Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, a startup company will produce Piper, a toolbox that lets people of all ages design electronics while playing the popular video game Minecraft. Piper was created by a team of hacker builders with technical skills and expertise in STEM education. They noticed that although today’s children are surrounded by advanced technology such as smart phones and tablets every day, they have no understanding of the inner workings of these devices.
The team set out to inspire children to tinker and build in the way that previous generations did when technology was hidden inside sleek designs. So they designed a kit based on three principals: it is intuitive, involves physical, hands-on building, and is as fun to play as other popular mobile and social games. Apparently there is high demand for this kind of educational toolbox. Piper successfully met their goal of raising $50,000 in just three days. In total, 1,375 backers pledged $280,033 to help bring the project to life.
A custom etched wooden box houses the kit, which includes a powerbank, cables, a USB mouse, 8GB SD card, electronic components, and even a screw driver. The centerpiece of the system is a Rasperry Pi 2, which is a low cost, credit-card sized computer that enables people to learn programming. Although the toolbox already contains wires, buttons, light, switches, sensors, and small breadboards, users are also able to add any off-the-shelf hardware and electronics.
The premise of the Minecraft adventure to help re-build a robot that has been damaged by asteroids in its mission to another planet. To get started, kids must first build the tool box and a controller in order to navigate in the game. They also physically assemble various sensors, switches, motion detectors, and buzzers in real life. Players are encouraged to test the components as they build, and they can see the results reflected in the Minecraft game. Although Minecraft provides a great starting point, Piper is end-to-end Open Source, so children and adults are encouraged to play, tinker, invent, and create without limits. The anticipated delivery date for Piper is December 2015.