Maker Kit Lets you Build Light Shows and Games
This was the first time that I have ever played with a Technology Maker Kit, essentially a DIY kit aimed to allow people of all ages to build their own piece of technology. Luckily for me, the guys at Kano were happy to lend me one of their new Pixel Kits to get me started.
The Pixel Kit is a box full of pieces, with a LED board, buttons a battery a few other pieces. Kano have decided to package their pieces as separate, so when you first receive your kit you have to build the kit yourself. Kano make this an easy process, though, as you follow a visually designed storybook which takes you through the process of building the Pixel Kit step by step. Before long, anyone can learn to code, build games and make animations.
Building the Pixel Kit
Building the Pixel Kit itself was really easy. The kit comes with a book that kids and grown-ups alike can follow to put the kit together. The image above was part of the process of me going through the book, step by step until I was ready to turn the kit on. Once you press the on button, there is a really nice colour display that shows that it has been turned on, which makes you feel comfortable that it has been setup correctly.
Following the Example Lessons
Once I had created the Pixel Kit, I downloaded the Kano App and told it that I wanted to build animations on the Pixel. The Kano App had lots of different examples of light shows to build, some which connected to data feeds. For instance, I created a face that moved whenever I spoke, a display that changed based on the weather in London and a variety of light displays that changed when I rotated the device itself.
I didn’t need any coding experience to create these animations. Instead, there was a simple interface where I could drag and drop blocks. What I did need to learn was the logic behind the process of creating light experiences. However, by following the step by step guides, this was quite easy to pick up. This process can be seen in the GIF below:
The process of following the example lessons was good fun. Each only took 5 minutes or so, which is probably short enough to keep anyone’s attention, but long enough for you to feel proud of what you’ve created. Here’s some footage of me speaking and getting a face on the Pixel Kit’s mouth to move:
Developing my own Pixel Kit light shows
Once I was done with following the lesson’s on the Kano App, it was time to create something of my own. Having followed a few lessons, I felt at this point that I had enough knowledge to develop something myself. However, this was a little harder than I expected, without any guides to show me what to do. However, within around 10 minutes I had created a basic example of text moving across the screen which changes each time. This may seem simple, but I quickly had confidence that I could create most animations with the tool.
Overall, I enjoyed the experience of playing with Kano’s Pixel Kit. It’s very easy to explore and I can see it being accessible for all ages and technical ability. I only played with it for a little while, but I can see how someone could progress from simple lessons to a place where they can develop quite complicated code. It was my first experience of playing with a technology maker kit, but I hope it’s not my last.