Computer Kit by Kano Brings Basic PC Building and Coding to Children Ages 6 and Up

GameStop, Inc.

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On occasion I will bring up You Tube on my Xbox, because I can send videos to it I find on my phone, and spend an evening falling down that rabbit hole.  On one such occasion an ad (that I didn’t immediately skip) popped up for the ‘Kano Computer Kit’, which is billed on their site as “A playful computer and coding kit for ages 6 and up — just like LEGO”.  Intrigued I let the ad run, then from the comfort of my couch (it was 10 at night!) I reached out to Kano for more information on their product.  A short time later a brown box with a light orange cover arrived at my door.  Unfortunately it arrived right in the middle of Christmas madness, not wanting it to get lost in the madness that is Holiday gift giving, so I set it aside till the beginning of the new year so my daughters and I could run it through its paces.

From the Kano website:

  • Kano is a new kind of computer company. Our mission is to empower a new creative generation to make and play with technology.
  • Inspired by a challenge from a 6-year-old, the Kano Kit is a computer that anyone can make – “as simple and fun as LEGO.” It comes as a simple
  • computer and coding kit, designed for kids of all ages, all over the world – for anyone who wants to create technology, not just consume it.
  • You build Kano with plug-and-play pieces, then dive in to an open-source OS, the fastest on Raspberry Pi, to make and play with code. Simple stories and playful projects show
  • you how to build games like Pong and Snake, sounds and songs, digital artworks, worlds in Minecraft, radios and servers, and much more.
  • Kano creators have made and shared over 7 million lines of code on Kano World, a “kids’ Github” for young makers. Around the world, Kano has beentransformed into weather stations, game consoles, stop-motion cameras, servers, bitcoin miners, and more.

My first impression of Kano was from the packaging, it was solid but nondescript.  Classy, but it’s obvious no money was wasted on flashy pictures and pointless packaging.  After opening the box it became apparently clear that this was where the money was really spent.  The instruction booklets are front and center, well made and easy to understand.  These booklets may have been written for kids, with lots of pictures  and clear and concise instructions, but all product companies should take a page out of Kano’s book.  I recently purchased a new television for the living room and found myself wishing that the technical writers at Kano has taken a stab at the masterpiece I pulled out of the LG box.

Finally we got down to the nitty gritty, and once again I found myself impressed.  Let me give you a tad about my background.  I have been an IT guy by career and by natural curiosity for over 20 years.  I have worked in top secret labs at Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge, as well as elbow deep pulling cable in new office buildings.  So when I am impressed by something technical I would hope there is a little bit of weight behind it.

From the keyboard to connection cables everything in this kit is solidly made, with bright yet muted colors so it doesn’t come off as garish.  No flimsy, cheap plastics here.  Even the glossy, brittle sheen, that most inexpensive electronics have, isn’t present. The ‘Kano Computer Kit’ is not about me though its for kids, ages 6 and up to be precise.  So I enlisted the expertise of my trusty helpers (and daughters) Lorelei and Sofia who are 5 1/2 and 10 respectively.  I wanted to get a good feel for the age range claims of this product, and they were on winter break, so two birds with one stone.  There is also a “Kano Complete” which includes a DIY screen building kit as well.  I did not get a chance to review the screen building kit but from the looks of it, it’s the same handsome looking build parts presented in a fun “kid” way.  For the standard kit you can use the HDMI port out to connect to most flat screens or pick up an hdmi to vga adapter inexpensively if need be.

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What’s in the box? Assemble your computer: brain, memory, keyboard, wifi dongle, speaker and connect it to your TV, computer or Kano screen to start learning.

After unboxing each of the parts I took out the instructions and proceeded to go through them with Lorelei, she is almost 6 but 6 is pretty young for fluent reading skills. Which is why I would recommend this product for 7 and up, especially once you get to the coding portions. Most 6 year old children just aren’t going to have the reading comprehension skills to proceed very far in this kit without a lot of help. Lorelei had a ton of fun assembling each of the pieces though, it was something that her and I could do together and I could share with her some of the technical skills I have acquired in my old age. Each time a new component clicked together her excitement increased, once the small Rasberry Pi powered machine lit up for the first time she could barely contain herself.

Once everything was assembled and we had gotten to the boot up dialogue it was time to call big sister Sofia in for assistance. This is where the reading age becomes incredibly important, once you boot up the Kano Computer everything from games to music is controlled entirely through coding. Coding that is a little beyond the average 6 year old, but is right up the alley of a 10 year old.  It was at this time that I stepped away from the project for a little bit. I wanted to see what they would use it for on their own, without any urging from me. From the other room I heard the usually bickering but I also heard collaboration and the sounds of joy that only come through acts of accomplishment. It’s pretty simple to boot up a tablet, click on a game and jump into it. The computer kit by Kano offers a complexity that is often missing in today’s technology.  Soon my kids were yelling for me to rejoin them because they had somehow made storm troopers move across the screen to the Imperial March.

Check out the Kano computer kit and the other products they offer here.

 

Computer Kit by Kano
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