Piper’s computer kit does a great job of teaching your children about computer hardware and other computer science concepts. Now the company has a new $49 expansion kit that builds on that, featuring sensors that interact with the real world.
The Piper computer kit is one of the best build-your-own computer STEM kits out there. Unlike other similar concepts, like Kano, your child will build the casing for a computer and a controller to move around in the educational games.
Then they’ll add LEDs, buttons, and switches to interact the game—Piper’s new Sensor Explorer expansion extends that idea. The kit comes with a color sensor, temperature sensor, an ultrasonic range finder, and trading cards to work with the sensors.
The sensors do just what their names imply: hold the color sensor up to a red piece of paper, and it will correctly identify it as red, for instance.
New hardware by itself isn’t all that useful, so Piper is also releasing an update to go with it. I had a chance to try both the update and the new hardware.
I’m pleased to say the free update addresses some of the issues I mentioned in the Piper Computer Kit review—you can now type a Wi-Fi password using an on-screen keyboard, for instance. That solves the lack of physical keyboard issue. The game also seemed more stable; it hasn’t crashed once in the few days my son played it.
The update includes new lessons for the hardware as well. They continue on the general storyline from the original game; you’ll navigate Piper Bot and his mouse friend to different worlds that take advantage of each sensor. On one world, all the color is missing. And it’s up to you to scan in colors to fix the problem.
Along the way, the game teaches science concepts, too, and discusses how the human eye perceives color. Similarly, the ultrasonic range finder teaches concepts of measuring distance. The games even delve into a Scratch-like coding interface, which is a great way to teach basic coding concepts. It also does a better job of explaining breadboards, and how they work than the original game did. You’ll even get a live view of what you have hooked up in the interface.
At $49, the kit is a reasonably priced add-on that does of a good job of expanding on what Piper does best—teaching real-world concepts through engaging educational games. In addition to the Sensor Kit, Piper is also offering a protection plan. For $49, you’ll get a year of accidental protection for both the Piper Computer Kit and the Sensor Explorer Kit. The plan also covers mechanical and electrical failures for an additional year after the manufacturer’s warranty ends.