Modkit Micro


In SparkFun’s Department of Education, we’re constantly looking for ways to make electronics more accessible to a younger audience. In our ideal world, electronics would be part of the normal K-12 curriculum. We’ve organized dozens of classes that teach kids (and adults) how to use microcontrollers and other electronics in fun, creative ways. From conductive playdough or paper circuits to game and tool based materials. Many of the coolest activities integrate a bit of programming in addition to our favorite hardware. That said, we’re always on the lookout for tools that make programming more accessible to beginners.

Last Spring, we introduced you to Minibloq, a graphical programming environment for Arduino - we’ve since been using it to introduce the SparkFun Inventor’s Kit to even younger audiences. We’ve also been watching Modkit, another great tool that makes programming electronics much more approachable. Our friends at Modkit are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to launch the latest version of their graphical programming environment called Modkit Micro.

Besides the fact that Modkit Micro adds support for a number of SparkFun boards, we’re very excited because Modkit Micro will finally be publicly available this July! That's pretty sweet for teachers who want to start teaching robotics at the elementary level. Because the web version of Modkit Micro will be free to all, it's a nice option for educators and schools with a limited budget. We've had a chance to try out Modkit Micro and it looks very promising. We especially like the cross block to text feature. We’ll continue to experiment with Modkit Micro and Minibloq and plan to feature both in more teaching material - so stay tuned.

SparkFun will also be selling the desktop version of Modkit Micro, which will help support Modkit’s ongoing development.  For those who just can’t wait or who want to support this important work, head on over to their Kickstarter page and sign up for early access.

We'll have the most recent versions of both drag and drop programming environments at AVC for programming some of our new MiniBots. So stop by to see how SparkFun and many others intend to teach physical computing to the younger generation!


Comments 26 comments

  • I met these guys at MakerFaire a few years ago. It’s good to see them finally taking off. I like the idea of visual programming for would-be tinkerers who don’t know how to program. Maybe my dad will finally try it.

  • Maybe I am too old school. Are there issues with teaching kids programing?

    • Maybe it’s not so much that there are problems, but using different models to teach is always a good idea - it opens the capability to new audiences. Check into NLP.

  • Thanks guys for for the mention of Minibloq!

  • Reminds me of Lego +NIs labview/NXT-G software.

  • I’ve been following the development of this for quite a while, and was fearing a stall out, but they’ve restarted nicely. Looking forward to seeing it come to fruition.

  • another noob oriented stuff…

    • Unfortunately not everyone is lucky enough to be born with a complete knowledge of C or Assembly. What do non noob people use? AVRs programmed in assembly? Lots of logic gates? Straight up transistors?

      How bout you get up off your high horse and understand that more people taking a functional interest in electronics is a good thing. Taking some of the intimidation factor out is a good thing. This program is even better since you can flip into code view and actually see whats going on under the hood.

  • Hey, I donated $50 way back when to that. Am I supposed to get a desktop copy or do I have to pay more money? …just askin'

    • Yep - you’ll get the desktop copy in July, no additional payments needed. Thanks for being patient! :)

      • Modkit, I’m working on something extremely similar to what your working on!

        Could I ask you for some help with it? Email me if you would like to help me a bit, I might be able to help you too… (s germiller at g mail dot c o m)

  • I thought the desktop version was part of their first Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/modkit/modkit-electronics-arduino-for-everyone). So, now there is a second one that promises a desktop version? I am confused…

    • Hi Larsi!

      The short answer is that we originally did a Kickstarter campaign to fund initial development, whereas our current campaign is to actually launch the product resulting from that development.

      For more info, we posted an update for supporters of the original campaign explaining how the two Kickstarters are related. We also have a FAQ on our current Kickstarter page for more clarification. If you have any more questions, the best way to reach us is by sending us a message on Kickstarter or by posting a comment on the update we mentioned above.

      Thanks so much!

      Modkit

  • Oh god, my nightmares from teaching Scratch are returning.

    edit: I didn’t mean it in a bad way, and the hardware part of the program is a nice feature. It’s the perfect marriage between EasyC and Fritzing.

    • Nightmares from teaching Scratch? Please explain. My daughter took to Scratch pretty quickly, and it’s still her model of how “programming should be” – although she’s becoming a 13 year-old Pythonista these days. Anyway, I’m genuinely interested in what problems you found teaching scratch to kids – I’m involved with a lot of science/technology education for the younger set, and I’d like your perspective. (I’m on the BOD of this outfit, for instance: http://rockitscience.org/)

      • For a few years I helped teach programing, physics, and algebra using scratch and other similar programs. They were having difficulty with placement of blocks and the limitations of certain blocks. We switched to a basic text IDE and they got a lot more work done.

        While using Scratch, I had to find a lot of workarounds to a lot of things. It’s been a while but I think one example was “keyPressed.” If I remember correctly, this is the only keyboard input in Scratch whereas Processing has quite a bit more options. It is possible to do most things with it, and the logic solving is good for the students, but it took time away from some other important topics.

        I had the same issue with EasyC and Mindstorms. The “text” programming is extremely restricting in EasyC in that it only allows text input into premade “mad libs” like lines; and the students learned a lot faster when we switched to NXC from Mindstorms for the NXT brick because variables are a lot easier to work with in line code.

        Ease of use in a GUI gives up a lot of the freedom that I wanted to show the kids.

        I also found that the kids actually comment by themselves when using line code even though it wasn’t a requirement.

        • Interesting. Yeah, NXT-G is a bag of suckage. Beyond very simple robots it just doesn’t scale. My experience with NXC is much better, but it isn’t C semantics – I’ve found things that don’t work they way I expect.

          Seems to me that your issues have more to do with the completeness of the language and the consistency of the implementation semantics that with drag/drop editing. I think a Scratch-like IDE, done right, has the potential to be more productive than something like Eclipse. It may take a while to figure how to do that.

          • Exactly as you said, my issue with such programs is completeness. I do not dislike the GUIs, the ones available just did not have specifically what I needed. For most people it has plenty to get started and if enough time is put in, some pretty amazing things can be made.

          • BTW – here is another Scratch-inspired system for programming, aimed at robots + kids. Not quite fully baked, but I saw a good demo a couple of weeks ago.

            http://12blocks.com/

    • yep. :)

  • I love reading about adventures in open source!

    • Was this sarcastic? Because I don’t understand their concept of having to pay for a 6/mo - yearly membership to get updates.

      • No the software is open source, right?

        • It appears to be closed source and available either as a free-as-in-beer cloud web application or a paid commercial desktop application with a per-seat licensing fee, as far as I can tell.


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