// Robot Turtles - FAQ

Robot Turtles FAQs

Your Guide for Everything Robot Turtles

How can a board game teach coding?

Robot Turtles teaches kids to be great problem solvers, which is at the core of learning to code. Through play, they learn how to break one big problem into small steps, to think ahead, to work backwards, to look for patterns and to keep trying to fix their “bugs.” Playing is a lot like coding because:

  • When a child lays down her cards, she is writing code.
  • When a child rearranges his cards to fix what didn’t work, he is debugging.
  • When a child discusses her strategy, she is commenting her code.
  • When a child asks a parent to move the Turtle, he is running a program.
  • When a child plays a Function Frog, she is executing a subroutine or a function.
How Robot Turtles teaches Coding Skills

Why is it important for children so young to learn how to code?

Teaching kids to code at this early stage – in some cases, before they even learn to read – is a new educational approach, yielding early brain development and critical thinking skills that go way beyond computer programming. Playing games like Robot Turtles builds problem solving skills, giving children open minds and empowering them to make choices, experiment, be creative and have confidence in their abilities!

Here’s what the experts say:

"In the 21st century, ‘computational thinking’ is essential for everyone. ‘Computational thinking’ is problem analysis and decomposition, algorithmic thinking and expression, functions and abstraction, fault isolation and debugging. Programming is how we teach these concepts. The earlier the better! That's why Robot Turtles is so great." – Ed Lazowska, PhD, Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington; Founding Director, University of Washington eScience Institute.

"Kids who enter my computer science classes at the University of Washington have a huge advantage if they're already comfortable with core programming concepts like functions and debugging." – Oren Etzioni, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Inventor Dan Shapiro explains that learning to code is like a gift we can give our children:

“There are two types of people in the world. People who think of computers as their masters and people who think of computers as their helpers. The future is going to be written by programmers and read by everyone else. I want to give my kids the gift of being able to express themselves through programming and the power that comes from being able to write software.

It’s not that I want them to be programmers. Being able to program will make them better at whatever they do. Having that skill is like being a great writer, having a love for learning, or having a deep foundation in mathematics. No matter what you do, programming unlocks doors for you, helps you express yourself, and helps you become more successful in anything you decide to do. It’s a gift you can give to your kid.” – Dan Shapiro.

Can preschoolers really play Robot Turtles?

Certainly! A hands-on, screen-free play experience, Robot Turtles is designed specifically for preschool learners. Because this game can be broken into very simple steps and requires no reading, children as young as 3 have enjoyed the game with great success! You can see them – and kids of all ages – playing here. The best part is that the game difficulty can be increased step by step, so it ages up with your kids and can be as interesting to a 10-year old as it is to a 4-year old.

Can adults play Robot Turtles?

They certainly can! While Robot Turtles is designed to be played by an adult and a child, there are special rules that will keep grown-ups playing long after kiddo bedtime. The Galapagos Rules are a fun way for 2-4 people ages 8+ to compete against each other with the Robot Turtles pieces. The first player to capture a jewel wins!

How can I engage my older children with Robot Turtles?

Robot Turtles gets increasingly complex as players progress. Unlockable features including ice walls, lasers, stone walls, crates, and the Function Frog keep older players progressively challenged by the game. There are even rules to keep grown-ups challenged. Once they maser the basics, older children can also take on the role of Turtle Master, serving as computer to their younger siblings’ programming commands – a wonderful bonding experience!

How is ThinkFun’s version of Robot Turtles different from the Kickstarter version?

We love the original Robot Turtles game, and it was very important to us to ensure the rules and spirit of the game are the same. Based on feedback from play testers and early backers, we have made some changes to enhance game play, including improved instructions, clearer graphics, more durable cards, round bug tiles (instead of bug cards), and a sturdy box with better storage.

Can Robot Turtles be played in a classroom?

Yes! Educators have used the game with great success in classroom settings. The flexible nature of the game allows for teachers to play one on one with kids or with a whole class. But don’t take our word for it:

  • “The game was exactly what my (1st grade) students needed to learn the basics of programming.” – Engage Their Minds
  • “An easy way for kids in kindergarten, first or second grade to dip a toe into the waters of computer programming – Education World

Which programming language does Robot Turtles teach?

Robot Turtles was inspired by Logo, but the board game does not teach a specific language. That’s one of the great things about it: the concepts that kids learn are not tied to specific syntax, so they can take up any language later.

What is the Function Frog?

The function frog is the most complex element of the Robot Turtles game. The Function Frog Card helps Turtle Masters program more efficiently and is a key part of real programming! A Function Frog Card is used to represent a set of several moves. Players can learn to shorten their program by using this single Card to represent a sequence of movements.

Who named the Turtles?

The four Robot Turtles – Beep, Dot, Pangle, and Pi – are all named for commands from the original Logo programming language that inspired the game!

Does this game really have a laser?

While there are no actual lasers in this particular game, the imagined versions are a fun part of more advanced game play! We encourage you to use your own fun sound effects as turtles blast through ice walls and tromp through the resulting puddles! And if you’re interested in real lasers, check out Laser Maze!