When we were kids, physical things like toys and blocks helped us learn—inspiring curiosity and imagination in a fun, playful way. We think there’s no reason that shouldn’t also be possible when it comes to Computer Science.

When kids learn to code, they’re not just learning how to program computers, they’re learning a new language for creative expression and developing computational thinking: a skillset that will help prepare them to solve all kinds of problems. Making code physical — known as tangible programming — offers a unique way to combine the way children innately play and learn with computational thinking.

Earlier this week we announced a new research initiative called Project Bloks. The project is a collaboration between Google, IDEO and Stanford’s Paulo Blikstein, inspired by — and building upon — a long history of educational theory and research in the field of tangible programming.

The ultimate goal of Project Bloks is to create an open hardware platform for physical programming experiences to help kids develop computational thinking through play. By creating an open platform, Project Bloks will allow designers, developers and researchers to focus on innovating, experimenting and creating new ways to help kids develop computational thinking. Our vision is that, one day, the Project Bloks platform could become for tangible programming what Blockly is for on-screen programming.

As a first step, we’ve created a system for physical programming and built a working prototype with it. We’re sharing our progress before conducting more research over the summer to inform what comes next.

Want to get involved?
We are currently looking for participants (educators, developers, parents and researchers) from across the globe who are interested in helping shape the future of Computer Science education by remotely taking part in our research studies later in the year. If you would like to be part of our research study or simply receive updates on the project, please sign up here.

For more detailed information about the technology behind Project Bloks, check out our recent post on the Google Research Blog and our position paper. And to learn more about our other initiatives aimed at driving CS education forward and helping kids develop computational thinking skills, check out programs like CS First and Made with Code; and tools like Coding with ChromeBlockly and Pencil Code.