Grasping algorithms: exploring toys that teach computational thinking

Erika Root, Maren Steinkamp, Beatrice Coldewey, Christin Poloczek, Frederik Scharnowski, Marlon Willms, Mark Kettner, Marion Koelle, Swamy Ananthanarayan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperOther

3 Citations (Scopus)


Computational thinking has received increased attention over the past several years and is considered by many to be a fundamental and necessary literacy for children. One approach to teaching this skill has been through tangible programming since it facilitates intuitive interaction with children. In this paper, we introduce CodeTrain and CodeBox, two motorized toys whose behavior can be programmed through wooden building blocks without the use of a computer, tablet, or screen-based interface. The goal with both these designs is to foster playful exploration of computational thinking in pre-adolescent children through tangible objects. We describe the design process from the conceptual design to the functional prototype. Furthermore, we present first impressions of the prototypes from a pilot study and highlight some lessons learned from our first iteration.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication16th International Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia - Proceedings
EditorsJulie Williamson, Stefan Schneegass
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781450353786
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes
EventMobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia (ACM) 2017 - Stuttgart, Germany
Duration: 26 Nov 201729 Nov 2017
Conference number: 16th (Website) (Proceedings)


ConferenceMobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia (ACM) 2017
Abbreviated titleMUM 2017
Internet address


  • Children
  • Computational thinking
  • Computational toys
  • Playfully interaction
  • Tangible programming

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