Making programming fun

Home Technologist 02 Making programming fun

Alex Klein has invented a kit for the assembly of a PC in just minutes using a Raspberry Pi.

Alex Klein

GAME MAKERS

Micro Arcade Machine: scaled-down play

Jeroen Domburg of the Netherlands has built a Plexiglas mini-arcade game made from a Raspberry Pi connected to a mini-LCD screen. The console is twice the size of a cigarette lighter.

Pi-Boy: a super Gameboy

British whiz Anton MacArthur combined a Super Nintendo controller with a broken Gameboy whose hardware was replaced with a Raspberry Pi. He added an LCD screen and re-used the original speaker.

Should programming be taught in primary school? Alex Klein thinks so. With two cofounders, this 24-year-old designer and onetime journalist launched Kano, a colourful do-it-yourself computer kit geared for young children, in January 2013.

“The digital world has come to occupy an important part of our lives, but it’s mastered by less than one per cent of the population,” he says. “Our project hopes to correct that.”

Kano includes a Raspberry Pi along with the usual peripherals (wireless keyboard, micro-USB, etc.). The operating system is based on Linux. It can be used to create and modify games, music and video using the principle of block programming.

In Kano, “blocks” of code are put together like Lego bricks. “Kids can download Pong (the first successful video game), for example, and change everything easily, from the colour of the ball to its speed. We’re trying to make programming like playing a game,” says Klein.

The project was launched after Klein met Raspberry Pi co-founder Eben Upton. “We realised that we could take that technology and do something really fun and entertaining with it,” says Klein. “Computer code is just another language. You need to have simple tools and understand how they work.”

In November 2013 Kano launched a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter, which raised $1.5 million. The company now has 20 employees. The first kits were delivered in August 2014 for €119 each. Several large contracts have been signed, notably with popular training institutes in Switzerland and the UK.

A whole community of adult “makers”, like Alex Klein, Adam HartmannElco Jacobs and Tyler Freeman, are unleashing their creativity thanks to Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards.

– By Benjamin Keller. With Thomas Pfefferlé and Sara Bandelier

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