A novel method for teaching children computer programming basics will go on display at two museums in 2017.

TuneTable, an interactive tabletop device, teaches kids programming basics while they put together a musical piece.

A research team from Georgia Institute of Technology and Northwestern University, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, recently introduced the device.

Coasters can be moved along TuneTable's projection surface to make music using elements of computer programming.Coasters can be moved along TuneTable's projection surface to make music using elements of computer programming.The project addresses the need to expand programming literacy for the K-12 student population. TuneTable allows users to manipulate music samples with code.

Certain musical genres, like electronic and hip hop, are well-suited to the task and have the additional advantage of attracting young users. Brian Magerko, a team member from Georgia Tech, says that the TuneTable approach is appealing to underserved populations, such as women, African-Americans, and Latinos.

A user makes music with TuneTable by moving coaster-like markers around the interactive surface. Each marker is assigned a sound or a command. The surface uses computer vision to detect each marker’s function.

The markers include basic programming elements – go-to statements and iteration, for example – that anyone learning programming would encounter early on in the process. Students create music by combining sounds, rests, and other musical elements, like repeats, or iterations in programming-speak.

The table will be installed at the Museum of Design Atlanta in early 2017 and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry in the summer.

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