Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Getting STEAMy with @littleBits Student STEAM Set

I've always been fascinated by littleBits.  They seemed like such a simple way to make really interesting things for people who do not know where to start. I know that these are supposed to be for kids, but you can do some very cool things with them no matter what your age is. I was able to get a Student STEAM Set and I was very excited to see what I could do. The true test was to see what my son Leo would think of the set. He is a pretty bright kid and I wondered what he would be able to create.

I wasn't sure what Leo would want to do first, but when I showed him the Teacher Guide with all of the lessons, he stopped at the throwing arm. The guide was perfect at explaining everything that was needed and how to assemble the bits. I wish I had pictures to share, but we were having so much fun, I did not have time to get any. Leo was also quick to take it all apart and try to make something different. I decided to let him play around with them for a bit without any directions. Within 20 minutes or so, he had created his own push button flashlight.

The littleBits crew even liked the photo and left a comment. When I showed that to Leo he was so pumped. The idea of sharing creations is something that appeals to children and adults alike. Again, Leo was ready to take it apart and try to build something new. His goal was to use the fan. After some tinkering, we were able to put together thermostat and fan combo.

The really cool thing about this set is that there are so many different possibilities. The set can have 4 different students working with it and creating different projects or working together in groups to build something even bigger. The free play aspect is what really draws me in. Just giving Leo the bits and watching him create something on his own is what Making is all about and the littleBits STEAM Student Set is perfect at giving him the freedom to explore and create in a very easy way.

I see this kit as a wonderful addition to any Makerspace or home that is looking for a great way to get kids working together and allowing them to stretch their creative muscles.


The Teacher Manual is amazing. Wonderful detailed and walks the user through the construction of the bits and the reasons why they work.

So many bits! There are so many bits that allow the users so many different options to create fun new projects.

Easy to use for all ages. Leo is only 4.5 and he was able to take these bits and create something awesome in under 20 minutes.

Like all of the sets, the STEAM Student Set is easy to expand by buying more bits. The possibilities are endless when you add even more bits to the creative process.

There are plenty of resources online that are worth exploring as well. So many cool projects have been created and uploaded.

There's an app! The app allows you access to cool projects and it gives you the ability to upload your own projects as well.

Bottom Line:

I love this littleBits Student STEAM Set and I can't wait to add more bits in the coming months and watch as Leo creates amazing new projects. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Just A Little Making Fun #MakerEd

As some of you might have seen, I've become a bit obsessed with Making things lately. I just recently put together my own travel Raspberry Pi/Making briefcase. Check this out.

A photo posted by Nick Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on

I decided to add the Raspberry Pi Sense Hat to my kit. This picture shows it at the bottom, but I did install it at the top. It is pretty cool.

A video posted by Nick Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on

The process was pretty simple. I ordered the briefcase from Amazon and it was very nice. It was a bit bigger than I thought it would be, but it worked out for the best. The extra storage space allowed me to store other Maker goodies I have accumulated over the past few months. Lots of 3D printed items, extra micro usb cords, my Duino Kit Jr fits in the center part very nicely, and anything else I might need to take from place to place. 

I wanted to share some of these little creations with all of you for a couple of reasons:

1. Anybody can Make. It's true. Not all making has to do with technology. I happen to enjoy tech and playing with it, but putting this briefcase together wasn't about tech. I needed to measure and cut and then remeasure and cut again because I messed up the first time. I never thought I would be doing this as an adult. It reminds me of the fun and the trouble I used to get into when I was younger. I loved taking things apart and trying to put them back together. My Nerdy Pi portable game device was something that took me time and effort to assemble. I never thought I could do this, but I learned so much along the way.

2. Anybody can code. I never expected to learn how to code with Python. I was able to have the Raspberry Pi send messages on the Sense Hat without a monitor. I actually did it. It took me a few hours to figure out what was needed from one line to the next, but I was able to figure it out and now it asks me the correct line from War Games ("Shall we play a game?"), it will wink at me, and give me the temperature. That is so cool. I still haven't figured out how to covert it to F, but I know I will get it there. Like most things, it takes time to get it right, but it has been a fun trip along the way. As someone who never excelled in Math or the Sciences, but found them interesting, this has been such a great experience.

I have received so many positive remarks from friends about the crazy things I am doing. I hope more people that are hesitant to get out there and try new things will see what I can do and give it a try.

