pi-tops latest edtech tool doubles down on maker culture

London-based edtech startup, pi-top, has unboxed a brand-new flagship learn-to-code product, demoing the “go anywhere” Pi-powered computer at the Bett Show education fare in London today.

Discussing the product with TechCrunch ahead of launch, co-founder and CEO Jesse Lozano talked up the skills the company hopes students in the specific objectives 12 -to-1 7 age range will develop and learn to utilize by employing sensor-based related tech, powered by its new pi-top 4, to solve real world problems.

” When you get a pi-top 4 out of the box you’re going to start to learn how to code with it, you’re going to start to learn and understand electronic circuits, you’re going to understand sensors from our sensor library. Or constituents from our constituents library ,” he told us.” So it’s not:’ I’m going to learn how to create a robot that rolls around on wheels and doesn’t knock into things’.

” It’s more:’ I’m going to learn how a engine work. I’m going to learn how a distance sensor operates. I’m going to learn how to properly hook up ability to these different sensors. I’m going to learn how to apply that knowledge … take those the competences and[ keep stimulating stuff ].”

The pi-top 4 is a modular computer that’s designed to be applicable, well, anywhere; up in the air, with the help of a monotone attachment; powering a feeling weather balloon; acting as the psyches for a rover style wheeled robot; or attached to sensors planted securely in the floor to monitor neighbourhood environmental conditions.

The startup was already dabbling in this area, via earlier products — such as a Pi-powered laptop that featured a built in rail for breadboarding electronics. But the pi-top 4 is a full step outside the usual estimating box.

The device has a built-in mini OLED screen for displaying programme info, along with an array of ports. It can be connected to and programmed via one of pi-top’s other Pi-powered computers, or any PC, Mac and Chromebook, with the company also saying it easily connects to existing screens, keyboards and mice. Versatility appears to be the name of the game for pi-top 4.


pi-top’s approach to computing and electronics is flexible and interoperable, meaning the pi-top 4 can be extended with standard electronics constituents — or even with Littlebits‘ mode kits’ more manageable bits and bobs.

pi-top is also intending to sell a few accessories of its own( such as the drone add-on, pictured above) to assistance get kids’ creative project juices flowing — and has launched a range of accessories, cameras, engines and sensors to” allow builders of all ages to start learning by making straight out of the box “.

But Lozano underlines its platform play-act is about are to achieve a wider world , not seeking to lock teachers and kids to buying proprietary hardware.( Which would be all but impossible, in any case, given the Raspberry Pi core .)

” It’s really about rendering people that width of ability ,” says Lozano, discussing the sensor-based knowledge he wants the product to foster.” As you go through these different projects you’re learning these specific skills but you likewise start to understand how they would apply to other projects .”

He mentions various maker programmes the pi-top can be used to build, like a music synth or wheeled robot, but says the point isn’t making any specific connected thing; it’s encouraging kids to come up with programme ideas of their own.

” Once that sort of cloak has been penetrated in both students and in teachers we visualize some of the most wonderful stuff starts to be made. People shape things that we had no thought they are able to integrate it into ,” he tells us, pointing by way of example to a solar auto programme from a group of U.S. schoolkids.” These fifteen year olds are constructing solar vehicles and they’re racing them from Texas to California — and they’re using pi-tops to understand how their autoes are performing to make better race decisions .”


pi-top’s new machine is a modular programmable computer designed for manufacturer projects

” What you’re really learning is the base skills ,” he adds, with a gentle sideswipe at the flood of STEM toys now targeting parents’ purses.” We want to teach you real abilities. And we want you to be able to create projects that are real. That it’s not block-based coding. It’s not magnetized, clipped in this into that and all of a sudden you have something. It’s about teaching you how to truly stimulate things. And how “the worlds” actually operates around you .”

The pi-top 4 beginning at $199 for a foundation bundle which includes a Raspberry Pi 3B +, 16 GB SD card, power pack, along with a selection of sensors and add-on factors for starter projects.

Additional educational sheaves will likewise launch down the line, at a higher rate, including more add ons, access to premium software and a full curriculum for educators to substantiate budding makers, according to Lozano.

