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Squeak: Learn Programming with Robots

Welcome to Bots Inc! BotsInc is the environment of the book Squeak: Learn Programming with Robots. With Bots Inc you will learn how to program robots in an interactive environment. Bots Inc proposes three teaching approaches: direct command of robots, scripting robots and programming robots. The book contains 24 chapters going step by step over topics with a lot of examples. Bots Inc is fun but it is not a toy, it teaches you 100% real programming. Bots Inc is built on top of the rich open-source multimedia Squeak environment. If you are interested in programming, I suggest to have a look at our new exciting project Pharo and its companion book Pharo By Example.

Why This Book?

I wrote this book for my wife, who is a physics and mathematics teacher in a French school where the students are between eleven and fifteen years old. She had to teach computer sciences and I decided to help her understanding key concepts in programming and teaching them. As a computer scientist, I was aware of work on the programming language Logo and that the programming language Smalltalk had been influenced by the ideas of Logo. I discovered that Smalltalk is a powerful language and has a simple syntax that mimics natural language and that it had originated from research on teaching programming to children. At about that time, the Squeak open-source multimedia Smalltalk had arrived at a mature state, and books started to become available in late 1999. But these were for experienced programmers, so I started and wrote the present book.

My goal is to explain key elementary programming concepts (such as loops, abstraction, composition, and conditionals) to novices of all ages. I believe that learning by experimenting and solving problems with fun is central to human knowledge acquisition. Therefore, I have presented programming concepts through simple but not trivial problems such as drawing golden rectangles or simulating animal behavior. The ideal reader I have in mind is an individual who wants to have fun programming. This person may be a teenager or an adult, a schoolteacher, or somebody teaching programming to children in some other organization. Such an individual does not have to be fluent in programming in any language. As a father of two young boys I also wrote this book for all the parents that want to have fun programming with their kids in a powerful interactive environment. Programming in Squeak is an interactive, fun but deep experience. The present book teaches elementary programming concepts, the following book will introduce a new fun environment and teach object-oriented programming. The second edition was released in November 2005.

The environment that I developed is totally free and under the MIT open-source license. Here is the Apress official web site. But you can get the PDF for free here.

Squeak in Action!


I’m using the Bot Lab environment for three years and found it really valuable in teaching computer science concepts for a young audience (and even less young !). The bots commanded through balloon (as in comic strips) is a very nice introduction for young children, and when this aspect is well understood, you can use the Bot Workspace to teach the notion of script, a first step in programming languages. The Micro Browser allows children to add new behavior for their bots, and have fun with their creation. This three-layers tool – Balloon, Micro Workspace, Micro Browser – offers to the teacher a fun way to introduce gently the basis of object-oriented programming concepts. With Bots Inc, learning is playing ! 😉 Samir Saidani – University of Caen – France

I am using the version of the book on your web site to teach my oldest daughter Becca some programming. She absolutely loves it. We are doing the Bot graphics right. My other kids are showing interest as well. My Fall semester schedule leaves me with almost no time free but in the Spring I hope to bring Squeak and your book to our elementary school’s “gifted” program. C. David Shaffer

I recently started a course with 7th-graders (age about 13 years) with Stephane’s book — they love it. They all know about syntactic issues from maths — in a way they know that an expression in a formal language must be well formed. So they easily grasp the fact such as “there must be a colon after the message-name if an argument follows”. Of cause they don’t really read the error-messages, they just see “there must be some error” and they remember the simple rules. Don’t underestimate Smalltalk — it’s easy understandable because it has a simple and straight-forward design. Klaus Fuller – Germany



The book received the Award of PCPlus magazine of September 2005.

The book also received the Recommended Award of Bitwise in February 2006. Read the review here.

If you want to help we are translating the book in several languages and need help.