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What's harder: shopping for the holidays or teaching your kids the basics of computer programming? A startup called Wonder Workshop is aiming to make both a little easier.
Based in San Mateo, Calif., Wonder Workshop builds robots that help teach children age 5 and up how to code. Initially named Play-i, the company was founded in 2012 by CEO Vikas Gupta, CTO Saurabh Gupta and Mikal Greaves, VP of product.
The inquisitive robots the company has built — Dash and Dot – are blue and orange, one-eyed, round and chatty. They can sense objects around them (to prevent bumping into walls) and respond to light and sound.
The robots were designed to be “emotionally engaging,” and inspire kids' creativity. “The way that the head and eye move independent of the body, that drives engagement,” says Gupta. “We also wanted it to be something kids could imagine as anything — we didn't want it to be something they were already familiar with like a four-legged animal or two-legged human — so it has three legs…and one eye."
Wonder Workshop has developed four different apps to use with Dash and Dot that aim to teach programming and coding lessons through music, mazes, paths and puzzles. Users on the older side can even try their hand at making their own iOS and Android applications for the robots through Wonder Workshop’s open API.
“We are working with schools to make it available and accessible for a classroom, and building specific applications that would work well in that setting," he says.
And there seems to be a need. Last year, only 44 percent of high-school graduates were prepared for college-level math and 36 percent were prepared for university-level science courses, according to the National Math and Science Initiative. To that end, Wonder Workshop promises to appeal to curious kids and parents who want to inspire an enthusiasm for coding and programming in their kids early.