TL;DR: Kano Computing has created a build-your-own computer kit that’s incredibly fun, empowering, and important for all ages. It’s priced right and worth every penny.
I’m trying this new thing where I put a TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) at the top of GoGoDadget reviews and posts because yeah, I get it — sometimes a review is long winded and you just don’t have time for that mess. Now you have the option of getting the gist before getting the flavor (I’m not even sure that makes sense).
What does make sense is that I’ve fallen in love with doing projects with my 5-year-old daughter, and Kano has proven to me that building a computer (and coding) is not too advanced for anyone.
Let’s put it this way: my daughter was telling strangers that she wanted to be a computer engineer after we completed building the Kano kit. Yes, I should work on the “talking to strangers” part, but she was right next to me the whole time, and get off my back about it.
My point is that it’s very important to empower your children, especially your daughters, when it comes to classically male-driven hobbies, careers, and games. Hearing my little one talking about wanting to go into STEM as a woman sent chills of pride up my spine, and even if that should change in the next 15 years, at least she absolutely believes in it now and nobody is going to tell her computers are “just for boys,” because she now knows for a fact it isn’t.
I can’t speak highly enough of what Kano has done here to make everything appealing, simple, and engaging. From the Kano character design to the brightly colored cables, from the simple orange packaging to the storybook instructions: it’s all beautifully crafted and inviting.
In the kit you get these items:
- Raspberry Pi 3 Computer
- Computer Case
- Yellow HDMI Cable
- Red Power Cable
- Orange Wireless (!) Keyboard (Rechargeable, with Touchpad)
- 8gb MicroSD Card w/ Adapter
- Storybook Instructions
Even the box itself is very well built and can be used as a carrying case for all your new gear after assembly.
The components themselves feel very premium, from the keyboard to the custom case for the Raspberry Pi 3. The keyboard itself was impressive. It was super responsive, be it typing or using the touchpad, and my daughter picked up on it right away. Add the fact that it’s wireless and rechargeable and I feel like that’s worth the price of admission alone.
The only thing the kit doesn’t come with is a monitor, so we used my extra 1080p HP monitor to bring it all to life — but don’t worry, Kano actually sells a kit that includes a screen, but we’re had our hands on the cheaper version that came sans.
Oh, and the custom case for the computer is crystal clear, so you can watch all the little lights and see all the computing in action. Charlotte put stickers on hers (included).
Charlotte was a little nervous at first, wanting to make sure I was right there to help her the whole time. And guess what? I did — by holding things up so she could plug stuff in on her own, and by reading the story instructions to her out loud because she wanted to know what things were, not that she didn’t know what to do with them from the pictures.
We went step by step, ran into zero issues, and after connecting the computer to our monitor, it came to life and blew her little mind.
There’s a moment after you fill in your basic information right at the beginning that I don’t want to ruin for you, so if you don’t want ***SPOILERS*** skip to the next section and don’t look at the pictures.
Okay, for those of you that don’t mind spoilers, right after you fill out your info, you get control of a little character, who you walk through (using the arrow keys) up through rough code.
It then smoothly transitions into colorful art. It’s such an adorable way to visually show how code turns into final results, and it had us both going “wow.”
USING THE KANO
I am astounded at how easy everything is. Navigating the menus wasn’t tough for Charlotte, but she did need me to read her what things do — this could be chalked up to her being a year younger than the recommended age, and that she’s just now grasping how to read on her own.
Still, she hopped into building her own vision of Pong, and we got a good ways into it (and testing it) before we had to pack everything up and head back home.
I was also surprised to see that the coding games and adventures are not the only things the Kano has to offer — it can access Google Drive, Gmail, YouTube, and more, while offering up other apps like art making and tools.
Plus, with the built-in touchpad, you don’t even need a mouse, but the Raspberry Pi 3 has plenty of ports in case you wanted to use one.
I usually have a section for downsides, and before writing this review I couldn’t really find any with what we had gotten done. In full disclosure, we didn’t finish all the programming or adventure tools, so it might go downhill, but I don’t suspect it will. I’ll just have to update this post as Charlotte completes more of it.
If you pressed me to find a gripe, I would say nothing really mentions being able to just tap the touchpad to select things — we just thought you had to use the “click” button on the bottom left of the keyboard. It wasn’t until we accidentally selected a few things that I realized that’s what was happening.
I’m frankly really impressed with what Kano has accomplished with the kit, and all for $150 at the time of writing this. You can also find Kano on sites like Newegg here and, if you need one, monitors to go with it here.
Doing things like this is not only fun, but it’s important. Getting kids onto this path is a great head start into a future where computers and coding will become part of careers that might not necessarily include it right now. We’re going to need more coders and engineers, and especially women in STEM.
If you have a daughter who shows even the slightest interest in something like this, embrace it, and show her she can do absolutely anything she puts her mind to, regardless of what any backwards people out there might tell her.
Check out some more pics of the Kano, below: