Today most of us think of reading and writing skills as absolutely normal and necessary. Yet just five to six centuries ago a person who could do this would be considered quite outstanding. Operating computing machines was rather unique just five to six decades ago. Now being a computer user is a norm or even a requirement to engage with society in most developed countries.
Programming skills in a modern world
Given that situation, having programming skills gives a child a lot of opportunities in today’s world. Perhaps we’ll even get to a stage where coding becomes a necessary skill for everyone. It’s wise for parents to consider these trends now, while our kids are still young. There are a lot of options around for encouraging our kids to take in interest in programming, from the use of various educational apps, through to specially designed school curricula.
Cargo Bot puzzle app
Cargo Bot is an app which helps kids to think like programmers. It’s been developed specifically to meet this educational need and I think it does a great job, though some may find it too hard. It’s available on both iOS and Android and according to it’s store description was itself coded entirely on iPad (using novel code editor app Codea).
The app itself is a puzzle game, the goal of which is to move different coloured crates into set patterns using a robotic arm which you have to program. It doesn’t involve writing any real code. Instead, the user makes programs by choosing from a selection of preset actions for the robotic arm to carry out and ordering them to make a set of instructions. Scores depend on how concisely the program runs. The shorter your program is, the better your result.
Is it any good?
Personally I liked Cargo Bot a lot. It looks a little simple, but the interface is friendly and accessible and I quickly picked up how the game works. It stimulates logical thinking with an approach which we have seen elsewhere, but which remains unusual among puzzle games in general.
My one small bugbear with the app is that on a phone the controls are a little small and fiddly which often leads to mistakes and a need to re-do things. It’s very much designed with tablet play in mind.
Other users left more mixed reviews and the number one complaint is I think a valid one, which is that the puzzles are difficult. In theory the app is aimed at users aged 10+, but this very much depends on the 10 year old in question. For kids or teens who enjoy logical thinking, this is a great set of challenges and if they struggle with it, I’d recommend playing it together with them, discussing how to complete the challenges together for the full educational benefit.