Many moons ago, Miss 12 announced that she wanted to be a game developer. If your child has similar aspirations, and you just don’t know where to start, the Kano just might be the perfect place! With the Kano Computer Kit Complete, not only do you get to learn the principles of coding and actually make working games that you can play, but there’s the added bonus of getting up close with the inner workings of a computer.
What is The Kano Computer Kit Complete?
The Kano Computer Kit Complete contains everything you need to assemble your own fully-functional Linux-based computer right out of the box. Linux is a type of operating system, like Windows™, which allows you to actually do stuff with your computer hardware, like run programs or even code your own. In this instance, the Kano kit uses its own kid-friendly customised version of Raspbian, called Kano OS, made especially for the Raspberry Pi and the Kano bundled hardware.
Anyone who’s built or upgraded a PC before will know the drill here. There are individual components such as the motherboard, audio capture card and power supply—those things are represented here by their Kano kit counterparts dubbed the Raspberry Pi 3 ‘Brain’, Sound Sensor and Battery, respectively. The quality of the included components is excellent—the custom keyboard with built-in trackpad feels nice to type on, the transparent chassis is beautifully crafted with no hard edges, and the 10” screen is seriously eye-catching.
The Kano kit is presented in such a way that it looks and feels a whole lot like you’re assembling a LEGO set… something I’m sure your Brisbane Kids will be familiar with! Each piece is colour-coded, right down to the cables, and the included printed Getting Started manual is clear and easy-to-understand, and the colours really help identify the parts they’re talking about in each step.
How does the Kano Computer Kit teach kids?
Being a fairly seasoned PC builder myself, I was really impressed at how Kano haven’t completely dumbed-down all the terminology. They retain enough real-world terms, such as HDMI and USB, that will directly translate to things that your kids will interact with later on in any profession that adopts technology.
I must make extra special mention of the focus Kano have put on teaching kids the importance of cable management—this was a surprise stand-out feature for me. The chassis features a number of ‘channels’ to run your cables through, and as you connect the various components to each other you find that some cables are positioned really close to each other when plugged in. Miss 12 found on occasion that she had to unplug, manoeuvre, then replug cables to ensure they weren’t putting undue pressure on each other—a useful skill to learn.
Now, we were unlucky enough to receive a faulty power board in our kit—a happy accident, in some ways. First, it actually meant Miss 12 and I had to troubleshoot the problem and figure out a way to get the computer to work without it… which we absolutely did! This is a computer, remember, and being modular means there are multiple ways of putting it together and making it work. Further to this, it meant we got to try out Kano’s customer support, which we must say is outstanding. We filled out a support ticket online (something your kids will likely be doing A LOT in later life), and after a couple of follow-up e-mails, the kind folk at Kano had a working power board in our letterbox after only a few days. Although, this didn’t stop us from getting stuck in straight away with our workaround.
What can you do with a Kano Kit?
Once fully assembled and you fire up the Kano computer for the first time, you are greeted with some ‘old-skool’ computer text instructing you on what to do next. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but this bit really is for the grown-ups looking over their kids’ shoulders (hint: think of your favourite Keanu Reeves-as-a-hacker movie from the 90s!). This, and the many steps that follow, are a seriously nice touch as Kano takes your kids for a walk down memory lane of the evolution of computing, from the monochromatic displays of yesteryear through to the ultra-sharp colourful graphics of today and beyond. Kano call this ‘Story Mode’, and is a truly unique way to acquaint your kids with computers.
Aside from Story Mode, your kids can choose their own learning adventure, and there are apps positioned front-and-centre on the home screen which teach you to how to recreate some of the best-known games of all time, including Pong and Snake. Think of these as the bare-minimum building blocks for game dev, and Kano clearly believe that, once familiarised with the basic principles of game design, it’ll trigger your kids’ imaginations to apply the knowledge they’ve acquired to build something even bigger and better.
Of course, the thing which really caught Miss 12’s eye when the home screen first appeared was the Hack Minecraft icon. If your kid is into Minecraft (aren’t they all?) this is an incredibly fun learn-to-code tool that piggy-backs onto the success of one of the most engaging and surprisingly-simple engineering apps of all time. With this app, you can effectively alter Minecraft’s code to suit you—the tutorials walk you through the process, and your kids will be thrilled at the cool stuff they can now do with their beloved game that was otherwise impossible.
Updating your Kano Computer Kit and opportunities for further learning
Kano are continuously pushing software updates, adding new features and new challenges for your kids to try out. But, the fun doesn’t stop with the software provided in the box… not even close! The Kano Computer Kit prides itself on being highly hackable—at its heart is a Raspberry Pi, quite possibly the most community-focused computer that ever existed. There are so many other wild and wacky projects just waiting for your kids to explore with this hardware. Just hit up your favourite search engine and look for ‘Raspberry Pi software’ and you’ll find a virtually limitless sea of stuff to plonk on a microSD card and plug into your new favourite kit computer (a retro-gaming console anyone?).
Pricing and options
Kano offer a variety of kits to suit different budgets, as well as a bunch of great add-ons to explore for existing kits or even plain old PCs and Macs. Each add-on revolves around a different subject or application—for example, check out the Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit, which teaches you to build a magical wand that interacts with your computer through code that you create! Guaranteed, there’s a Kano kit to match the interests of your Brisbane Kids.
I thoroughly enjoyed working on this project with Miss 12, being able to help and point out the stuff I know about computers as she followed along with Kano’s walk-through. But you absolutely don’t need to know a thing about computers to get started here—Kano’s goal is to help acquaint anyone with an interest in computers and/or programming with the most minimal barrier of entry possible.
To find out more about the Kano Computer Kit, and other Kano Kit options, please check out https://kano.me/row. In Australia, Kano Kits are available from Australian Geographic, JB Hi-Fi and Telstra.
Brisbane Kids was provided with a Kano Computer Kit Complete for the purpose of a review. All opinions contained in this article are those of the writer. This article has not been sponsored.