Cargo Bot – introduction to algorithmic thinking.

Cargo Bot is a great little game that has generated some buzz because it was developed entirely on the iPad.  We’ll be looking into that development environment and how it might be useful for a kid to get introduced to programming later on.  For now, we’re enjoying Cargo Bot for the game it is.

In this game, you control a robotic arm, and need to move some crates around from their original state to the goal state.  Pretty simple idea at first, except that you have limited commands that you can use with the robotic arm, and even worse, limited sensing and memory capabilities.  You can tell the robot to move left, right, up and down.  And you can act differently depending on what the robot arm is holding. There is space for subroutines though, to help with some of the more repetitive tasks.

For the easy levels, it is a fun little game to introduce the concept of algorithms to kids.  They don’t realize how much of what they do is an algorithm in day to day life (washing dishes, eating, even playing) and this is a way of bridging that gap in an entertaining way.  I especially like how when the program crashes, the robot arm really crashes – tumbling down and scattering the crates.  It’s a fun analogy.

But the game gets difficult pretty quickly.  And to get 3 stars, you need to implement a tightly optimized recursive solution.  Which is pretty advanced stuff programming wise.  For kids that want to get 3 stars in their games, this can be a little frustrating.  Even in Angry Birds after a little while and some luck, you can stumble upon a 3 star solution.  Much more thinking and a lot less luck involved in this game.  So I think it’s fun, but gets overwhelming very fast.  And that’s even with a degree in computer science.

It is a free download though, so if you want a fun way to introduce algorithmic thinking to your kid, this is a wonderful opportunity to do so.  It’s also a pretty challenging game for yourself if you’re so inclined at the harder levels.  Even with the hints!
Cargo-Bot - Two Lives Left

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