Glicode uses popular snacks to teach kids programming; a high school in Japan has a class dedicated to drones. Ever thought of using food to learn about coding?

(Photo from Glicode)


It seems Japan really wants to encourage kids to be invested in robotics and coding. Teaching kids how to code is the latest tech fad. Companies approach the topic in various ways, like video games and robotic toys, but only one company is doing it with food. And yes, the company is Japanese. Glico, the maker of popular Japanese snacks like Pocky, has developed an app called Glicode. The app is made to teach kids the basics of coding.


So how does Pocky go from delicious biscuit treat covered in chocolate to computer learning? Kids actually use their favorite snacks by Glico with the app. Talk about playing with your food. Users have to position and arrange the snacks in a certain way, so the app can translate it into digital commands. Send the command to the app by taking a picture. If it's done correctly the character on the app can move through obstacles.


The app is available for Android outside of Japan. The company is currently working on a version for iOS. It's a weird idea; who would've thought of using food to teach coding? But it's pretty smart. It presents a fun, simple, and tasty way for kids to interact with technology. And you have to imagine they get to eat all those tasty snacks when they get things right. It also encourages creativity. Using snacks shows kids that imagination can make anything possible. The closest the US gets to a unique coding app is Apple's Swift Playgrounds. It's an isometric platform game where kids use basic programming to solve puzzles.


Japan doesn't want to only target youngsters, they want the older kids to get in on the action too. Vantan High School, a private school in Japan recently announced a new course dedicated to drones and robotics. The course is a full time three year program that teaches the basics of working and maintaining drones and other robots. The course starts April 2017. And you thought high school shop was cool.


The school started the program because they believe there aren't enough human resources to handle the increasing demand for skilled drone engineers in Japan. Some of the things students will be learning include aviation and radio laws, computer programming for system upgrades, and drone piloting. The course will be open to junior high students and existing Vantan learners. These kids will have a leg up on the competition and the focus on robotics may ensure they get some great jobs by the time they graduate.


But the US isn't left in the dust. Though high school courses dedicated to drones and robotics isn't common, there is one teacher looking to change that. Lee Butterfield is an Anchorage South High School professor who brought drones into the classroom for demonstrations. Shortly after, he decided to create an entire class around teaching students how to operate drones. Butterfield teamed up with Alaska Aerial Media to create the course where students will learn how to operate unmanned aircraft systems. They will also be prepared to pass the FAA test.


More and more classrooms around the country are integrating drones into the curriculam, so it won't be long until we see more courses solely dedicated to teaching kids the basics of robotics. Then maybe we can be as cool as Japan.


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