CSE students and colleagues who set up a company to help teach kids how to code have turned to the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform to raise funds. On September 2, the startup company ThoughtSTEM launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 for further development of the CodeSpells educational videogame, and within a few hours, it had already topped $7,500. CodeSpells was originally built by recent CSE Ph.D. graduate Sarah Esper (far right) and CSE Ph.D. student Stephen Foster (near right) as a vehicle to teach software programming to young children. Foster and Esper later teamed with UCSD Ph.D. bioengineering student Lindsey Handler to create the company ThoughtSTEM to provide after-school programs and summer camps where they used an early prototype of CodeSpells to teach coding.
If the Kickstarter campaign raises the minimum $50,000 by early October, ThoughtSTEM will undertake a makeover of CodeSpells' look and feel, gameplay, and coding interface. The game will eventually allow student wizards to master each of five elements – earth, fire, water, air, and life – but initially only one element of gameplay, earth, is available (pictured at left). The Kickstarter funding would allow ThoughtSTEM to develop three more elements, and to enhance the overall game. On Christmas Day 2014, the alpha version of CodeSpells will be released to anyone providing $80 or more in backing, followed by the beta release in June 2014 to backers at the $30-and-up level. Feedback from those early users will help the team improve the gameplay, and if funding is available beyond 2015, ThoughtSTEM will release the 'life' element of the game, featuring creatures, plants and non-player characters, in 2016.
Visit the Kickstarter campaign for CodeSpells: Express Yourself with Magic.