Robot Turtles board games teaches kids to code

Robot Turtles board games teaches kids to code

Credit: Dan Shapiro

Dan Shapiro's kids play Robot Turtle, a board game that teaches kids the basics of computer programming.

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by ELIZABETH WILEY / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on September 26, 2013 at 4:54 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 27 at 10:07 AM

It all started because Dan Shapiro wanted to teach his 4-year-old twins to code without a computer.

Now the creator of the board game Robot Turtles has received more than 20 times his fundraising goal to be able to send the game to families around the world.

On his Kickstarter page, Shapiro said coding was "the greatest superpower" he could give his kids.

"Kids board games are either incredibly dull boring luck or trying incredibly hard not to win without them noticing," Shapiro said.

He set out to make a board for kids ages 3 to 8 that is easy to learn, fun to play, and teaches kids the fundamentals of programming without them noticing.

Shapiro was so excited about the project that he took a leave of absence from his job at Google to work on it full-time.

That investment has paid off. With the fundraising set to close Friday, more than 13,200 backers have pledged over $600,000.

Now the project is being translated for people around the world. Shapiro's goal: to get all the games delivered before the holidays.

"I'm currently scheduled to ship 15 tons of cardboard to more than 25 countries," said Shapiro.

Shapiro has tried to stay true to his original goals while also incorporating suggestions from his backers, including a programming bug for kids to discover.

"I've had no greater asset for this project than the people who have backed it," he said. In fact, 47 people have volunteered to translate the game instructions into 21 different languages.

So, what exactly is Robot Turtles?

Shapiro describes it this way on Kickstarter:
"The little programmers put instruction cards down, driving the turtles through the maze, but the grownup is the computer, executing commands on the board.  At its heart, Robot Turtles is a game about bossing around adults. Just like programming is about bossing around computers."

Shapiro wanted to create a game that allowed kids to flourish.

"If everything lines up, you can actually watch the world expand. You can see their face light up. You can see them learn something new," he said.

When asked about this experience, Shapiro said, "It's been unreal."

Learn more about the game or back the project at RobotTurtles.com.

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