How do you get teenage girls interested in coding? Simple, give them new ways to call out friends and enemies in social scenarios. At least, this seems to be the idea behind Jewelbots, a new line of programmable friendship bracelets that light up and vibrate when other Jewelbots are near. BFFs can assign one another custom callsigns using the iOS and Android app, and when they meet, their bracelets will pulse and buzz in tandem. Or, if they don't light up, well, you'll know that Stacy just cut you the hell out of her life.
An introduction to coding motivated by high school tribes
With a little bit of coding, wearers can also use their Jewelbot as a notification hub. A purple pulse might mean a new incoming email, for example, while a red spiral could signal a friend request on Facebook. (Or whichever social network is actually relevant to teens nowadays.) Jewelbots' creators — Sara Chipps, Brooke Moreland, and Maria Paula Saba — say that by offering a practical benefit they can encourage more teens to give programming a try. A single Jewelbot can act as a doorway to the wider landscape of open-source hardware and software, Chipps tells Wired. "That’s where we’re really hoping to drive the girls."
A pair of Jewelbots and their accompanying app (Jewelbots/Kickstarter)
The project has already raised more than three times its funding goal on Kickstarter, but supporters can still buy (or donate) a single charm for $59, or get a pack of two for $89. As bangles go, these prices aren't cheap, but as an introduction to coding that might actually catch the imagination of a teenage girl, they seem pretty reasonable. Plus, as the bracelets can be opened up to even more uses with a bit of coding know-how (they can be used as a button, for example, to send haptic, Apple Watch-style pulses), it's entirely possible that adults will want to get their hands on them too.