I’ve been tinkering for some time with the Arduino family of micro controllers, but lately I’ve been wanting to start investigating the new Raspberry Pi credit card-sized computer. When the Pi first arrived, users simply purchased the small circuit board and provided their own add-ons like a keyboard, mouse, and display. But now, the Pi has arrived and is finally being bundled in kits that allow beginners to jump right in with a minimum of fuss. One of these is the U:Create Raspberry Pi Deluxe Starter Kit available in the UK for £99.99.
I recently had a chance to spend some time playing with the Starter Kit, and that’s exactly how I’ll describe the experience — Play! I entered into this test with zero experience; I had handled a Raspberry Pi and seen it in videos and a few demonstrations here and there, but this was my first time going hands-on. I’m still playing with it when I get small bits of free time, and I’m only now beginning to understand just how advanced this little computer is and what kinds of doors it opens to me as an electronics hobbyist. And I’m also quite impressed with how easy this kit has made learning the basics of using the Pi for kids. Not only will kids (and adults) get some hands-on time with building simple circuits, but there’s also a programming aspect to the Pi that I believe offers many more benefits for long-term exploration.
The kit is recommended for ages 8 and up, and when you first open the box you are given a fold-out poster that does a great job of helping inventory all the included components (and there are a LOT of them!), describe the Pi’s various features, and get the tinkerer started immediately on a simple LED project that has both hardware and programming components. I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who has never handled a resistor, LED, or mini-breadboard before… and following the simple full-color instructions got me up and running in about five minutes. The programming part of the project gets the LED to blink and that took an additional 15 minutes or so to complete. It worked on the first try! The power of this first project is obvious — get them hooked! Inserting resistors and LEDs into a breadboard, powering up the Raspberry, typing in some simple code… any kid is going to flip over this and absolutely WANT MORE.
Thankfully, the kit comes with a full-color book that continues the training. I’m about 1/3 through the book and am blown away. Not only is there a lot of information on text-based programming, but I also discovered that graphical programming tools such as Scratch are supported. Kids wanting more can continue in the book and learn some basics of Python — I haven’t reached that point in the book yet, but skimming it shows me that the true power of the book and the kit is going to be reached when the tinkerer starts digging into Python. (And my plan is to use this Raspberry Pi kit to finally get some self-taught training in Python for myself.)
What comes in the kit? I’ll include a photo here, but the list is quite impressive:
* Raspberry Pi (512MB)
* Mini Breadboard
* USB Mouse
* USB Keyboard
* Case (for protecting the Raspberry Pi but giving access to ports)
* Raspberry Pi NOOBS OS (on included 8GB SD Card)
* HDMI cable (for connecting Pi to a TV)
* Raspberry PI USB Hub 4 port
* USB to Mini USB cable
* Various electronics components — resistors, LEDs, switch, jumper wires)
* 192 page Raspberry Pi in Easy Steps book (full-color figures and index)
* Large drawstring pouch for carrying it all
While my six-year-old son isn’t quite ready for this kit, I agree with the recommended 8+ age range — kids 8 and up will not find the technical requirements to get the Pi up and running any issue. If anything, I believe they will fly through the early tutorials in the book and get to the real heart of the Pi’s power.
I’ve seen so many online tutorials for using the Pi in various advanced projects — mini arcade, file servers, BitCoin projects, and much more. I’m so anxious to find a project of my own, but I know I need to go slow and steady and work through the book’s tutorials. Thankfully, this kit has provided everything I need in one large box so I don’t have to go shopping — I just power it up, plug it into my TV, and I’m learning. I fully expect to be seeing summer camps pop up that use this kit for hardware or programming training, or a combination of the two.
Note: I’d like to thank Andrew H. for providing the test kit for me to try out.