Bluprint teaches kids to code JavaScript in the metaverse – The New Stack


Bitsbox has been in the business of teaching kids how to code for the better part of a decade, and now the company is taking its lessons and tools for teaching code to the next level: the Metaverse. Currently in development, a new app called Bluprint aims to be “a sneaky attempt to introduce real-world coding to kids who already love building 3D worlds (Minecraft) and playing online games (Roblox) with their friends.”

Bitsbox sought to teach kids to code much the same way CEO/CTO Scott Lininger learned in the early 1980s, co-founder and chief creative officer Aidan Chopra explained in an interview with The New Stack.

“Scott was of the generation that learned to code with typing,” Chopra said. “If you wanted to run a program, you took the code out of the book, and then you had a game you could play. From his point of view, that’s how we learned to program: we copy the code of something, and then it’s a kind of muscle memory. It’s like learning to play music composed by someone else, you start to understand the patterns just because you copied them.

Since its inception in 2014, Bitsbox has provided children with a virtual tablet on a website, in which they copy the code sent to them by monthly mail. The code is a version of JavaScript and HTML5, provided by a Bitsbox API, which strips JavaScript down to a “short, sweet library of programming commands, all carefully crafted to be easy to type, easy to learn, and flexible,” according to an FAQ. .

While this may have been how children learned in the 1980s, Chopra said it’s the biggest complaint from users today.

“If you want to do something of any complexity, it’s a few hundred lines of code, and typing that is a pain in the ass, especially if you’re six years old,” Chopra said. “There’s a lot to learn from reading existing code and interpreting it, especially if it’s well commented. It’s a really useful thing. So, we thought, let’s try something different.

Switch to metaverse

That “something different” is Bluprint, the next iteration on Bitsbox. Bluprint not only moves its characters and interface into a three-dimensional environment, but also changes its teaching tools to rely less on typing and more on reading and modifying existing code – the same way developers can read, reuse and modify code taken from the Internet.

“There’s probably as much value in learning to read code as there is in learning to write it, which is weird because so much of coding education starts with a blank slate,” Chopra said. “That’s not how you teach children to read human languages. You start reading before you start writing. Everyone does it. It’s strange that, to some extent, we teach coding in a very different way.

The Bluprint Metaverse comes pre-populated with items and characters, which have code that can be quickly viewed and edited. It offers users a different way to interact with code and learn, a way that can be layered from one difficulty level to another.

“We can actually back up the learning by saying: step one, look at the code and change something about it (a string, a number), then see what effect that has on its behavior. Or maybe add a new behavior by adding a few methods, or just enabling them somehow, and see if that can work,” Chopra said. “It’s about changing something that you see, it’s about to add something, and then, ultimately, it’s about creating things from scratch.”

The Bluprint Metaverse is designed with security and privacy in mind for its users (given they are often under the age of 12), and the worlds they build are invite-only, with built-in parental controls. In terms of coding safety, Bitsbox and Bluprint co-founder Scott Lininger explained that “kids can write any JavaScript code they like. But…their code runs in a sandbox. secure that does not allow them to access private information, modify the webpage, open links, that kind of stuff.

Users can create objects in the metaverse itself using a familiar graphical editor, but the code for each object is just a click away, where users can not only edit attributes, but also cover topics such as functions and object-oriented programming.

Differences between Minecraft and Roblox

Chopra explained that Blueprint partly came from seeing how kids were excited about Minecraft, but unable to code for Minecraft because it was far too difficult. With Bluprint, code creation and modification is intentionally integrated directly into the product; as opposed to coding for Minecraft, which Chopra said was “a bit bolty and a bit difficult”.

Just like its predecessor, Bluprint will teach kids JavaScript, but this time with a much bigger and more functional JavaScript API. According to the Kickstarter for Bluprint, the company took the JavaScript API it used for Bitsbox and “extended it to 3D, added dozens of new methods, and added a file management system to make projects possible. complicated”.

At the same time, the JavaScript API for Bluprint is still simple enough to teach kids to code. Lininger offered a quick comparison between Roblox’s Luau, which provides an API on top of Lua, and Bluprint’s JavaScrip API, noting that “Roblox’s Lua API is fantastic, but it’s not very beginner friendly. “.

Lininger points to a LUA script in the Roblox documentation that takes about twenty lines of code to display the words “You pressed X” when you do so on the keyboard or a gamepad.

Even for an amateur coder, the proposed code can be difficult to understand quickly. On the other hand, the same effect is obtained with these five lines of code using Bluprint’s JavaScript API.

“We’ve heard from many parents that their kids have failed to learn Roblox coding because it’s ‘too complicated,'” Lininger said. “We’re hoping to do something that’s not intimidating, that starts with success, and that’s really fun.”

A metaverse creation tool?

Bluprint is currently in development, but Chopra said the team hopes to have an early version of Bluprint available in the coming months. And while Bluprint was first created to teach kids to code, he said it could also turn out to be something more.

“It’s not like we just created this Minecraft-y thing on the web with a really accessible API, for kids to learn to code with. What we actually did was maybe create the most accessible Metaverse authoring tool in the world,” Chopra said. “What if you actually create a tool so that it’s possible for people who have never really programmed before, or never 3D stuff before, to participate in this Metaverse project? Could this be a force for good? And I think we’re kind of convinced that it could be, so along with this being kind of a second line of products for Bitsbox and our companies teaching kids coding, we’ve also somehow developed this set of authoring tools so that newbies can build their own little corner of the metaverse.


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