Fund This! Piper: A Minecraft Toolbox for Budding Engineers

Photo courtesy of Piper.

Last night, Piper launched a Kickstarter to fund their new product: A Minecraft Toolbox for Budding Engineers. Now, I am a big fan of Minecraft, and so are my kids. We even went to the first MineCon in Las Vegas with handmade red creeper capes and a 6-foot-tall robotic creeper. In fact, I wrote a poem a few years ago to express my gratitude:

Oh Minecraft ! Thou art magnificent in your design!
You thrust your pick-axe into the depths of my children’s minds
And collect the fragments of literacy and mathematics buried in their genetic code
With your own code of multidimensional strategy and awesomeness!
Through chat window they build their empires,
Through mining they stretch and exercise their mathematical prowess,
They are cubic kings!
Destined to conquer and lead all mankind towards
Self-reliance and cooked pork!

Poet laureate I am not, but you get my drift. So when I saw this new project, I was cautiously excited. I loved the idea of combining Minecraft with physical electronics, but I am also adverse to buying anything we could make ourselves or that delivers far less than what it promises. A recent article on GeekMom illustrates my feelings perfectly on this subject.

Recently, I got the chance to actually play with Piper at one of the programs I run, as well as observe groups of kids exploring the Toolbox. I have to say, this may just be the next new thing in gaming. Basically, Piper has created a Minecraft Mod with five levels (and more to come), based on a story. There are astronauts stuck on a planet and a robot is sent on a rescue mission, but it gets damaged and in each level, there are repairs to be made. Every time a crafting table is found, there is a challenge that requires a physical build on the components provided, including motion detectors, a proximity sensor with an LED strip, switches to control bridges and hidden doors, and more.

Kits come unassembled, so kids can build the entire toolbox and personalize them. Within the game, they can build whatever they want, design and upload their own mods, and go at their own pace. Since the Toolbox uses Raspberry Pi, they will also release design and code as open source for community collaboration and experimentation. I found the Toolbox to be extremely flexible and open-ended, while providing enough challenges for the kids who want them. I also had the pleasure of meeting two of the founders today as well, and found them to be thoughtful, enthusiastic, and determined to make this an amazing product.

The Kickstarter just launched, but there is a limited number of Toolboxes available for an early-bird price, which is why I am not waiting to include this one in my next Fund This round-up of campaigns. Check it out if your family hails from the Minecraft Guild!

Photo courtesy of Curiosity Hacked.