Piper Unboxed

PIPER

Raise your hand if as a young child you would sneak out to the garage, grab hold of your dad’s tool box and start to saw a random piece of wood in half. Say “I” if you were one of the generation that loved to hammer nails into arbitrary pieces of material, attach them together with garden twine and present your newly-created “lazer-enabled super sonic computer”, complete with phone, added satellite functionality and booby-trap features to your mom? It didn’t do anything but it looked cool!

Did you ever have a Commodore 64 or an Amstrad? Were you like me who sat and wondered how it worked, while you waited for 30 minutes for Bubble Bobble to load the magic tape? Did you ever try to upgrade your computer, using complicated programming constructs and expensive peripherals? That was the old way.

  • Recommended Age: 9 to 14
  • Global Shipping?: Yes (3-7 days)
  • Best Place to Buy: playpiper.com
  • My rating: 4.75 out of 5

Kids Computer Building Kits – A New Direction

Today, sleek touchscreen devices are everywhere. Our kids don’t have a second thought about what is actually behind the screen, and how these devices actually work. The Piper is a “toolbox” that lets anyone create real gadgets and real electronics while playing Minecraft! The engineers and developers behind the product believe that kids needed a more engaging way to play with technology and that by restricting them to these “closed black box” devices of today, we are denying them the opportunity to develop their curiosity about what’s underneath the hood. Fostering a growth-mindset, the Piper helps develop knowledge of parallel circuitry, mockup breadboarding, problem-solving and critical thinking. By encouraging children to discover, tinker and explore in the physical space, they will ultimately become creators rather than mere consumers of technology. In a fun and engaging way! Oh, and no nails are required!!!!

Piper is a beautifully engraved toolbox that kids can customise and assemble themselves. Once turned on, your child is immersed in playing a Minecraft story-based adventure. The storyline revolves around a stranded robot who needs mission control (your child) to build controls and power-ups that allow him to navigate and return safely to earth. Kids build with their hands on a physical breadboard-like frame. Feedback is instantly received in the game so kids recognise when they’ve engineered the wired-up correctly. Proximity sensors must be constructed with lights in order to help your robot discover diamonds. Hidden doors will be opened by adding physical switches to the electronic set-up. Through the process of building the kit, the controllers and the power-ups, Piper in a way becomes uniquely yours; something that you created yourself.




My thoughts

The Piper Kids Computer Building Kit looks pretty awesome! I love the packaging, designed to resemble a Minecraft crafting table, while the logo becomes animated as the contents are removed. Power is provided via a battery that itself has USB connectivity for charging. The updated Piper, released in early 2016 now comes with a WiFi- and Bluetooth-enabled Raspberry Pi 3. In terms of operating system, it runs on a version of Raspbian and can be updated just like any other Pi running that OS. You can also do any of the projects on the Raspberry Pi Foundation site without worry if that tickles your fancy. The battery turns on with a simple click and extra supplementary buttons have been added to the inventory. In addition, all wires are now color-coded to make attaching to peripherals more intuitive – a clever move by the designers! Speakers, circuit boards, LCD screens, Oh My!

One of the downfalls of this product (yes, there are some) is that the screen can drain the battery quite quickly. Also, you may be called on regularly to help your child with the instructions, which can be a little confusing at times.

 

Piper Kids Computer Building Kits

Let’s be honest here. Electronics can be intimidating. To combat this the inventors have tested and re-tested with kids all over America and those kids have loved it! It’s just a uniquely original approach to a kids computer building kit. Everyone can play with ease. The Piper really has the potential to become a milestone in a child’s life. It creates an experience that will help kids to fall in love with building, creating and engineering. Look, it’s not fool-proof but it will be mastered by any self-motivated and determined kid without too much trouble. The Piper is an innovative way of combining the physical and virtual worlds together – a proven and successful method in getting kids to understand computers and hardware operations.

And so the question becomes: what will your kids create with Piper?

24 comments

  1. I am so happy to have found this post. This is just what I was searching for my son. He is an electronic enthusiast. He will love exploring Piper and will be excited about it. It seem is real good product. I am looking forward to buy it. Thank you for your great information.

    1. It is a pretty nifty piece of kit isn’t it. I love how it began on Kickstarter and has grown into one of the most beautifully arranged and cleverly designed products I’ve see in a while. Thanks for commenting!

