Bigtrak: Awesome Toy for Subversive Programming Education
Bigtrak. I had one of these when I was a kid, but I’m not sure where it went.
The idea is that you have this little tank-like rover that you can give instructions to and have it drive around.
The way you give it instructions is via a sort of abbreviated Logo programming language: You can tell it to move forward, backward, or turn; tell it to “fire its laser” (flash an LED and make sounds); pause; or repeat a set of commands.
What’s cool about this is that you give it to a kid and let them loose with it… and it basically teaches them simple programming. They won’t even know what hit ‘em. “Get the Bigtrak to go around the corner, shoot three times, turn around, and drive back.” BAM! You just learned a little programming.
The one I had as a kid was sort of a behemoth. The new version is “Bigtrak Jr.” and is a more manageable size.
They have these things over at ThinkGeek. I picked one up and got a couple of guys at work hooked, too. My daughter’s not old enough for this yet, but… I’ll keep it handy for her. They’re normally $40 but right now (as I write this) they’re on sale for $25. If you’re looking for a pretty cool gift for a kid that will teach them something, I totally recommend picking one of these up. They’re pretty sweet.