Kids/Babies Maker/Development Toys

MakerBloks snaps a fun STEM introduction together for kids

In the United States, introducing STEM topics to kids has faced many challenges in part because the way its done isn’t engaging enough. No one ever said these topics have to be boring, though.

MakerBloks answers the call with electronic components wrapped in bright, colorful casing that easily snap together to make electronic circuits. With the help of a companion tablet app featuring teaching aids and games, children can create a variety of projects like keyboards, burglar alarms, and memory games. Real electronic symbols are used on each block to familiarize children early on so that electronic schematics won’t prove to be a challenge later on. A full kit of 36 MakerBloks and an iPad stand goes for $159, with a ship date slated for November 2015. The campaign is hoping to raise $20,652 by June 16th, 2015.

MakerBloks’ presentation and connection with gaming combine offline and online worlds in a meaningful way, no doubt drawing kids in and keeping them hooked while facilitating a great learning experience at the same time. Keen-eyed readers will see some similarities between MakerBloks and littleBits, another block-based electronics system that is a great step up for the children who master sets like MakerBloks and are seeking more challenging interactions.

Maker/Development Technology

Pi Top is a chunky open source laptop to teach you about coding

The increasing proliferation of technology in every part of our lives has led to a similar increase in demand for those who understand it all. With hardware, electronics, and code all at the heart of today’s most used technology, it’s an incredible challenge for those interested to even start. Outside of teaching yourself or attending costly college-level courses, there aren’t too many resources for those starting from scratch.

The mission behind Pi-Top is simple: focus on teaching people how to create and code great hardware. Initially, the open source laptop is shipped in pieces: a 13.3″ HD LCD monitor, various PCBs, keyboard, trackpad, Wi-Fi adapter, wiring, battery, and a Raspberry Pi to control it all. Instructions are included to lead users in the Pi-Top’s construction, and serve as an introductory lesson to everything the Pi-Top does. Afterwards, it functions as a laptop dedicated to teaching the skills necessary to transform a pure novice into someone who can design printed circuit boards, 3D print, and code anything they’d want using free online lessons direct from the company. In addition, the Raspberry Pi’s HAT specification allows small add-on boards to add functionality, a consideration Pi-Top was built with. This allows users to program robots or have access to a variety of sensors for home automation, and with more HATs being released, there are a wealth of options for the curious tinkerer. All in all, the Pi-Top is truly an accessible product priced at $285 and many agree: the company’s $80,000 has been funded.

The Pi-Top does a great job in streamlining the process of learning a topic that has incredible depth. The free online courses demonstrate immediate, physical results and will be great at drawing users in and keeping them there, a leg up on what the Novena does. Even if it may contain beefier internals (and a similarly beefy price), the makers behind the Novena do nothing to at least expand your knowledge. The Pi-Top is very user friendly, and will prove to be a hit with those who take the plunge.


Conductak sticks to circuitry like static cling

Making simple circuits is a great way to learn about or teach electronics, but the methods of doing so aren’t exactly the most reliable or structurally sound solutions. Whether it’s Scotch tape or copper strips, demonstration circuits have a bad habit of malfunctioning or falling apart. Conductak is a conductive sticky tack substance that can be adhered to the ends of these circuitry components and have transistors, conductors, and other components added to to create reliable, functioning circuits that are easy to assemble and disassemble.

Conductak is sticky enough to hold components in place even on strange surfaces or surfaces in motion. Additionally, it doesn’t lose it’s adhesiveness even when taken apart, meaning Conductak can be used again and again. Inventor Allen Pan is still working out the optimal formula for Conductak and needs $2,250 to fund his research. Backers can play with an experimental batch of Conductak for $20 in November 2014. The idea here is to make learning about circuits easier and less frustrating. Using more science to accomplish this completes the circuit and is sure to make the light bulbs in some student’s heads turn on.


WrapAround keeps your power cords in order

WrapAroundMessy cords can be an eyesore and tangle causing broken devices and inconvenience. Some products come with their own bread tab to gather cords with, but they don’t always work well. The WrapAround is a cord organization system. It is designed to gather cords neatly and each WrapAround clips together so that multiple cords, such as those needed for a television system can stay together in nice, organized bundles. For a set of four, backers can shell out $10 early or $12 at a regular price. WrapAround needs to raise $17,500 in a month long Kickstarter campaign to reach its goal.