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Cubetto

Cubetto is a playful wooden robot for girls and boys aged 3-and-up, powered by the first programming language that can be touched. It’s a Montessori approved, LOGO-Turtle-inspired, award winning coding language that allows children to explore real programming through storytelling and hands-on play.

Design

Primo Toys, United Kingdom
Team Lead: Filippo Yacob
Design: Matteo Loglio, Ben Callicott

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Cubetto is the world’s first tangible programming language specifically designed for children ages 3-and-up. It’s a hands-on, screen-less coding system – an inclusive solution that merges LOGO-Turtle-inspired programming with Montessori learning principles.

Cubetto is made up of 3 elements: 

1. The Cubetto – a programmable wooden robot that wants to be told where to go and how to get there.
2. The Board – think of this as an interface or a command line. There’s one main sequence, a subroutine line, and a “Go” button to send instructions to Cubetto.
3. The Blocks – these red, yellow, blue and green shapes make up the core of this innovation. It is a real, procedural programming language that can be touched. Each block represents an unambiguous instruction that can be combined into a programme on the Board, guiding Cubetto from point A to B.

Children choose where Cubetto begins and ends his journey. They then fit the blocks onto the Board in a meaningful sequence, to safely get him to his destination, thus creating a programme. Pressing the “Go” button sends the programme to Cubetto who then executes it.

The product concept began with a brief to design an artefact that would help children become creators and not consumers of digital technology. In today’s world, this means programming. The team’s desktop and field research surfaced two of the founding principles which make up this invention: Seymour Papert’s LOGO, which provided a framework for understanding core programming concepts; and Maria Montessori’s early learning principles, best summarised by the quote: “The path to a child’s mind is through her hands.”

The research yielded three main insights – children learn by play, they are motivated by challenges, and they cannot abstract. As such, Cubetto’s coding language is an extreme simplification of LOGO (not LEGO). The designers digested Seymour Papert’s MIT invention, and made it tangible. The instructions are pared down to their purest form, avoiding letters and numbers, removing the barrier of abstraction and language from programming. The tangible and sonic nature of the toy also makes it the first coding toy to work for both sighted and non-sighted children alike.

Rapid prototyping tools were used to quickly develop and validate concepts, resulting in the design of a tangible programming toy that transformed LOGO Turtle logic into a tangible Montessori toy. All the technological components were hidden and natural materials were employed for a haptic and warm experience. 800 Beta units later, the distribution across 46 countries confirmed the team’s hunch. In April 2016, Cubetto became the most crowd-funded Edtech invention in history when it raised $1.6 million on Kickstarter with the help of over 6000 backers from more than 90 countries worldwide.

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