Disney is using Star Wars: The Force Awakens to teach JavaScript to kids – Geek

Star Wars isn’t just crazy marketing money for people who make licensed goods and long lines at theaters this holiday season…and next holiday season…and the May after that. Since being sold to Disney, the Star Wars franchise has also made impressive efforts with their charitable arm called Star Wars: Force for Change.

The newest Force for Change offering even involves two new characters, Rey and BB-8, as well as Princess Leia and secret scumbag R2-D2 and focuses on teaching basic coding to kids.

hour of code

The Walt Disney Company has partnered with Code.org to create Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code, an interactive learning experience that has launched on Code.org and will eventually be available as a drag-and-drop tablet and smartphone app for on-the-go educating (or teaching kids young enough that using a keyboard isn’t a viable option).

All of this is in preparation for the Hour of Code campaign, in honor of Computer Science Education Week, December 7-13, 2015.

The Hour of Code events seek to promote awareness of an interest in computer sciences by teaching a layperson an hour-long lesson in coding. Star Wars: Building a Galaxy begins with simple commands to move BB-8 through the desert junkyards of Jakku, and progresses until users are programming a simple game featuring C-3PO and R2-D2. At the end of the tutorial, you’ll get a link to your game you can share with family and friends.

The actual experience uses JavaScript and drag-and-drop blocks to teach coding and how code makes games as well as moves droids. Videos introduce new activities as well as presenting real world applications for coding within the filmmaking and digital entertainment professions, featuring Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, Rachel Rose, a senior R&D engineer working on The Force Awakens, and Charita Carter, senior creative producer at Walt Disney Imagineering. Right now, the tutorial is only live in-browser, but will live as an app in a few weeks and will eventually be translated into 40 languages and made available in 180 countries.

Screenshot 2015-11-10 14.59.01

Disney is also donating $100,000 to Code.org on top of helping with Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code and will be hosting some Hour of Code events when actual Computer Science Education Week is upon us, mere days before The Force Awakens is in theaters. A bunch of Star Wars-themed education tools will also be making their way into classrooms, like 100 participating classrooms getting programmable versions of Sphero’s BB-8 (even more interactive than the retail version).

The interestingly undersold aspect of Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code is how female oriented it is. Rey and Princess Leia are the only human characters to appear and despite Kathleen Kennedy initially describing BB-8 as a “he” in some of the Hour of Code video lectures, the little ball droid might be a girl.

“We hope the appeal of characters like Princess Leia and Rey will help fuel greater participation in science and math, especially among girls, around the world,” said Kathleen Kennedy in a press release. “Computer science has helped shape our legacy and changed the way movies are made, which is why programs like the Hour of Code are so important to us.”

Though, really, who is going to object to more coding women who are also into Star Wars?

You can try the tutorial for yourself right now and start moving a cute, animated BB-8 around Jakku looking for junk at Code.org/StarWars. That’s also where the drag-and-drop version will be made available in a few weeks.