Category: game development

RobotBASIC: A STEM-focused Progamming Language

I’ve been talking with John Blankenship on LinkedIn about RobotBASIC, which allows students to control robots as well as create simulations and video games. Below is a write-up about the language and site, as well as links for more information.

RobotBASIC was developed by two retired college professors to motivate students to learn science, engineering, math, etc. It is the language we wish we had when we were teaching.

RobotBASIC is FREE for schools, teachers, AND students, and it is one of the most powerful educational programming languages available – it has nearly 900 commands and functions and it can control REAL robots in addition to the integrated robot simulator so it can easily be used by HS or college students.

This is NOT a demo or crippled version. RobotBASIC is TRULY free. There are no purchasing costs, no site licenses, no upgrade fees – EVER! We wrote RobotBASIC because we care about education and we give it away because we believe students NEED more exposure to engineering and programming BEFORE they go to college. And, they need exposure that is exciting and motivational so they will WANT to learn – they need RobotBASIC.

In addition to standard BASIC syntax, RobotBASIC also includes legacy-style commands that make it possible to teach some fundamental programming principles to even 5th graders (I have done this personally). You cannot believe how excited young students get when they do something where they feel THEY are in control (program the simulated robot). If simple programming concepts like this are introduced early, students will view programming as a natural tool by the time they get to HS.

RobotBASIC is also a great stepping-stone to college level courses because it also allows a variety of C-style syntax which makes it easier for students to transition to more cryptic languages like C and Java.

RobotBASIC is not built around other systems – rather it is its own COMPLETE system. One of the major advantages of RobotBASIC is its integrates robot simulator that allows ALL students to have their own PERSONAL robot to program, even at home to do homework. The 2D simulation, seems simple at first, but it has far more sensors that even the most expensive educational robots.

When a school is ready to move past simulation, RobotBASIC offers a fully-assembled REAL robot that has nearly all of the sensors as the simulation (perimeter sensors, compass, beacon detector, line sensors, and battery monitoring). This means that AFTER a student gets their program working with the simulation they can IMMEDIATELY control the real robot with the same program, making the real robot perform the same tasks. This system means that schools only have to buy one robot because students get to develop and debug their programs on the simulator. Remember, a real robot is NOT required. Many schools will be happy teaching robotics using ONLY the simulation, which is totally FREE.

We have eight introductory project-based lessons available as PDF downloads available on our EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL page at RobotBASIC.org. Many science and math teachers have never had a programming class, so the lessons are designed to allow students to progress with minimal supervision. RobotBASIC has an extensive built-in HELP system and there are many low-cost books available for those that need a more personal approach.

If you visit www.robotbasic.org, near the top of the home page you will see some links to YouTube videos that show you how easy RobotBASIC is to use. There is also a link to an interview with me recently published by Circuit Cellar Magazine. Below all that, is a summary of the language’s major features.

If I can be of any help or provide you with more information, please let me know.

John Blankenship
Vero Beach, FL
www.RobotBASIC.org

A book is also in the works to provide classroom topics and assignments for science and math courses based on the programming language. This is an exciting gamification effort desperately needed in STEM fields. Outstanding effort by all.

 

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39% of Top Crowdfunded Companies are Game-based

Last year I noted the rise of Kickstarter in funding educational games. A year later, Entrepreneur Magazine has listed the top 100 crowdfunded companies. An astonishing 39 out 100 companies are game-based.

  • 19 are in the Video Games/Gaming category.
  • 16 are in the Tabletop Games category.
  • 4 are in the Games category

The largest company funded to date is OUYA, for the development of their $99 open source home video game console. Pronounced “OOO-yah,” the company raised an astonishing $8,596,474 from their Kickstarter campaign, which had an initial fundraising goal of $950,000.

Of interest to educational pursuits, the OUYA console is inexpensive, and is allowed to be modified by end users. It runs on the Android system, so any educational apps developed for Android users should be able to be played on the OUYA. Finally, Minecraft, which has seen successful educational appropriation, will likely be viable on OUYA as well.

I stated last year, “It’s possible professors and students may turn to crowd funding in the future when designing educational games for research purposes.” I stand by that statement. The potential benefits are becoming increasingly apparent.

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The Rise of Kickstarter in Educational Videogames

The Internet has given rise to a number of social things. Social networks such as Facebook, crowd sourced loans through sites like Lending Club, and crowd sourced venture capital through sites like Kickstarter.

Sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer entrepreneurs opportunities to get seed funding for their projects. Participants put a pitch up on the site, and anyone interested can contribute toward getting the project off the ground. To encourage donations, rewards are often offered such as t-shirts, a donor’s name listed in the credits, or other innovative ways of making contributors feel rewarded and part of the process.

Several independent game companies have used Kickstarter to launch various titles. Funding requests can be all over the place in terms of amounts. For instance, Mindblown Labs asked for $60,000 to start up a financial literacy game called Mindblown Life. Currently they list more than 650 contributors who have pledged $1 to $3,000. Contributors at the $3,000 level get a virtual statue programmed in the game that looks like them, along with an in-game achievement named after them.

As with videogames developed commercially, there are fewer educational titles than entertainment titles. Mindblown labs notes theirs is one of the few specifically educational offerings on Kickstarter. Also, the dollar amounts for entertainment titles can be significantly higher, something also seen in traditional development circles. Project Eternity, a title from Obsidian, has almost $4 million pledged through Kickstarter. Top donors of $10,000 are invited to the developers’ launch party and receive all benefits of lower tiered donors, including the design of an epic weapon, designing and naming an NPC, etc.

Along with the rise of historically accurate popular games, such as those in the Assassin’s Creed series, there is a corresponding pitch for historical accuracy in some Kickstarter-funded games. Science fiction author Neal Stephenson started a gaming company called Subutai, seeking to bring historically accurate sword fighting to videogames. For CLANG (think of the sound steel swords make), Stephenson received pledges of over $500,000 from about 9,000 backers. Donors of $10,000 received replica real world swords used in the game. Lower level backers received concept art and their faces digitized onto characters.

But even for small game developers, who may or may not wish to go digital, Kickstarter provides a means of obtaining modest funding. INversionGames, for instance, offers a word game playing card set developed by Scrabble enthusiasts. To produce the cards, they asked for $1,000, which was easily funded by 61 backers.

Crowd funding is becoming so popular for gaming, a new site specifically for game titles has opened, Gambitious, although for the moment it is more European-centric and operates in Euros rather than dollars. Crowd funding through sites like Gambitious and Kickstarter hold the potential for removing lack of funding as a barrier to new game development. It’s possible professors and students may turn to crowd funding in the future when designing educational games for research purposes.

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