U.K. edtech startup pi-top has a new learn-to-code-and-tinker machine. It's another modular Raspberry Pi-powered laptop but this time they've reduced the number of steps needed to put it together, as well as adding a slider keyboard design so the Qwerty panel can be pulled out to provide access to a rail for mounting and tinkering with electronics.
It's a neat combination of the original pi-top laptop concept and the lower cost pi-topCeed desktop which has a rail below the screen where add-on electronics can also be attached. (The $150 price-tag on the latter device has made it a popular options for schools and code clubs wanting kit for STEM purposes, according to the startup.)
The new pi-top laptop is pi-top's most expensive edtech device yet; priced at $319 with a Raspberry Pi 3 (or $284.99 without).
But it comes bundled with what the startup is calling an "inventor's kit" -- essentially a pre-picked selection of electronics components to enable a range of hardware DIY projects. Projects it says can be built using this kit include a music synth and the robot (pictured above).
It also says its software includes step-by-step guides describing "dozens of invention pathways" for tinkering and building stuff using the components in the inventor's kit.
The laptop itself has a 14 inch 1080p LCD color display; comes with an 8GB SD card for storage (and built-in cloud management for additional storage and remote access to data); and battery life that's slated as good for 8 hours+ use.
As well as tinkerable electronics, the team develops their own OS (called Pi-TopOS Polaris), running on the Raspberry Pi engine powering the hardware, as well as learn to code software and STEM-focused games (such as a Civilization-style MMORPG called CEEDUniverse).
Another UK startup, Kano, plays in a similar space -- and has just announced its own learn to code 'laptop'. However pi-top's device looks considerably more sophisticated, both in terms of tinkering possibilities and software capabilities. (Though the Kano kit is priced a little cheaper, at $250.)
The pi-top laptop's bundled software suite not only supports web browsing but the startup says there's access to a full Microsoft Office compatible work suite. And it touts its learning software suite being the only one so far to be endorsed by the Oxford Cambridge RSA Review Board, chalking up another STEM credential.
Just under a year ago the London-based startup closed a $4.3M Series A funding round to push their STEM platform globally.
They now say their hardware platform is used in more than 1,500 schools around the world -- which is up from more than 500 just under a year ago. While the team now ships devices to more than 80 countries.
“pi-top’s mission is to provide powerful, inspiring products that bring science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics to life,” said CEO Jesse Lozano, commenting in a statement. “Our newest-generation of modular laptops helps achieve that goal. Now, anyone from young musicians to scientists to software developers to inventors can explore and create wonderful new projects using the pi-top laptop.
"We’re offering learning beyond the screen and keyboard, enabling wider exploration of computer science and basic electronics, ensuring that young learners have the opportunity to be inspired by a world of STEAM-based learning.”