Future gadget inventors and makers can learn about electronics by reading books or watching online videos, but chances are it won't be long before they want to break out the breadboards and start experimenting themselves. Educational technology company pi-top has launched an electronics design platform in the shape of a Pi-based modular laptop that's aimed at making hands-on learning simple and fun.
The pi-top team says that it sought feedback from more than a thousand teachers, students and schools to produce an engaging experience designed to support STEAM-based learning – that's Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. The laptop's barebones chassis is home to a 14-inch Full HD LCD display and a slide-out keyboard that exposes the device's internals, allowing students or consumers to get under the hood and swap out components, upgrade parts and generally get their experimental hands dirty.
The brains of the operation is a Raspberry Pi 3 with custom Cooling Bridge, which brings a 1.2 GHz quad-core ARM processor, 1 GB of RAM, HDMI and USB ports, a microSD card slot, camera interface, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to the party. This is mounted on a modular rail, which also caters for simple swap-outs and custom projects using pi-top accessories and components. System battery life is reported to be in the 8 - 10 hour range.
The laptop comes with pi-topOS Polaris software stored on an 8 GB SD card that includes numerous coding and office apps, and is said to be the only education technology platform endorsed by the UK's Oxford Cambridge RSA Review Board. Edutainment is also on offer, including Minecraft for Pi and CEEDuniverse, that help kids develop coding and computer science skills.
The inclusion of a pi-top inventor's kit means that would-be engineers can follow some step-by-step guides provided in an app called pi-topCODER that allow them "to explore three engaging journeys together – Music Master, Smart Robot and Space Race." Aspiring sonic scientists will be able to build their own synthesizer, would-be roboticists can create an interactive robot and those with a steady hand get to play a space-themed game.
The pi-tip laptop is available now for US$319.99 including a Raspberry Pi 3, or $284.99 without.