Programmable Toys for the iPad

Tickle, a dialect of Scratch for the iPad created by Taiwanese computer science professor Mike Chen, has a very special secret sauce. While Tickle allows users to create animations, games, and stories in a Scratch-like fashion (with an orca replacing the cat), it’s real magic lies in an ability to make a variety of bluetooth-enabled toys and devices programmable by kids on an iPad. There may be no better way to introduce kids to the world of physical computing, robotics, or coding.

Tickle and these super cool programmable “toys” are suitable for kids as young as 4. Older learners will discover the unique functionality of each device and how Tickle allows you to harness that power. For example, the accelerometer inside the iPad may be used to turn your iPad into a joystick that you manipulate to control your robot. You can even make an aerial selfie machine!

I wrote about the insanely fun and engaging use of Tickle to program low-cost drones in The Secret Key to Girls and Computer Science. With Tickle, drones become flying turtles capable of doing 3-D turtle geometry in the air! Parrot makes a variety of [easyazon_link keywords=”parrot minidrone” locale=”US” tag=”neweasyazon-20″]drones[/easyazon_link] and an amphibious [easyazon_link identifier=”B0111O8VY0″ locale=”US” tag=”neweasyazon-20″]hydrofoil[/easyazon_link] that may also be programmed with Tickle

Dash & Dot robots

When used with the incredibly well-built [easyazon_link identifier=”B00QKFFN3I” locale=”US” tag=”neweasyazon-20″]Dash and Dot[/easyazon_link] robots, Tickle turns Dash into a robust floor turtle.

Thanks to Tickle, kids can now use Sphero and [easyazon_link identifier=”B00MV599OK” locale=”US” tag=”neweasyazon-20″]Ollie[/easyazon_link] as programmable objects to think with, not just bizarro RC vehicles. The extra steps involved in thinking about how you want your machine to behave, predicting that behavior, and writing formal instructions (program code) for doing so, brings learners in touch with powerful ideas in a literally playful fashion.

Star Wars fans can also use Tickle to program the super cool little [easyazon_link identifier=”B0107H5FJ6″ locale=”US” tag=”neweasyazon-20″]BB8 robot[/easyazon_link] also produced by Sphero.

Don’t care much for toys? Tickle can also be used to program the [easyazon_link identifier=”B00IPQ33GY” locale=”US” tag=”neweasyazon-20″]Phillips HUE[/easyazon_link] lights for your classroom, puppet theatre, impromptu cafeteria production, or love shack. It may also be used to program the tiny, embeddable, Arduino-compatible, wireless [easyazon_link keywords=”LightBlue Bean microcontroller” locale=”US” tag=”neweasyazon-20″]LightBlue Bean microcontroller[/easyazon_link].

As our colleague, Super-Awesome Sylvia, likes to say, iPad users, “get out there and make something!”

Check out our complete list of Tickle-compatible devices here.

Learn to use these cool things and a ton of other stuff too at Constructing Modern Knowledge

Browse the library of resources assembled at the Invent To Learn web site.