Mariah Noelle Villarreal

A mash-up of Minetest & Blockly for kids

  • Published: May 15th, 2016
  • Comments: 1

While working at the Putnam Museum and Science Center, I had the opportunity to lead several after-school programs, workshops and summer camps. In some of these programs, I taught programming to young people ages 6 – 14. We used several tools for this, including Turtle Blocks by Sugar Labs, Scratch out of the Lifelong Kindergarten group, Lubuntu as an operating system and my favorite tool of all: a mash-up/hack of Minetest and Blockly.

It all started when I contemplated using Raspberry Pis running Kano versus refurbished laptops running GNU/Linux. Naturally, I wanted the laptops with GNU/Linux but there were parts of the Kano software that I thought would be a nice touch for facilitating a more informal learning environment. Also….who can resist being able to program a Minecraft environment with blocks?? I found a program called Minetest, free software that resembles Minecraft, which could be used to teach programming in the form of the Lua programming language to create mods. And apparently, Lua was designed with teaching in mind, so I was particularly happy with the find. With me so far? That seemed like a great start but I wanted something that would be accessible to people who don’t have a solid foundation in keyboarding. So, I asked Ruben for some assistance.

He put together a hack of Minetest (free software that resembles Minecraft) and Blockly (the foundation for things like and Turtle). And what he made was a good enough piece of software to use on the laptops running GNU/Linux in after-school programs and summer camps to show the young learners how to do some nice 3-dimensional programming. Win, win, win!

What I particularly like about this nifty tool is that the person writing and running the code can switch from drag-and-drop programming and Python text programming with the click of a button.

Fast forward to today, I’m still using Blockly Minetest with the Boys & Girls Club of Boston members. It captures the members’ creativity and imagination while introducing mathematical concepts. I’ve seen members go from being insecure about how to program a simple cube to confidently crashing their computer, pushing their creative boundaries, realizing the computer has limitations and bouncing back from mistakes in a matter of seconds.

I couldn’t ask for more.


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One Response to “A mash-up of Minetest & Blockly for kids”

  1. luigi
    on Oct 13th, 2016
    @ 4:25 am

    hello i am very intrested about this project but i cant find anything about it is there any way to download this mod?

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Unless otherwise noted, the content by Mariah Noelle Villarreal is distributed as a free cultural work under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

I'm running a personally modified version of Bryan Helmig's Magatheme on this site.