Teaching code to the future & why kids make the greatest beta-testers

The Lovie Awards / April 2016

Hackaball is a smart and responsive ball that children can program to invent and play games. The free companion app comes pre-loaded with several games that can be sent to the Hackaball to get kids started; once mastered, children can create brand new ones using a simple building block interface, experimenting with Hackaball's sounds, LED lighting effects and rumble patterns. The variety of games children make and play are limited only by their imagination.

As our world becomes more and more driven by technology, knowing how to code is increasingly important, and now it’s become fundamental to our education system starting at a young age. But how do you make learning to code a fun experience for a child as young as six? By doing it through play. And this is precisely why Silver and Bronze Lovie Award Winner, Hackaball, came to be.

Hackaball is a smart and responsive ball—a throwable toy—that kids learn to program through its corresponding mobile apps, and which teaches them to invent and play games of their own.

In partnership with Google for The Lovie Letters Series, The Lovie Awards team visited the offices at Made by Many in London to hear firsthand from the Hackaball team about the birth of this product on Kickstarter, and why children are the best alpha and beta testers. Here’s some of what they had to say:

Was there a secret sauce or magic ingredient?

We believe that the real magic behind Hackaball isn't magic or a secret, it's our relentless focus on designing with users - with kids and parents and teachers - to make sure we're building the right product at every step along the way.

When did you first know this project was going to be something special?

We originally tried to constrain the actions that users could take in the user interface to match the programming rules for Hackaball. During testing sessions with the kids we realised that we needed to provide room for their imaginations to be a part of the rules, so we added a simple text box in which they could write their own instructions. Suddenly we opened up a whole new world of play, and Hackaball went from a programmable ball to something completely different - a living part of a child's imagination.

What role did Google products play in the project?

Google Drive and Hangouts are at the heart of how we communicate as a project team, and manage a broader team of partners and suppliers distributed across the world. YouTube is an essential channel to reach the right audience for Hackaball and drive our Kickstarter campaign, and through AdWords and Analytics we were able to reach new potential customers and provide detailed understanding of the effectiveness of our campaign.

What was the most rewarding part of this project?

Testing with children and seeing their reactions to the ball is amazing. We're constantly surprised and challenged by how adaptive and imaginative they can be.

Watch the full Lovie Letter Series interview, presented by Google, for all of these insights and more.

To participate in the 6th Annual Lovie Awards by entering your work, head to www.lovieawards.eu

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