Education Raspberry Pi
The Kano Kit—Building a Raspberry Pi Computer

The Kano KitThe Raspberry Pi has found a place in the maker community, but the original idea behind the Pi was to build a tiny and cheap computer for kids, and to reinvent computing education in schools. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has made a lot of progress toward that goal—assisted by companies like Google—and with the inherited mantle of the BBC Micro which still looms over how computing is taught here in the UK.

The Kano Kit takes the Raspberry Pi back to its education roots and earlier today I talked to Alex Klein, co-founder of Kano Computing, about the Kano Kit, why they’re putting it together, how it’s different from every other bundle for the Pi, and their Kickstarter campaign which kicked off today.

An interview with Alex Klein, co-founder of Kano Computing

The Kit consists of everything you need to turn your Raspberry Pi into a small computer—including the Raspberry Pi. The keyboard is custom designed for the kit with an built-in track pad on the right and can be held, and used, like a gamepad as it has two additional “mouse” buttons on the left.

It comes with two manuals—walking you through not just how to build the computer, but also how to use it.

However the most interesting thing about the kit might well be the software. KanoOS—based on Debian—is a custom distribution designed for education and comes with their graphical programming language, KanoBlocks. Unlike a lot of block-based programming languages, KanoBlocks generates real code—Javascript or Python—along side the block view, and you don’t have to stay in the block level. Once you understand what is going on you can drop down into the code layer and modify the underlying code directly.

Making Pong with KanoBlocks

Making Minecraft with KanoBlocks

For those looking to put together a home computer system based around the Raspberry Pi, the Kano Kit looks like an attractive option. It wouldn’t be entirely out of place in your living room, which isn’t something many Pi bundles can claim.

I’ll also be interested to see what sort of stretch goals they have in mind—after all the one thing the kit is lacking is a screen. A portable screen to match their bright orange keyboard might well be an interesting addition to the kit.

How to make a computer—in 107 seconds

The Kano Computing project is now live on Kickstarter, and at $99 it looks like a pretty stylish bundle. It’s a pity it won’t be here in time to fill our Christmas stockings as its predicted to ship mid-summer next year, but at least that means you can start your Christmas shopping for next year early?

23 thoughts on “The Kano Kit—Building a Raspberry Pi Computer

  1. At some point Raspberry Pi will lag, will be to slow and annoying to use. It has nice GPIO but for desktop it may not cut it always. China already offers HDMI Android sticks cheaper than Raspberry PI (and I’m talking about quad core RK3188 CPU with 1 GB or RAM and Android 4.2). It would be much harder to put a non-Android OS on it, but some are trying (like Picuntu).

    1. And there is no need for a Scratch based IDE to require a Raspberry Pi or other specific computer to run. So you would be down to the software + books/tutorials. Kickstarter funds development and then any school or interested party can download and use it for free.

    2. I actually think that the Raspberry Pi is a bad fit for the maker community, it has no native analog support and the GPIO block isn’t actually that extensive, and there are problems with SPI support for things like the new LED controller chips. There are better single board computers on the market that should suit makers better. But note the “should” there—the Pi has a massive community around it, and that is all it is going to need, because eventually the community will address these problems; with new hardware, innovative software, or just by plain stubbornness. You only have to look at the Linux community to see how the platform could evolve. My first Linux install came on fourteen 3.5-inch floppy disks and was a far cry from where the OS is today.

      All of these boards coming along claiming to be a Raspberry Pi killers have little chance—unless the community leaders lose their way and disappear down a rat hole that the community itself doesn’t want to go down. Because it turns out that the Pi is “good enough” and “better” isn’t going to be enough to unseat it.

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Alasdair Allan is a scientist, author, hacker and tinkerer, who is spending a lot of his time thinking about the Internet of Things. In the past he has mesh networked the Moscone Center, caused a U.S. Senate hearing, and contributed to the detection of what was—at the time—the most distant object yet discovered.

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