  2. OMG! I would have killed to have this as kid.I could remember back then I wanted to know how the newscaster woman in the TV screen got there and where the voice from the radio comes from.I tried my experiment with the radio first and guess what?I got the beating of my life! lols. I couldn’t do it with the TV out of fear.
    Growing up now I know that has affected me grossly as killed the curiosity in me as i wouldn’t want to concerned with how the great technology works,and I blamed my parents for it because they are all about corporate almost 200 years old education which obviously doesnt’t work anymore.
    This is a nice way to save damaging cost of appliances for kids who are more strong headed than me and I think parents should buy it for their curious kid and even the less curious ones for them to be curious.
    Thanks for this awesome post and the opportunity to vent what has been bothering me for a while now.lols

    1. Ha! Your post made me chuckle! It’s like the time that I pulled apart an old two-track machine (the ones that came BEFORE vinyl!!!!) because I wanted to see how it worked…. a VERY old two-track machine … almost antique … and it was worth a lot of money… before I got my hands on it.

      I would encourage every child to be curious with technology. Play with it, manipulate it, break it … As Thomas Edison said

      “I have not failed. I have just found 10000 ways that won’t work!”

  3. A great article and brought back memories of how I introduced our sons in their primary school days to the joys of computers via my very primitive, at the time, Atari 800 computer! Very rudimentary but one of my sons really got hooked on that computer and now is a senior IT manager! The Piper Computer Building Kit looks to be vastly superior to what my kids had in the 1980’s. The wonders of modern technology!

    Jim

    1. I remember the Commodore 64 of the 80s / early 90s where we had to wait for 30 minutes for the games to load. It was a headache! Technology is speeding up so fast. Stay tuned for an article soon about how quick this is happening. 20 years from now …. it’s amazing!

  4. When I started to read this post I remembered my childhood days. Golden were those days when we used to build cool and awesome stuff instead of lying on the couch with a smartphone or tablet. I have to admit that this toy is awesome in that it will develop the mental skills and passion of children at a young age itself. It is a must have.

  5. Having a Computer Science major in college, I would have loved to have this growing up. There were some devices like this, but I find that more and more these days, new coding and engineering games for kids are coming out. It’s great! I’ve worked with kids in the past, introducing them to these kinds of things and they love them! I will definitely recommend using the Piper next time I volunteer at one of these events!

    Thanks for the great post!

  6. OMG

    A computer building kit for kids??? That is fantastic. I wish they had this when I was a kid. I would have devoured it like mexican food. My brother does stuff like this and gets paid $135k a year and he is only 26. CRAZY. When I have a child I will for sure get him this. Its a no brainer. Great great article.

    AJ

    1. Hi AJ, ha ha that made me chuckle! Not a fan of Mexican food myself but I devoured it like Italian! I have 2 kids but like playing with the Piper myself. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. My nephews love to create stuff. Whenever I am working on something in the garage, they always pick something up and pretend to be helping. Ok, actually sometimes they do actually help.

    But, seriously, I love the game Minecraft and so do my nephews. They got me hooked on it. Every weekend we plan Minecraft for a couple of hours. This game really does look like something they would love, though. However, it does state it for 9 to 14-year-olds. They are 5 and 8. Do you think could play it? I know a lot of the packages do have age limits, but I have found some of them are not correct. At least in my opinion.

    Looks pretty good. Are there any videos of this game that show more about it?

    1. Hi Garen,
      It’s difficult at times to really believe those age recommendations isn’t it? I’ve experienced 7 year olds having fun with the Piper and also I love it and I’m in my 30s! I suppose it depends on knowing your child, the interests he or she has and their cognitive ability will also come into account here. One of the skills programmers have to learn is how to deal with frustrations and setbacks – this is something some kids might not deal well with at the age of 5. My son who is in the same age bracket as your nephews finds it hard to stay on task if it takes ‘too long’ – but then again, he spent the entire Christmas break making Lego sets aimed at 9 to 14 year olds!

      In terms of videos, you could check out this link: http://bit.ly/2irXXUq >> There are some good videos of the Piper in action.

      Thanks for your kind words!
      Dan

  8. This is great, I wish it was around when my kids were young, my son would have loved it! I do have a grandson and young nephew that may be interested though. They are a bit young yet, aged 4, but I will keep your website in mind for the future.

  9. Fantastic post and a great sounding product!

    What a powerful tool in teaching kids electronics and computers. Kids growing up these days have such a huge advantage as they are so used to digital devices and if we get them off on the right foot they have such a bright future. Something like this looks great and getting them started out. Understanding properly how computers work so they don’t fear them like a lot of older people do.

    While so many people can use a computer anything more than that is pure mystery to them!

    Thanks for the post

  10. I would probably enjoy fiddling around with this myself LOL.

    But the truth is that you’re right. Kids growing up with electronics take it for granted. They don’t even think how it might work. All they see is a screen and characters of the video game. This has clouded their minds and stops them from creative thinking. Such a game will surely get their brains pumped up and thinking again 🙂

    1. Hi Ben, I’m not sure if it has clouded their minds but you’re right, sitting in front of a screen can minimise creative thinking. Children are natural learners. Ignite a spark in their imagination and who knows what they might achieve.

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