Thailand's digital coding toy to hone Thai children’s computer programming skills

An announcement made in the Bangkok Post highlighted a digital board created by Thais for Thai kids. KidBright was developed by the National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (NECTEC) in order for Thai children to learn about computer programming without having to import or depend on technology from abroad.

It was in 2016 when a research team at NECTEC first developed KidBright. With KidBright, Thai children will be able to learn about computers easily without the need to import or depend on technology from abroad.

NECTEC is a statutory government organisation having the main responsibilities of undertaking, supporting and promoting the research and development of electronics and computer technologies. It is a national technology centre under the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), Ministry of Science and Technology.

Children were able to enjoy and as well as feed their eagerness for computer programming with the first version of KidBright.

NECTEC Director Dr Sarun Sumriddetchkajorn said, "The kids train their problem-solving skills while managing the image boxes on their smartphone, tablet or computer. Using the KidBright board allows them to learn programming faster than before and they can command the board to do whatever they want.”

Tassagorn Sirisuwan, 12, first experienced a KidBright digital board when his father's friends brought it to the workshop for kids at his home a few months ago. Since then, the boy has always worked on the board, designing simple computer programs to control home appliances.

Triggered by sensors, a variety of functions can be designed with KidBright. In Tassagorn's case, he chose to make it perform music. Later on, he created a program to turn an LED on and off. After having programmed the board for a few months, Tassagorn developed an application, similar to IoT, for his mother that automated their home by making the board operate her home appliances.  

Panutat Tejasen, also known as Dr Jimmy, is a software developer with a keen interest in how hardware has become the hot topic of the IoT. He claimed interest for KidBright because he believes it is an opportunity for a country that does not have many like it.

"We don't know yet how the KidBright project will turn out, but at least the government has been supporting the hardware for schools with good quality chips featuring leading technology (ESP32). NECTEC announced that its software will be open source, that's good. The content is easily accessible by children as it is content of the community and I believe in the power of the community. KidBright will push the kids to play and learn, to think and to try," Dr Jimmy posted on his Facebook page.

The boards and prototypes are produced by Gravitech, a Thai-owned US-based electronic firm, for the makers at the Science Park in Rangsit.

Gravitech Founder Dr Sharnon Tulabadi said, “Someone may think that KidBright is not the best hardware, the best software, or the best platform, but we can be proud that it was created by Thais, manufactured by Thais and for Thai kids. Most importantly, it's the beginning for Thai youth to learn programming and acquire the skills that might perhaps make them a maker in the future.”

"Coding at School" and "Fabrication Lab at School" are the projects introduced recently by the Ministry of Science and Technology. These projects cultivate problem-solving, analysis-thinking and innovation skills among Thai youth.

Around 200,000 KidBright boards will be distributed to around 1,000 schools nationwide. In order to maximise its potential, around 500 teachers will participate in a session that will “train the trainers”.

Minister for Science and Technology Dr Suvit Maesincee said that the coding projects establish a learning community of students, teachers and makers.

Image Credit: National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre

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