The first article on solutions for teaching the IoT to school kids was well received. Following that, other interesting approaches have come to my attention. The story of Punctul.IT and its founder, Robert Brezoaie, is an interesting one to share.
I met Robert at IMWorld 2018 in Bucharest. After my talk on the IoT, he asked me about teaching IoT at schools. He was very enthusiastic about the topic as I was. Since then, we have had exchanges. During a very recent one, he discussed his new venture, Punctul.IT. His idea of a smart garden kit for teaching the IoT to kids attracted my imagination a lot. There are plenty smart urban agriculture and garden solutions in the market, but I have never heard about a smart garden kit for kids. Bringing technology and nature together in the eyes of young people is a strong educational combination. But, let’s hear directly from Robert his story.
Saverio: Robert, tell us your journey to Punctul.it?
Robert: Punctul IT is a company that I started 3 months ago. It is based on my experience as a teacher of IT and on my almost 3 years experience working on education for kids in my old startup. I wanted to create a concept that would motivate gifted children and teens to learn more about programming and technology. The project is doing very well. In just 3 months the company has reached 100 members. We already have 3 locations in Romania and we are growing quickly. At the moment, we are focussing on VR technology and program 3D spaces for VR. We will then start creating applications for Android and then we will apply all that information to the IoT. Third parties, willing to teach programming and technology to kids, can actually purchase our resources and start a course in their town. With that, they get my full support in teaching kids about programming.
Saverio: Which are the best programming languages to start engaging the children with the IoT?
Robert: The best languages for kids to learn IoT is anything based on blocks like Blockly, Scratch, and Appinventor. My idea is that for the first part of the learning process kids should concentrate on simple implementation and fast results because that will keep them interested and excited. As soon as they get more familiar with the programming languages, the activities can get more complex and, therefore, rewarding. They could start using traditional programming languages and then be able to compare what they already know, in a simplified way, with what they are about to learn in a more complex language.
Regarding IoT capabilities, AppInventor already has the possibility of creating apps that connect with basic devices (sensors, Arduino drives, Microbit drives etc). However, it is a bit more complex and requires familiarity with the programming language. Scratch needs plugs-in to have the possibility to connect to third party software and hardware. But Scratch is adding more updates quite often. Therefore, there is hope to program IoT applications in a simpler way with Scratch.
Saverio: And tell us about the Smart Garden Kit.
Robert: The Smart Garden Kit represents the next level of activities, once children have become familiar with programming IoT applications with the languages described above.
The overall idea is to have a single object that can be hard to break and easy to look at. The object will contain all the hardware and sensors into one piece. Children will “plant” the Smart Garden Kit in the plant pot and connect to it via Bluetooth or WiFi (depending on the programming language used after) . The kit will have video lessons included to support the programming of basic functions such as monitoring humidity levels, send notifications to the phone or flash small lights for alert when the plant needs to be watered.
We are working on the Smart Garden Kit. Therefore, new ideas can come, but the objective is to show kids the real case of an IoT application, but also how technology can work with nature and can help nature.