April 22 2016 edition

Thanks to Chris Melissinos and Russ Shilling for sending contributions to this issue! Please forward us your news and favorites to the contact information shown at the bottom.

Games and Education

Magic Leap LogoWe’ve been talking about virtual reality and augmented reality a lot in the newsletter lately! Last week, Wired told the story of Magic Leap, a mixed reality company in Florida that has gathered $1.4 billion in investment from big names like Google, Alibaba, Andreessen Horowitz, and Kleiner Perkins. Learn more about why in this interesting long read with accompanying videos.

The White House held an event on early active STEM learning last week to raise awareness of the value in encouraging young kids to explore and be curious about the world. Hundreds of educators and organizations came together and made commitments in response to the Administration’s call. Check the official Fact Sheet and document to learn more. Also, check out the National Science Teachers Association’s launch of the NSTA Initiative for Learners 0 to 5!

Early registration for the 2016 Games For Change Festival in New York City ends April 29. Be sure to hit up their site to learn more about who will be there.

Spin Master has acquired popular children’s app maker Toca Boca, a company that also owns the Sago Mini brand. Toca Boca makes some of the most popular apps for kids on the Apple App Store, including Toca Tailor, Toca Builders, and Toca Dance.

Apps for Impact is an innovative effort to get more education apps used in classrooms by the kids who need them most, spearheaded by developer Tinybop. The program teams app companies with nonprofit organizations to offer the apps to teachers in underserved communities free of charge. What a great idea!

Yibu-iPadYibu is an iPad app concept that utilizes playful wooden blocks with hidden sensors to encourage exploration and play. The app, developed by FrogLabs Shanghai, encourages kids to utilize their environment to solve puzzles. For example, the polar bear is sweating, so put the temperature block in the freezer! It’s an interesting game design that we hope will continue to be developed.

How can we make the experience of virtual reality available to more people? Google is exploring low-cost VR with its Google Cardboard, but that may just be the first effort. Wired interviewed Clay Bavor, Google’s VP of Virtual Reality, to learn more about the company’s VR philosophy.

Education technology company Clever has created a “clever” login system for students in K-2 classrooms. Clever Badges are physical badges scanned by the computer’s webcam that a classroom can use to minimize the challenges of passwords and privacy.

Motherboard did a nice article on the recent opening of the National Video Game Museum near Dallas, Texas. We’re big fans of the museum and its founders, who have been highlighting the game industry’s historical artifacts at conferences for many years. Be sure to visit if you’re in the area!

An article in The Atlantic considers why fewer females compete in international math olympiads than their male classmates. It’s an interesting read and poses the question of whether gender-based competitions could help level the STEM playing field, allowing all involved to gain confidence in their STEM skills.

Coding and Making

Root RobotA cute little educational robot from Harvard made the rounds on the Internet last week. Root is a small, hexagonal robot designed for learning to code. It has a touch-sensitive interface and can propel itself around on magnetic surfaces, such as many whiteboards. Insert a dry-erase marker and you’ve got a cute little turtle bot for drawing! Root can be remotely controlled from a mobile device and programmed using a tile-, block-, or text-based programming language. Video.

BRAC and the LEGO Foundation have launched a $4.7 million partnership to promote learning through play in Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Uganda. BRAC is an international development organization with education and poverty programs. Its Play Lab project should reach more than 7000 children aged three to five.

Is your Arduino just too large? Well worry no more with the AAduino, a clever Tiny328-based Arduino that fits into a AA battery socket! Couple it with a pair of AA batteries for power, and you have an extremely portable Arduino in a three-AA battery holder. Wow!

There are so many short-term coding bootcamps popping up to address the need for trained software developers. Some are great, and some are less great. Are we heading for a market correction?

What better way to learn about ancient Egypt than to build an electronic board game? This Dad leveraged his electronics expertise to get his kids excited about researching Egyptian history, and built out an Egypt-themed board game for their middle school science fair.

LittleBits published a series of student science fair projects on their blog, including student interviews and videos of the results. It’s a fun read!


Bedtime MathBedtime Math (iOS, Android) – You may have heard of reading to your kids before bedtime — why not do some math with them too? This innovative app will give you daily math problems to work on with your kids. Learn more about their recent Newark Public Schools pilot! Video.

Crown & Council (PC) – Minecraft developer Mojang released this new, free game on Steam last week. It’s a simple Risk-like strategy game and quite fun! Unfortunately PC only… for now! Video.


Player Two VideoPlayer Two – There’s just something about the power of games. A touching short story about a boy who played games against his father’s ghost.

BrainVR Experience – Experience a virtual world that simulates giant neurons and their reaction to motion, as discovered by players of the game EyeWire.

Let’s ride – Sometimes the best virtual reality system is the one you already have. Check out one dad’s creative solution to a VR roller coaster ride for his daughter.

Tackling gigantic shrinking challenges at X – X, formerly known as Google X, poked fun at itself on April Fools’ Day with the help of Pied Piper CEO Richard Hendricks.

Titanic sinks in Real Time – This well-crafted animation of the Titanic striking an iceberg, taking on water, and ultimately sinking is long and educational!


Scratch Day – Global network of events celebrating the Scratch programming environment. Worldwide. May 14.
XTech 2016 – The Experiential Technology & NeuroGaming Conference and Expo. San Francisco, CA. May 17-18.
National Week of Making – A US-wide celebration of all things Maker, June 17-23, with the National Maker Faire in Washington DC, June 18-19.
Games for Change – The 13th annual conference for using games for change. New York, NY. June 23-24.
Computer Science Teachers Association conference – CSTA’s annual conference for teachers. San Diego, CA. July 10-12.


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