows a firm commitment to making computational thinking a critical part of our national curriculum, I'm excited by how much this product could achieve. It's simple, accessible and fun to use. It has a place at every play table.”
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As a STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) ambassador, Bridge piloted the scheme over six weeks with a primary school class of 20 girls.
He explained that during the pilot the girls learnt about the internal components of a computer, making their own models and moving on to games teaching them aspects of computing such how algorithms work and other facets of programming.
“By the end, they had a fantastic grasp on the workings of a computer, and how they relate to programs and programming. I took them to see Sony's Raspberry Pi being made at the end of the course – it was incredible hearing six-year-olds point to a Pi and say 'that's the CPU, it runs programs'," said Bridge.
Further pilot kits have been distributed to teachers and workshops at GameCity 2013. GameCity organiser Iain Simons said: "There's been a huge amount of talk about making coding accessible, but I don't think there's been anything quite like Craft Computer Club for injecting those ideas with material joy.
“We welcomed Craft Computer Club to the GameCity festival in 2013, where it instantly became one of the most popular elements. It's a beautiful mix – code and craft; putting the complexity, fun and ideas of computing directly into people's hands."
Stuart Ball, Microsoft's Partners in Learning UK programme manager, said: "These resources are ideal for young children when they are at their most creative. It is the most perfect way to help them develop their computational thinking processes and prepare them for a future that has technology in every aspect of their lives.”
Bridge is currently in discussion with the US's National Centre for Women and Information Technology about showcasing the product at its 2014 toys and games summit.