Last fall, we talked to Grechen Huebner and Jon Mattingly, co-founders of Kodable just after they’d launched their iPad app that helps teach coding to children ages 5 to 7. Huebner and Mattingly stopped by IL HQ this week to give us a sneak peek of their next update to the app and to talk about what’s next for Kodable.
Here’s the Kodable mythology:
The Fuzz Family– blueFuzz, simonFuzz, violetFuzz and more– have crash-landed their UFO on Smeeborg. They need help navigating the Technomazes on the planet and gathering gold coins. Children solve logic problems and use basic commands to direct their Fuzz through the maze. “Function Junction,” the second world of Kodable, asks kids to combine commands and functions to guide their Fuzz through even more complicated TechnoMazes.
Next week, Kodable will release “Bugs Below!” the app’s third world. “Bugs Below!” adds 30 new levels to the game. In this update, kids learn how to “de-bug” code by finding errors in lines of code and replacing them. Once the kiddo finds the right commands, the Fuzz starts rolling through underground tunnels, collecting coins and squashing blue ant-like bugs.
“We also completely re-wrote all of the movement logic,” says Mattingly. “I redid a lot of the touch stuff. It’ll work better with smaller kids’ hands and ignore their palms.”
The current business trajectory for the startup isn’t a change of focus – the mission, Huebner says, is and always will be that they “want kids to learn how to program.” But they have refined their delivery.
Currently, Huebner and Mattingly are focused on the building a curriculum around Kodable to facilitate incorporating Kodable into elementary school classrooms. “We’re figuring out the dynamics of all the different kinds of education: private, public, charter…” says Huebner. “We’re looking for the perfect product-market fit.”
The goal is to have the program in six schools by August.
In the meantime, Huebner is working with Bethany Morse of the Oldham County Libraries to launch the KidsTech Summit on Mar. 23. From the website:
The goal of KidTech Summit is to get kids excited about Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) and entrepreneurship. These four subjects affect every part of our lives, no matter what age we are. Getting kids introduced to STEM in a practical and exciting environment will encourage them to keep exploring and learning. We’ve invited start-up companies and entrepreneurs to specifically engage with young students to show that STEM can open doors and possibilities.
The event will include presentations by Kodable, Beam Technologies, Space Apps, Collabra and the Kentucky Lego League. Kentucky Space is bringing a satellite. KidTech Summit will take place at the Main Library in La Grange at 308 Yager Ave. from noon until 4 p.m. More information is available on the Oldham County Library website.
STEM and entrepreneurship have been in Huebner’s bones since she was young enough to be Kodable’s target audience.
When Huebner was in second grade, her father left his job in the car business and started his own insurance office. “Your dad is an entrepreneur,” her mom used to tell Huebner and her sister.
And Huebner liked the sound of that.
Later on, her dad let her set up a baked goods stand in his office. She called it “Grechen’s Goodies.” When scoundrels in a neighboring office started filching her cookies after hours, Huebner’s parents made her start doing inventory and taught her lessons about loss prevention.
And her mom said, “Now you’re an entrepreneur, too.”
Huebner says, “Because I saw my dad do the entrepreneur thing twice [he opened a second office later on], I want to teach other kids that you don’t have to go and work for ‘the man.’ And if you can learn STEM, you can actually build whatever it is you want to do.”