Check out the Turing Tumble on Kickstarter, part game and part mechanical computer. It’s designed to teach kids the fundamental building blocks of how computers work. And when I say fundamentals, I mean fundamentals, at the level of ones and zeroes, logic gates, and storage.
I am massively in love with Turing Tumble. First of all, you’re building a computer. I mean the kids. The kids are building a computer. Not me, of course. I’m all growed up and would never think about spending my time playing with Turing Tumble*.
In any event, you’re building a real computer using mechanical levers and switches and stops and marbles and gravity. It’s like a pachinko machine, but one without the illusion of randomness, where every action of the marble is controlled by the pieces you put into place.
Turing Tumble Is a Game
Behind the pieces is a graphic story that weaves a plot into puzzles children must solve. They solve those puzzles by building a board with the above-mentioned pieces. There are 51 puzzles included with the device.
According to the makers, some can be solved in a few minutes, while others might require repeated attempts to complete.
Turing Tumble Is Also Turing Complete
The device consists of a board with six different types of pieces, as explained in the video above. Each of those six pieces mechanically performs the electronic functions of computing components at the heart of every computer. This is stuff way, way, way below the level of GUIs and displays and keyboards and mice.
The device maker says it’s Turing Complete, meaning that if it were large enough, it could perform any calculation a digital computer could do. In reality, it would take uncounted Turing Tumbles to do that, but that’s not the point.
What is the point is that Turing Tumble makes what seems like magic into something that’s real. Something that’s graspable. That isn’t just the voodoo of a magic box with a display. I’m not an educator, but it seems to me that some kids who play with Turing Tumble will be inspired to go into science, engineering, or math.
And that would be amazeballs.
As of this writing, there are a few Early Bird funding slots left on Kickstarter that will net you a Turing Tumble for $55. After that, they’re $60, with additional options with more parts, as well as multiple Turing Tumble packs.
Turing Tumble is exploding on Kickstarter, though, so the Early Bird slots will disappear shortly. It’s gone from $12,500 to $26,000 raised in just the first few hours, more than half the initial $50,000 goal. There are 29 days left in the campaign.
*Yes I would!