When Alex Klein’s 7-year-old cousin asked (or, really, demanded) that Klein make a computer kit that was as easy and fun to use as his Legos, Klein didn’t tell him to shove off and make his own damn computer kit. He went around the world and talked to kids about what would get them excited and engaged with computer science.
The result is Kano ($149), a dead simple kit that teaches kids 6-to-14-years-old how to build a computer from the ground up and then program it. Kano recently went from Kickstarter phenomenon to wide distribution in less than a year by tapping into two powerful trends. First, there’s a growing sense that coding literacy needs to be a key component of early education to ensure the U.S. remains competitive globally. Second, very few people have any idea how the devices they rely on all day long actually work, and that’s how the robot apocalypse begins.
Kano’s building instructions are written like a story, and the programming is game-ified in a way that encourages them to “level up” as they figure out how to add functionality. Once set up, they can tweak the look, sounds and gameplay of things like Minecraft and Pong, before moving on to things like music programming and internet browsing. Get a Kano DIY computer for your kids, and they’ll learn basic computer science faster than it took you to set up the Apple TV.
And if $150 bucks sounds like a spendy gift, just think of how much time you’ll save by having an IT desk in the kid’s room.