Little Engineer: A Fun New Way to Teach Programming Logic
Today’s youth will be required to know and employ certain skill sets beyond anything we’ve expected from previous generations. As such, it’s up to us as parents and teachers to provide fun ways to easily learn skills such as programming logic.
With that in mind, STEM Lab Games has created a new learning system for kids called Little Engineer that uses an augmented reality with interactive play to teach STEM concepts to children. This game is both creative and logic based so kids are able to exercise both sides of their brains. And while parents are encouraged to play along, the single player design allows kids to work independently, thus instilling stronger problem-solving skills that will be required of them for the rest of their lives.
We’ve been playing Little Engineer for a few weeks now, and we are quite impressed with its ability to not only teach problem solving, but the basic principles of programming while also incorporating STEM learning. Read on to learn more about this incredible new learning system.
What is STEM?
STEM learning is a relatively new movement in the United States designed to help teachers and their students understand how Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics affect the world and prepare them for the workforce. We’re now finding that as children go through our traditional educational system, many students will gradually lose interest in STEM. Long term, this results in an overwhelming shortage of doctors, engineers, and scientists, along with fewer creative and critical thinkers that could potentially find cures for cancers or solve water shortage problems. Therefore, the STEM learning approach suggests that we communicate through technology, with mathematics as our language, and science and engineering as processes for thinking, all leading to more innovation.
But, STEM is more than just a new way of presenting and disseminating information, it is a process for teaching and learning that offers students opportunities to make sense of the world and take charge of their learning. The STEM environment provides less emphasis on activities that demonstrate science content (as you might remember from a more traditional approach to education), but a greater focus on activities that allow students to engage in real world problems and experiences through project-based, experiential learning activities that lead to higher level thinking. Learning in a STEM environment encourages kids to understand issues, distill problems, and comprehend processes that lead to innovative solutions.
STEM at Home
Our children’s teachers are doing a great job of incorporating STEM in the classroom, but STEM learning doesn’t have to be put on hold while your kids are out of school this summer. In fact, there are a number of ways to incorporate STEM in your child’s summer adventures, and all you have to do is follow your child’s natural curiosity about how the world works.
- As your toddler starts asking questions about everyday life, be prepared to take a trip to the library and read books about their favorite subjects.
- Get your preschooler involved in small sorting and categorizing activities (a good practice of shapes, counting, colors, etc).
- Experiment. If you’ve ever watched Curious George, then you may have noticed that at the end of the episode, a group of children recreate the “experiment” that George conducted. For example, in one story, George was playing with the concept of “sink or float.” Just as the children do on TV, have your child(ren) gather random objects around the house and predict whether the item will sink or float. You can then drop the objects into the sink (or a big bowl of water) and talk about why a heavier object like “little people” will sink, but a sponge floats. Be sure to ask lots of open questions to encourage problem solving.
- Get your children involved in meal time by allowing your kids to help cook! Cooking is a great way to involve kids in STEM learning because it involves measuring (math) and observing physical changes.
- Visit your local science museums.
Explorer X and Little Engineer
Another great way to incorporate STEM and the basic concepts of programming is via a new learning system called “Explorer X.”
Explorer X will be released at the end of this month along with “Little Engineer,” a fun, interactive app that teaches children the fundamentals of programming and coding in an entertaining, engaging fashion. The platform consists of an ingenious iPad stand and mirror reflector for the camera that works with your iPad’s front facing camera to provide an augmented reality play space that tracks colorful coding blocks as your child interacts with them. Little Engineer is just one of many future apps designed to work with Explorer X that can be easily implemented into your child’s education… at home and school, creating an unparalleled learning experience.
This “game” proves that programming doesn’t have to consist of rows and rows of binary digits (although to tell your engineering spouse this might get you a side eye). Little Engineer encourages children to build maps, solve puzzles and develop paths that help the main character, Q, fix robots. The process demonstrates programming instructions such as sequential, looping and conditional statements. As a result, while your child is having fun battling monsters and saving robots, they’ll also be learning problem-solving, logic, programming basics, spatial reasoning and building on their creativity skills.
“Technology shouldn’t be just for entertainment; it should provide something meaningful and a chance to learn.” Shawn Sheng, Putao Tech’s chief product officer
Through this augmented reality, kids will maintain a sense of spatial and tactile awareness rather than the tunnel vision that accompanies typical video games. During game play, the Explorer X allows the iPad to pick up movements of the game pieces and feeds this info back into the iPad in real time. The software stimulates kids’ creative, problem-solving and spatial-relation abilities, and hones important STEM skills.
After a few weeks of play, we’ve found this game to be incredibly addicting. Little Engineer bridges the gap between video games and building blocks; however, unlike video games, we’ve been enjoying the tactile nature of the game that allows us to actually pick up and move the game pieces around. Most kids and adults are kinetic learners, so being able to touch the blocks gets kids involved using their hands which helps them learn, interact, and have fun.
Putao Technology focuses on advanced education services for children ages 3-12 with high-technology to develop imaginative products for our children to grow up with. The equipment and digital content has already become an internal part of the environment for our children. Putao Technology has dedicated themselves to turning the entertainment content our children use into science, recreation, and most importantly, fun.
The Explorer X is compatible with iPad2, iPad3, iPad 4, iPad Pro, iPad Air 1 and 2 and iPad Mini 1/2/3/4. The Explorer X and Little Engineer bundle retails for $79 and will be available at the end of June 2016, but if you want it for FREE, be sure to enter their giveaway HERE. For more info, visit www.STEMLabGames.com.
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Tags: AR technology, educational play, engagement play, Explorer X, interactive play, iPad Apps, iPad games, Little Engineer, stage-based game, STEM, STEM Lab Games, STEM learning, Summer STEM activities
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Ashley lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children and Kitty Paw. She’s a work-from-home mom with a natural light photography business and a passion for sharing everything she knows. Since leaving the corporate world, she now spends her time chasing her preschooler, nursing her new baby, writing and finding ways to enjoy life. You can find her on Facebook, Google + or on her website.