Anshul Bhagi was 13 when he started coding. It came as a no surprise, then, that Anshul, who lived in, decided to pursue a career in engineering. His love for the subject inspired him to travel the world teaching coding at various schools during his winter break from MIT, where he was pursuing a degree in Computer Science.
These teaching gigs made Anshul realize that K12 education was broken and “obsolete” in almost every country in the world. This awareness formed the hypothesis of his entrepreneurial adventure:
“What engages kids is the cycle in and out. Children have short attention spans, and the things that grab their attention are things with quick gratification loops. Of all the different types of engineering specializations, coding does that. It doesn’t use too many resources – all you need is a notepad and a phone or a computer, and a kid can make a game, a website, or whatever they want. The input-output gratification loop is tight,” says Anshul.
What’s special about the K12 camp, says Anshul, is that it emphasizes hands-on practice rather than traditional theoretical teaching models.
Hatch – Design and code step 1
Bootcamps to go online
But Camp K12 was not a conventional startup. It all started with India first coding bootcamp in 2010, at a time when “coding for kids” was unheard of. Along with his father, Anshul launched the startup while still at Harvard University.
Camp K12 organized interactive workshops and immersive programs on STEAM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) for school children. His classes focused on building logic, computational thinking and math skills, and improving the creativity of children aged 6-18.
Bootcamps would take place on campuses during after-school hours or on weekends and holidays.
Between 2010 and 2020, Camp K12 achieved 50,000 students by partnerships with hundreds of schools in India, as well as collaborations with organizations such as Google, Adobe, IIM-B and NITI Aayog.
Sometime in 2018, when Anshul returned to India, he started working on a differentiated e-learning product which could evolve more quickly.
The Gurugram-based startup eventually scrapped offline programs and launched online courses in January 2020just before the pandemic.
Virtual reality implementation
In 2017, Anshul was also working on a product focused on the VR Studio metaverse, a 3D/VR coding platform for non-coders, as a weekend project while an MBA student. at Harvard Business School.
AR/VR was going through its first hype cycle at this time, and Anshul was curious to see if he could make 3D/VR creation easy for the kinds of kids he had been teaching coding through the K12 camp between 2010 and 2017.
When Anshul moved to India in 2017 after graduating from business school, he decided to continue working on the VR studio. At the time, Camp K12 was working with hundreds of schools across India.
Anshul felt that a 3D/VR coding platform would be much more appealing than the major kids coding platforms available at the time (MIT Scratch, MIT AppInventor, etc.). He hired a team of two developers to work with him on this project, and together they started working on “V1”.
Anshul renamed the platform “Hatch” simply because it sounded like “Scratch” and his vision was to build a modern, scalable coding platform for kids that could one day become as big as Scratch, which has about 100 million child coders.
He explains that Hatch v1 was limited in design and scripting functionality. A child would need a lot of support and support from Camp K12 coding teachers to be able to build something good with it.
“However, one thing was clear: Hatch’s 3D creation environment appealed to kids in a way that no other coding platform at the time could, and kids absolutely loved the QR scanning feature. which allowed them to bring the 3D experience from their laptops into their mobile devices as an immersive 360-degree VR application in which they could ‘look around’ simply by rotating their device in space,” says Anshul.
The “Virtual Reality and 3D Game Development” course that Camp K12 launched using the Hatch v1 platform quickly became Camp K12’s best-selling course of 2018.
Step-by-step coding tutorials on Hatch Kids
Out of the hype cycle
By this point (2018-2019), the AR/VR hype cycle had died down, but Anshul had seen firsthand the gratification a child experienced using Hatch.
The K12 camp was 100% started, investing its cash flow from coding bootcamps into hiring engineers and developing products, but Hatch seemed like a gamble worth taking.
Anshul expanded the engineering team to five, including an iOS and an Android developer he could work with to build an AR-consumption mode for the 3D projects the kids were building in the v1 Hatch workspace.
“The five-person team iterated on Hatch v2 throughout 2018, while testing with real kids in real classrooms. Hatch v2 launched in January 2019 with a new brand name that reflected the broader vision of the platform – “HatchXR” in place of the old name “HatchVR”, as the platform now supported extended reality (XR) creation, encompassing both AR and VR,” Anshul explains.
In 2019, HatchXR remained an internal platform. The company has used Hatch to teach 3D/VR and now augmented reality lessons to children across classrooms in India, and has continued to expand the platform’s functionality and performance with feedback from children.
Build the new versions
One of the requests from Camp K12 partner schools was to use the platform on the school’s existing device infrastructure (iPads and Chromebooks).
With these two comments, the seeds for Hatch v3.0 have been planted.
“In 2020, well against the advice of several advisors who suggested he focus on one thing after raising seed money for the business, I established an R&D lab within Camp K12 called “Growth Labs” to work on two to three lunar projects that could become growth engines for the whole company in the future. The creation of Hatch version 3 was the most ambitious of these projects”, explains Anshul.
He had realized that Hatch v3 needed to be a creative platform that could stand on its own without Camp K12 or its army of live online teachers.
The team added block-based coding to the workspace, revamped the UI/UX to make the environment more kid-friendly, added features kids love, such as terrains and Minecraft/Roblox-inspired characters, animated 3D models and avatars, and the ability for 3D characters to converse in foreign languages.
“Camp K12’s transition from an India-focused business to a global online school in 2021 with the United States and the Middle East as its primary markets has come at an ideal time for the Hatch team. team can now test the platform with educators around the world in summer camps, winter camps, and live 1:1 online coding classes from Camp K12,” says Anshul.
It wasn’t until November 2021, when the platform became stable, that the team started sharing it with partners.
Schools in India have signed up for teacher trainings on the Hatch platform, the Delhi government has partnered with Camp K12 to bring metaverse and 3D coding to students in public schools, and Code.org has presented one of the “Hour of Code” activities at your own pace. on Hatch Kids on its website.
This marked the platform’s closed, partner-only launch this month.
“The team is thrilled to share four years of hard work and iterations with educators, parents and children around the world. The platform is free to use and will remain free to use, similar to Scratch and Code.org are free to use.The team also offers free, structured curriculum modules for schools and ed-tech companies to help them deliver Hatch’s 3D authoring environment to their students like next step after Scratch or other block-based coding tools,” says Anshul.
He explains that kids love to create, give them a creative platform and they’ll hack around it.
Children are motivated by the prospect of social rewards and social capital in this community. Hatch extracts a page from the Scratch playbook here.
“Many children are introduced to Scratch by their teachers/schools, but they continue to use the platform at home. Scratch scaled both B2B2C and directly B2C. The secret sauce seems to be the community features that allow kids to remix each other’s projects for, comment/upvote on each other’s projects, and to help each other through a forum,” says Anshul.
The current version (v3) includes remixing, commenting, upvoting and a child notification engine alerts when someone has liked, commented, or remixed their project.
The next release will take the community to a whole new level, building on gameplay mechanics inspired by ProductHunt and popular video games
The team is now studying multiplayer gameplay in 3D projects created by other children. Only the best projects from each week will initially be available for multiplayer play, creating an incentive for kids.
The startup is also researching game mechanics inspired by video games, kids earn XP tied to creating projects and contributing to the Hatch community (answering others’ questions, commenting and voting on others’ projects, and publish large projects that are remixed by others) among other features.
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti