Bitsbox is Cracking the Code

Rescue your kids from the summer doldrums with this local subscription box

bitsbox

Photo by Julia Vandenoever

Kids haven’t touched anything close to an educational project since the last day of school? Meet Bitsbox, a Boulder-based subscription box that teaches kids ages 6 to 12 to fall in love with coding.

Delivered monthly, each box contains a variety of fun apps to build. Kids type code into the Bitsbox website and, following instructions, complete a challenge. Then they scan a QR code to a computer, tablet or phone to see the app in action. Most kids, says CEO and co-founder Scott Lininger, move from the box to a built app within a few minutes—with or without help from parents, who are more than welcome to jump in to learn, too.

“Every box is themed,” Lininger says. “The first month is Animal House, so all the apps revolve around animals. There’s a video game called Run Dodo Run and one called Birthday Card, where you use code to make a virtual card featuring animals. Then we challenge you to make it your own. We saw a huge flood of kids making Mother’s Day cards from this app.

“We spent time and research making sure the first box appeals to as wide a range of kids as possible. Part of our philosophy is to always provide more projects than the average kid will do. In that first box, you’ll get six or seven projects. The hope is that every kid will see something that excites them.”

Lininger and co-founder Aidan Chopra, both ex Google employees, launched Bitsbox in 2014 after Lininger had an epiphany with his 7-year-old daughter, Audrey. “She asked me what I did at work and we started coding together,” he says. “The first prototype was built for Audrey and it was so fun I knew other parents would want it.”

He was right: Since launching their first product, roughly a year after creating the company and three months after raising $253,696 on Kickstarter, more than 1.5 million Bitsbox apps have been built.

It’s all about imagination. “There’s a great advanced app called Couch Potato Unicorn Ring Toss, where you throw doughnuts onto the horn of a unicorn sitting on a couch,” he says. “Bitsbox also provides a library of thousands of sounds, graphics and images that kids can use to alter apps. Our goal is that they can’t think of anything that doesn’t exist in our library.”

Each delivery comes with a guide for parents, explaining what the kids will learn from that month’s basic ($24.95 per month) or deluxe ($37.95 per month) box, which comes with a toy.

If the kids just can’t get enough, bring the program to their school. Bitsbox is in thousands of them, and most downloads come from classrooms. “We have a free online program for teachers, and then we subsidize classroom boxes—home subscriptions help pay for those,” Lininger says.

And when they need help, there’s a support team to count on. “Like any good teacher, we never give them the answer,” Lininger says. “We give just enough help so they can figure out the problem. It’s important to us to not make this easy because computer programming isn’t easy. To succeed, it’s like any other hard thing: You have to dedicate yourself to it.”

BITSBOX
Boulder-based monthly subscription box that teaches kids how to code

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