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Raspberry Pi-based kit teaches kids to program

Oct 8, 2014 — by Eric Brown — 2,693 views

Kano has begun selling a $150, Raspberry Pi-based educational computer that teaches kids to program using visual tools and the Debian-based Kano OS.

Kano’s hugely successful Kickstarter project funded last December, with more than 10,000 investors ordering $99 and $119 Kano open source DIY kits for a total of $1.52 million in proceeds. Last month, Kano fulfilled its orders, and is now selling the kits to the general public for $150 each.

(click images to enlarge)

The Kano is essentially a gussied up Raspberry Pi Model B, which seems appropriate enough given the Linux-based single board computer’s primary goal of improving computer education for kids. The kit includes a Pi with an acrylic case, a Bluetooth keyboard with trackpad, a speaker, WiFi dongle, and cables. But the primary draw is not the hardware, but the visual programming interface for kids, which runs on a Debian Linux distribution called Kano OS.

Kano kit (left), and its contents
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As the YouTube video farther below shows, the Kano’s first “lesson” is putting the computer together: fitting the RPi in the case, customizing the case with stickers, and then attaching the WiFi dongle and the speaker, which is housed on one side of the case. Cables are provided for everything, including HDMI, although you do have to furnish your own display.

Kano quick start guide
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You then plug in an 8GB SD card to load Kano OS. The software offers a visual programming interface based on Scratch with modular code blocks “inspired by Google’s Blockly” called Kano Blocks. The software is built around a series of legacy games like Minecraft, Pong, and Snake, which kids are encouraged to modify with Kano Blocks. When connected, they output Python or Javascript with live code updating, and change the games on the fly.

Kano visual programming interface screenshots
(click images to enlarge)

There are six levels, with rewards bringing you to a new level. More advanced levels include video and music editing. There are also hardware hacks being shared by a fast growing community, such as building a web server or an FM radio receiver, streaming video to an iPad, or remote controlling a toy car.

Kano with speaker installed (left), and Kano workstation
(click images to enlarge)


Setting up the Kano

Further information

The Kano kit is available for $150. More information may be found at the Kano website and the original Kickstarter page.

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