The startup has certainly come a long way from its founders’ first luridly light-green 3D published laptop which caught our eye back in 2015. Today it utilizes more than 80 people globally, with agencies in the UK, US and China, while its creative learning devices are in the hands of “hundreds of thousands” of schoolkids across more than 70 countries at this stage. And Lozano says they’re gunning to pass the million marker this year.

So while the’ learn to code’ room has erupted into a riot of noise and colouring over the past half decade, with all sorts of connected playthings now competing for kids’ attention, and pestering parents with quasi-educational asserts, pi-top has prevented its manager down and focused firmly on constructing a serious edtech business with STEM learning as its core focus, saving it from chasing fickle customer cults, as Lozano tells it.

” Our relentless places great importance on real education is something that has differentiated us ,” he answers, when asked how pi-top stands out in what’s now a very crowded marketplace.” The consumer market, as we’ve seen with other startups, it is possible fickle. And trying to create a smash toy all the time — I’d rather leave that to Mattel … When you’re working with academies it’s not a fickle process .”

Part of that focus includes corroborating lecturers to acquire the necessary skills themselves to be able to teach what’s always a fast-evolving field of study. So schools signing up to pi-top’s subscription product get support the documentation and steers, support their efforts to create a producer room and understand all the ins and outs of the pi-top platform. It also provides a classroom management backend system that lets teaches track students’ progress.

” If you’re a teach that has absolutely no suffer in computer science or engineering or STEM based hear or attaining then you’re able to bring out the pi-top platform, learn with it and with your student, and when they’re ready they can create a computer science track — or something of that ilk — in their classroom ,” says Lozano.

technology-based skills

pi-top craves kids to use tech to tackle real-world problems

” As with all good things it takes time, and you need to build up a bank of suffer. One of the things we’ve really focused on is presenting teachers that ability to build up that bank of suffer, through an after academy club, or through a special lesson project that they might do.

” For us it’s about augmenting that teach and helping them become a great lecturer with tools and with resources. There’s some edtech stuff they are willing supplant the teach — they want to build the educator obsolete. I couldn’t disagree with that viewpoint more .”

” Why aren’t teachers only buying textbooks ?” he adds.” It takes 24 months to publish school textbooks. So how are you supposed to teach computer science to those used technology-based skills with something that’s by design two years out of date ?”

Last summer pi-top took in $16 M in Series B fund, led by existing founders Hambro Perks and Committed Capital. It’s been using the financing to deliver pi-top 4 to sell while also investing heavily in its team during the past 18 months — expanding in-house expertise in designing read products and selling in to the education sector via a number of hires. Including the former director of learning at Apple, Dr William Rankin.

The founders’ doctrine is to combine academic expertise in education with” excellence in engineering “.” We crave the learning experience to be something we’re 100% confident in ,” says Lozano.” You can go into pi-top and immediately start learning with our lesson plans and the kind of frame that we provide .”

“[ W] e’ve unabashedly focused on … education. It is the pedagogy ,” he adds.” It is the learning outcome that you’re going to get when you use the pi-top. So one of the big changes over the last 18 months is we’ve hired a world class education team. We have over 100 years of pedagogical experience on the team now producing an enormous amount of — we call them learning experience designers .”

He reckons that focus will stand pi-top in good stead as more instructors turn their attention to how to arm their pupils with the techie skills of the future.

” There’s onus of rival but now the schools are seeming they’re[ requesting] who’s the team behind educational institutions outcome that you’re selling me ?” he shows.” And you know what if you don’t have a really strong education team then you’re seeing schools and districts become a lot more picky — because there is so much alternative. And again that’s something I’m really excited about. Everybody’s always try our best to do a commercial label partnership bargain. That’s just not something that we’ve focused on and I do really think that was a smart select on our culminate .”

Lozano is also excited about a video the team has developed to promote the brand-new product — which strikes a hip, urban tone as pi-top is in order to stimulate the next generation of makers.

” We genuinely enjoy working in the area of the educational sector and I actually, genuinely enjoy helping teachers and academies deliver inspirational content and learning outcomes to their students ,” he adds.” It’s genuinely a great reason to wake up in the morning .”

Read more: https :// techcrunch.com/ 2019/01/ 23/ pi-top-doubles-down-on-maker-culture-for-its-latest-edtech-tool/

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