Lauren Goode

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Hopscotch for iPad Makes Coding Kid-Friendly (Video)

More and more schools have been ramping up STEM education — science, technology, engineering and math — in the classroom. Even the White House has thrown its weight behind STEM initiatives for kids.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean STEM learning is bundles of fun for kids, so one entrepreneur is putting a kid-friendly face on a common programming language.

Called Hopscotch, this iPad-only app uses visual programming language, in which users drag “blocks” of code into a scripting area in order to build programs. Aimed primarily at girls age 8 and up, Hopscotch is meant to utilize the touch-friendly tablet and eliminate the frustration common with code syntax.

Hopscotch was created by Jocelyn Leavitt, who, along with her co-founder, was inspired by a lack of female engineers at her previous job. “So many iPads are going into schools, and a lot of teachers don’t know what to do with this iPad. This gives you some control over a programming language,” Leavitt said.

Leavitt joined AllThingsD’s Liz Gannes onstage at D: Dive Into Mobile today to demo the app. Using an iPad, Leavitt grabbed color-coded blocks within the app that said “scale by,” “move distance,” “rotate degrees” and more, to create a somersaulting dinosaur. Leavitt also sought the help of the audience to develop Hopscotch code that would make a cupcake draw a square.

Another interesting feature: Hopscotch includes iPad-specific motion controls. When a user shakes or tilts the iPad, a programming function is performed. Lastly, Leavitt demonstrated how projects can be shared from Hopscotch via email.

The app hits the App Store tomorrow, and is free to download.

Hopscotch is hardly the first product to address the kid-education market with a new visual programming language. Years ago, Microsoft introduced a product called Kodu, originally created for the Xbox, that let teens create their own code. Last year, Google introduced Blockly, which lets users create applications by stringing together graphical blocks of code.

In fact, Hopscotch is based on a popular visual programming language called Scratch, which was created at MIT back in 2006.

But Scratch is a browser-based visual programming language, and Leavitt says she just wanted “to do more with it. We wanted to build an interface that was aesthetically appealing, designed for mobile and with kids — specifically girls — in mind.”

(Stock photo courtesy of Flickr/Creative Commons)

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