is a London-based startup created by a team of engineers from Imperial College London and designers from the Royal College of Art. SAM’s mission is to give everyone the skills to shape the Internet of Things (IoT) with fun, and functional, tools. The award-winning SAM programmable blocks are some of the most innovative educational toys for 7+ year olds to learn coding. It allows people to learn coding like cooking dinner—by adding one ingredient at a time to create something wonderful and unique.
I first met Joachim Horn, Founder and CEO of SAM Labs, a few years when I interviewed him for an article on how he sees the IoT in the next few years. Horn actually came up with the idea for SAM shortly after graduating from Imperial College London on a trip to Tokyo Institute of Technology to start a digital creative lab. He saw the market gap between simplistic toys and advanced prototyping techniques. From this, he was inspired to create a toy that made coding, electronics, and the IoT friendly and accessible to everyone.
How SAM Labs’ Blocks Work
The wireless electronic blocks connect over Bluetooth® technology to a very user-friendly application which is based on physical computing plus drag-and-drop flow-based programming. From there, you can begin to create your projects—there’s no stopping the open-ended play and creativity. Because it is so easy to use, creativity can take center stage. Using Bluetooth allows SAM to overcome the use of wires. Without Bluetooth capability, the wireless blocks couldn’t connect to each other without a physical connection. Using Bluetooth allows the blocks to connect digitally making them more aesthetically pleasing and easier to use.
Horn considered using other technologies in the blocks but opted for Bluetooth because it was more efficient and effective. “We chose Bluetooth as a cost-effective and efficient method of giving our blocks the wireless power they need to sync up to our app, SAM Space,” said Horn. “The Bluetooth integration works very well for us and we’re happy we went down this route. The wide availability of devices with native Bluetooth capabilities was the biggest factor in the decision. In a nutshell, it makes our product easy to use which is one of our core pillars of success.”
What the Future Holds
SAM Labs is excited about the impact its products are having, and going to have, on education. As we’ve recently seen, a lot of learning happens outside of the classroom while students remain connected. Students are also learning about technology at a much younger age. For example, two eight-year-old kids created a driverless car that detected obstacles in just over three hours. There are more than 1,000 schools already using the kits as part of regular learning or after-school programs. Because they are fun and easy to use, all learning and education happens organically.