Get making!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Quality Time with my @TeamKano Kit and my Son

I've had the best time playing with the Kano Computer Kit. I will just start right away by telling you that you need to order a kit right away if you are interested in getting your students or own children learning to code and assemble their own computer. You need to act fast and pre-order the new Computer Kit comes with a Raspberry Pi 3! Ok, let's get to the basics.

Kano Computer Kits come with a Raspberry Pi which is the computer that runs the OS. The OS comes on a microSD card that comes preloaded with the Kano OS. Here are some pictures of unboxing and putting the Kano Computer Kit together. Below are a ton of pictures that I wanted to share because this really is something that is important to see as well as read about.

The Computer Kit has a nice package

Keyboard dongle is plugged in and ready to go
Power ready to light up the Kano
Assembled and ready to go!

Once everything is assembled, you are ready to connect your Kano to an HD monitor. This can be a TV or another HD capable monitor you have access to at home or school. I connected mine to a large SMART board. Once I plugged in everything, here was the first message. 

Fun little picture

Made a mistake and they helped me fix it
 Once I set my user name and I followed the initial steps, I was then taken to some screens to help me get going. The tutorial setup was very easy to do and was wonderfully paced.

Working the keyboard

Killing bugs!

Setting up the desktop was sooooo simple

Karate Avatar
 Once the desktop is all set and you have created your avatar, you set up your online profile so you can access the great community that Kano has set up for users to share content and try new things others have created.

Once you have set up the account, Kano walks you through the different apps that can be found pre-installed on the OS.

Once you have done all of this, you will earn your first badge! I was so excited to earn my first badge. I'm not going to lie. I might have done a fist pump. 

First badge
 The first app i jumped into was the Snake app. I wanted to make my own Snake app and the game walked me through all of the code I needed to make it run. It was very simple to type out and establish in the system. I then was able to play the games I created.

 When I was done, I shared my creation to the Kano Community.

As I continued to play with Snake and try out the new levels, I earned a badge!

I continued to earn more badges as I played different games and learned different things about coding and creating on a computer. 

Eventually, I leveled up to 2 and was very excited about this accomplishment. The more I played, the more I leveled up. It was a bit addicting. I spent my entire off period and lunch playing with the different games. I was hooked. 

The more levels I earned, the more content I earned for my avatar. 

I know I have shared many many photos, but I've done that to show you how beautiful the UI is on the Computer Kit. It is wonderfully designed and easy to use. The cartoon graphics are well rendered and look great on the HD screen. The UI is so important if you are going to get adults and children hooked on using a device. These are key and Kano has done an amazing job with it.

I played pong, did a text based Python script game, I played with Scratch for the first time and made the Cat dance around the screen, and I did all of this with a huge smile on my face. The true test was to give it to my son and see what he thought.

Leo is playing with the Computer Kit and the Screen Kit (That post will be coming later). He was hooked right away. He LOVES Scratch. He wants to play it all the time. My son is a few months shy of his 5th birthday, but he was moving around the Kano UI easily. He figured out how to do things on Scratch without any support. While Scratch is a different program not created by Kano, the Computer Kit allowed Leo to have easy access to the program. The keyboard was the perfect size for him to click the keys and use the trackpad. He was able to draw a submarine and make it bounce on the screen without asking a single question. Dropping the pieces together was simple for him and Kano allowed him the easy access to a great tool. That is what makes Kano stand out for me. 

The Kano Computer Kit retails for $149.99 and it is worth every penny. The new kit that will have the Pi 3 will not need for you to connect a wifi dongle or a Bluetooth dongle since they are part of the Pi. That will make it a little nicer for the set up. 

Leo continues to play with the Kano Computer Kit and asks me about playing the "Cat Game" (Scratch) all the time. He also loves to play Pong once in a while. He is slowly learning the different aspects of the Computer Kit and he is doing it with little guidance from me. These are such important skills for him to learn. He will be a coding expert if he keeps this up. 

I look forward to seeing the Kano OS grow, expand, and mature with its users over time. Kano will only improve on its stellar UI and offer new applications that will be easily downloadable and added to the desktop. Kahoot just announced that they have connected with Kano. Check out the story here

You need to hurry up and reserve your Kano Computer Kit before it is too late.