Primo

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Primo: finished!

Date: 14 April 2014 Author: Sjoerd Dirk Categories: Primo 4

Primo_SD_small

The last 1,5 month I made the Primo play set: A tangible programming interface designed to teach programming logic to children aged 3 to 7 without the need for literacy.

My son playing with Primo

My son (4) playing with Primo.

Why did I make the Primo play set?

Primo (Filippo Yacob, Matteo Loglio, Josh Valman and Lucia Rabago Mayer) started a Kickstarter campaign in November 2013 and it was successfully funded (162%!) on December 22, 2013.
I really loved the idea and the wooden design (and I have a weakness for everything with the combination “programming” and “(young) children” ;) ). But I didn’t like the price; a complete set would have cost me around € 240,-, and that’s too much for me. (Now that I know how much work it is to make a set, it’s definitely not overpriced!)

I also love making things. And I was very happy when I found out that I could “buy” the source files for just € 6,-. So I pledged this amount and was very happy that I had a new project to make.

But the most important reason for making Primo is this:

“We are working on a tool that empowers children to become creators, and not just consumers within the digitalised world we live in. Programming is an incredible tool that empowers people, it changes the perspective on problem solving and logic in general. (…) Mastering logic from an early stage of learning creates the right mind set to assimilate more notion-related content. (…) Skills are mastered gradually. (…) Think of Primo as the very first step in a child’s programming education. Primo provides the very basic ABC of programming logic.”

Like we learn children how trees grow and why they’re important, I think we also should learn children to understand computers and computer programming. They don’t have to become a programmer, neither a biologist, but it helps children understand their surroundings.

Computers aren’t just tools which supports our daily live, they’re 21st century tinkering materials; you can make them do what you want (and not the other way around). But for that we have to learn our children the possibilities of computers and computer programming.

And Primo is a perfect tool for it; children just see a wooden toy (I love those) and they have control over it. They don’t even know they’re programming! And at a young age I think they don’t have to know they’re programming, it’s enough that they can playfully experience the basics of programming.

What did I make?

  1. Cubetto, the friendly robot
  2. Interface board, the physical programming interface
  3. The code, a set of instruction blocks
  4. Trees and fences
  5. Cubetto box, to store the instruction blocks
My daughter playing with Primo

My daughter (8) playing with Primo.

What am I going to do with the Primo play set?

As a hobby I host programming workshops for children. Until now I only did this with Scratch and for children aged 8 years and older.
With Primo and Robot Turtles (I also backed this on Kickstarter) I have two great tools to introduce programming concepts (without calling it “programming”) to younger children (aged 4 years and older).

Because the Primo Kickstarter campaign also hit the second stretch goal, I really hope that the promised Education Program is available soon, so I can use that.
In the meantime I’m going to develop my own activities around Primo and Robot Turtles and use that at the school of my children.

Some crazy(?) ideas

Here I will list some of the things I might be doing with my Primo play set:

  • Use Scratch to control Cubetto
  • Use a ShrimpKey or MaKey MaKey to control Cubetto
  • Use the interface board to control Scratch

Who am I?

I’m Sjoerd Dirk Meijer (1978) from Deventer, the Netherlands and I’m the father of two beautiful gifted children, aged 4 and 8. A couple of years ago I was searching for challenging materials for my eldest and found Scratch, a graphical programming environment and language. I loved (and still love) the concept of Scratch and the possibility for young children to start programming (in their own language!). This made me realize that we don’t teach children to control a computer; we only (at least in the Netherlands) learn them to use it. We should use computers as tinkering materials!

After Scratch, I also learned about Arduino and soon I found Shrimping.it (an Arduino UNO derivative). That got me hooked up on electronics. And I found MaKey MaKey; a great invention kit. Because of it’s price I decided to develop my own MaKey; the ShrimpKey.
(Now that I’ve finished my Primo play set, I’ve got time to update this blog with rev.2 of the ShrimpKey. It now has the same features as the original MaKey Makey, but still for € 10,- to € 15,-.)

I’m educated as a primary school teacher, but after a couple of years of teaching I decided to make a career switch into business information management. But “teaching blood” keeps flowing, even if you’re not teaching anymore. So now I’m volunteering one afternoon a week at the school of my children and one of the things I do is teaching children to program. Besides that I’m hosting programming workshops for children, mainly at events for gifted children.

Primo_SD_small

N.B. For everyone who wants to know how much I spent: around € 175,- (don’t tell my wife ;) !).

4 Comments: "Primo: finished!"

  1. Published by: Roman Date: 15 April 2014

    Reply

    Congratulations on finishing the project!
    Great stuff, I am sure your kids enjoy the beautiful and entertaining new tool.

    Also love the idea of controlling Cubetto with Scratch. I definitely want to extend the robot’s abilities as well.

    Regarding teaching programming and DIY to (a bit older) kids I came across this:
    ArduSmartPilot (http://www.tec.reutlingen-university.de/fakultaet-technik/personen/professoren/prof-dr-rer-nat-stefan-mack/ardusmartpilot-projekt.html)

    Not sure how good your German is but google translate might work just as good ;)

    1. Published by: Sjoerd Dirk Date: 15 April 2014

      Reply

      Hallo Roman,

      Vielen Dank für deine freundliche Reaktion.

      Mein Deutsch ist gut genug, wie du Sehen kann. ;)

  2. Published by: Leonardo Gutierrez Date: 16 May 2014

    Reply

    Great

    I’m finished my own primo just a few details must to do.

    Great work and inspired words.

    Greetings from Colombia

    1. Published by: Sjoerd Dirk Date: 16 May 2014

      Reply

      Great! Please share your set (and photos) on docs.primo.io.
      Thank you for your kind words.

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