Slapping the term STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths) on a toy, even one with questionable educational value, has become a popular way for companies to convince parents a product is worth buying their kids. That’s rarely the case, but amongst all the noise there are a few companies producing toys that can genuinely help foster a child’s mind and make learning enjoyable, including Kano, who’s DIY computer kits have been upgraded to full-fledged PCs running Windows.
Back in 2014, Kano’s first DIY computer kit, a Kickstarter-launched $US150 ($218) Raspberry Pi-powered system running Linux and a custom front end, helped introduce kids to the basics of how a computer was assembled, and what one could do with it through a collection of easy access programming apps and games.
It could also run Minecraft, an easy way to drum up interest in computers among the younger set, but not much else.
A few years later, Kano introduced a $499.95 Computer Kit Touch, an all-in-one touchscreen system that introduced additional hardware concepts like how the touch sensing screens on smartphones and tablets worked. It was also powered by a custom Raspberry Pi unit, but introduced a rechargeable battery so it was portable like a laptop.
As with the original version, assembly didn’t require soldering irons, or having to learn the artful skill of applying thermal paste to a processor. It instead provided a basic knowledge of the various components inside a computer, and how they all work together.
Kano’s latest DIY creation is called the Kano PC, and it’s effectively exactly that. Instead of a Raspberry Pi, it’s powered by a 1.44 GHz Intel Atom x5-Z8350 quad-core processor with 4GB of DDR3L RAM and 64GB of storage which can be further expanded with a microSD card. It’s got dual band wifi, Bluetooth, a pair of USB ports, and a headphone jack (yay!).
Its 30cm touchscreen can be supplemented with an external monitor using the Kano PC’s HDMI port, and its detachable keyboard almost makes this seem like the most affordable Surface touchscreen laptop on the market, because Kano has officially partnered for Microsoft with this one.
So instead of running Linux with a custom front-end, it actually runs Windows 10 S, which is the lite version of the OS designed for systems like this that don’t have a lot of processing horsepower to spare.
The kit still includes Kano’s STEAM-focused apps which help introduce kids to advanced concepts like coding using accessible games and fun activities, but it also comes with a 3D painting app that can produce 3D models compatible with a 3D, and Microsoft Teams, because it’s never too early to introduce your kids to the joys of corporate life.
Microsoft is even including a copy of Minecraft: Education Edition, but the Kano PC will also have access to the Windows app store. Which means, yes, it can run Office as well. Who knows, maybe your kid will fall in love with PowerPoint?
The Kano PC will be available in the US in October, and despite the hefty upgrades over the previous $US280 ($407) touchscreen kit, this version will cost just $US20 ($29) more at $US300 ($436).
Editor’s note: There is no confirmed Australian price or release date.
It’s not quite a super cheap alternative to a Surface laptop or tablet, however. The easy to assemble DIY components means the Kano PC ends up a little bulky given its specs, but it’s a great first computer for kids that will potentially still be useful for homework once they hit school.