In the last few months, I have been working with my son to separate him from his tablet and get him into things other than YouTube, Minecraft, and Five nights @ Freddy’s. I am a tinkerer by nature and find some of the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) activities interesting; my son, on the other hand, hasn’t shown much interest, until recently. I have been trying some online programs and working with him, and slowly we're getting to do more. So when Valkor came back from The Luxury Tech Show, he told me about Kano releasing two new kits for hands-on use - the Motion Sensor and Pixel kits. And it was exactly what I needed to bridge the gap and get him interested. If you’re a parent and don’t know much about coding, don’t worry! It’s really easy to get everything started and ready to go. I’m going to start with the Kano Motion Sensor kit and then dive into the Pixel kit since the sensor also works along with it.
Motion Sensor Kit - Setting up the Motion Sensor kit was fairly simple and you’ll need a Windows or Mac machine before you can begin. First, download the Kano app, which is provided in the Story Book. Next, install the program, and then follow the brief 10-second video on connection and set up. It’s very straightforward, and you’ll need to enter a name, preferably your child’s name. Once that's done you’ll then be able to train your device. The whole process took about a minute from download to training your motion sensor. I appreciate that they don’t ask for an email address right away. Eventually, the app will prompt for an adult and you can input one.
In order to start programming with the Motion Sensor kit, we have to learn how it works. And we do that with some simple training exercises. "Meet the Motion" is the first of the challenges and as you proceed, the level of difficulty increases. But there's no need to worry, as the app will guide you with a pulsing yellow ball that will light the way to your next step. Everything is cookie cutter and the code fits into each other like puzzle pieces, so there is very little room for error. As you advance through the challenges, you gain levels. If you feel as though learning basic code isn’t going to capture your child’s attention, then you can head over to the build tab and start with a variety of games. Of course, the code has to be assembled, but most of them don’t take long.
Now I know some coding and one of the failures I had in trying to teach my wife and son how to do it was in the way I was teaching, as it took too long for them to see results. Plus things can get boring real quick! However, the Kano Motion Sensor kit helps to teach coding, using a simple format that shows results with far less time. And each individual task is layered with a challenge and a theme. For example, “In Another Dimension!” was the first activity that managed to capture their attention straight away. The challenge was to use your hand to move a satellite image map, which is a four parts challenge, showing you piece by piece what you’re making on the Canvas display tab. So what was the end result? They were able to get the map working; moving your hands left/right gave latitude and back/forwards gave longitude. You could also raise your hands up and down for distance. Overall, the builds are easy and a lot of fun, allowing all of us to spend some quality time doing something that's usually a boring experience.
Pixel Kit - The nice thing about the Kano Motion Sensor kit is that it works with the separate kits in the Kano group. The second one we worked on was the Pixel Kit. When I first opened the box, I thought it was a high-powered Lite-Brite. And going through all of the pieces, it looked rather complicated. However, along with the storybook building, the Pixel kit was very simple. This is the next step in getting your child to play with a device that involves more coding and play options. The Pixel kit uses the same program as the Motion Sensor kit, but with more options.
We put the Pixel kit together rather quickly; it was as simple as placing three buttons, a battery and finishing up with the case. But if it's needed, the Storybook and the Kano app gives you step by step instructions. The initial setup is just as fast and easy as the Motion Sensor kit, with the only difference being that the Kano Pixel charges and receives uploads via the microUSB cable. And during the first setup, there is an option to use the built-in WI-FI. However, if you don’t have Wi-Fi or choose not to use it, you can skip it. And when coding, just keep the device connected via microUSB; all other functions and coding work the same. The only real difference is the number of options for this device.
What can you code with the Pixel kit? To be honest, out of the 35 challenges and builds we liked the tilt sensor, motions sensor, and the music via mic. But we spent most of the time on two programs: the weather station because I enjoyed turning it on every morning and seeing what the weather was going to be like that day. Finally, there’s the fireplace, where we'd finish with putting our feet up, eating marshmallows. The Pixel can hold up to three builds at a time and you can use the dial to switch between builds.
Why do I like the Kano? Instead of plopping your kid in front of an interactive class on your PC where they might learn something, you can instead use Kano's Motion Sensor and Pixel kits, to help get things started. The kits provide a simple and colorful interactive experience that makes learning how to code less of a bore and more entertaining. Now when they get into the more serious stuff that might be more of a chore. But the road getting there with the Kano kits makes things less of a challenge. There are plenty of pieces to work with and things can get messy. But piecing it all together and ultimately playing with the included lessons is far less of a chore than I would have anticipated. The Kano Pixel and Motion Sensor kit isn't just fun for children either, as anyone of just about any age can take dabble into the world of coding, making this the perfect, initial stepping stone down a road that can be complicated and overwhelming. But in the end, I had a lot of fun, spending time with my wife, son and the Kano Motion Sensor and Pixel kits as they're simple to use and very easy to delve into the world of coding.
Kano's Motion Sensor and Pixel kits are two devices that makes learning how to build an interactive world an enjoyable experience. And while I enjoyed the Motion Sensor kit, it's the Pixel kit that takes things to the next level. And I can't wait to see how far we can go with it. These two devices are a nice balance between the two and he can play games and learn how to make them. So, out of TOV 5 stars, I give the Kano kits a perfect score of 5.