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Bay Area After School Initiative STEM Goes Behind the BLOX

June

05, 2013

by JacksSmirkingRevenge


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BTB1When it comes to developing ROBLOX, we take to heart specific and constructive feedback from our community. That’s why we started Behind the BLOX, a chance for builders to come and play test with us every Friday right here at ROBLOX HQ. In our last visit, we tested with a local group of middle schoolers from Benicia, all of whom are members of an after-school initiative called STEM. The acronym stands for science, technology, engineering and math–so it makes sense that each of them are not only familiar with ROBLOX, but builders themselves.

Andrew Altman is the program coordinator for STEM, and put together the field trip to our office. He tells me that STEM actually uses ROBLOX quite a bit in their curriculum–every Tuesday and Thursday he has professional programmer Carl Edwards work with students to build newer and more complex things in-game. On their last “ROBLOX day,” they learned to script working trampolines. Altman says that ROBLOX is unique in that it’s able to teach kids a wide range of skills, while keeping their interest levels high.

BTB2Edwards became fascinated with ROBLOX when he noticed that his daughter had started building at an early age. Being a programmer, he decided to explore the Lua language, and started to add scripts to his daughters’ creations. It was then the idea dawned on him that teaching kids how to program using Lua could have numerous benefits. He decided that ROBLOX should be included in STEM’s curriculum, which is based around robotic engineering. We got the chance to chat with Edwards about his unique ROBLOX curriculum and how his students have started to not just build, but learn the basic principles of programming in Lua.

ROBLOX: Our platform is very broad, how do you go about formulating a lesson plan?

pullquoteEdwards: Each session is based around one general idea–like building a specific type of item, or trees that change color when you approach them. I want the kids to think, understand what they’re seeing, and learn how to interpolate. ROBLOX is very much a problem solving experience. You use programming and software engineering to make your game better or unique. It’s a learning experience, and a valuable tool for these kids.

ROBLOX: Are the kids taking to the basics of programming quickly?

Edwards: The kids have just totally excelled. They’ve created things with objects that I never even thought was possible. It’s fun for me, because I get to look at these incredible creations and reverse engineer them. Scripting can be intimidating at first, which is why I constantly tell them, “don’t be scared of scripting, don’t be scared of finding new information, and don’t be scared of new languages.”

ROBLOX: What are the main benefits of using ROBLOX as an educational platform?

Edwards: ROBLOX is exposure to computer science, but having watched these kids grow with it, I see that eventually it becomes another one of the many social activities these kids engage in every single day. It becomes a part of their daily routine. I try to teach them how to build and script basic objects, so that they’ll be inspired to build more outside of the class. At the end of the day, I’m just glad to get kids off the typical browser and phone experiences.

ROBLOX: It’s awesome that you’re doing this, thanks so much for your time.

Our largest Behind the BLOX yet was a huge success–members of STEM got to meet our CEO, toured the office, tested a super-secret prototype project, shared their top ROBLOX requests, and more. We can’t wait to do it again. Luckily, that’s a short wait–we hold these every Friday, and encourage you to sign up and come play test with us soon.