Monday, 11 January 2016

Technology Will Save Us DIY Gamer Kit Review

Source: Technology Will Save Us

Tech projects at home with your kids is a great way to spend quality family time and learn new skills together. Technology Will Save Us (TWSU) has a brilliant DIY Gamer Kit to help kids learn several digital skills - electronics, soldering and coding. Wow, all that in one kit, you can't go wrong. We took a closer look at the DIY Gamer Kit sent to us by TWSU.

(Thank you TWSU for the kit, but this post is not sponsored and all opinions and comments are ours)

First off don't get confused there are 3 versions of the same kit and essentially at the end, you can do the same thing with all three kits. You just need to decide how much DIY making you want to do. The TWSU DIY Gamer uses the open source platform, Arduino, as a microcontroller to allow you to build and programme your own handheld gamer. So let's dive in and show you more.

What's in the box

There are three versions of the DIY Gamer -

  1. Unsoldered without an Arduino - £35 - Add your own soldering iron, lead-free solder, wire cutter, 9V battery and Arduino UNO
  2. Unsoldered with an Arduino - £65 - Add your own soldering iron, lead-free solder, wire cutter and 9V battery
  3. Soldered with an Arduino - £75 - Add your own 9V battery
It will depend on which kit you buy, as to what will be in your box. We got the Soldered kit with an Arduino. The kit contains various electronic components, PCB board and acrylic accessories.

Build Quality

The kit is well made, but as with all open electronic sets, you should make extra care not to damage delicate components. Off course if you choose to solder your own kit (which according to TWSU will take you upto three fun-filled hours) you'll also be responsible for the build quality.

TWSU provide detailed instructional videos to help you learn how to solder, but we would recommend you practice on some old tech before making your own Gamer. As we discovered at our local Maker Faire - soldering can be quite tricky and needs delicate hands.

Age Recommendation

TWSU recommends the Gamer for 12+,  however we believe younger kids can benefit. My 15 year old put the kit together, my 7 year old enjoyed playing games on it, and the 5 year old made a story using the animation generator.

Make it into a family activity at home, everyone can learn together. 
Even the adults got excited to use the Arduino platform to learn about programming. Once the Gamer is built younger members of the family can use the Arduino platform to modify and build new games. The kit offers a tangible and fun way for kids to get into Arduino programming.

Play and Code

Here at Tech Age Kids, we love kits that are programmable. And the TWSU Gamer Kit is fantastic on that front. It uses the Arduino platform, which is text based coding (not like the drag-and-drop blocks in Scratch and Blockly). The platform is aimed at tweens and teens, but could be accessed by kids who are confident readers and can manage a keyboard, to type out the code.

Games out of the Box

There are two pre-loaded games you can play immediately without any coding - Snake and Breakout. This is a great feature to test if your Gamer is working, after you put it together. But more so, get the whole family involved and see who can get the highest score. We spent an evening playing snake and daddy beat us all with a big score of 25.

It didn't take long for the kids to want different games and this is where the kit becomes interesting.

Code with Arduino

The Gamer works with an Arduino UNO, which is an open source micro computer (about the size of a credit card), allowing you to experiment with digital making and programming. Whether you are new to Arduino or an expert, the DIY Gamer offers a wide range of projects to learn and expand your skills. There is a huge amount on information available online for Ardunio.

Introduction to Arduino:

You can also watch a video introduction to the Arduino Software by TWSU.

Animation Software

TWSU provide an animation software available online to create pixel animations for your games and stories. My 5 year old loved making stories on the computer using the software. It is pretty simple and you need to make sure you export and save the code before you start a new project. When you input the exported code into a sketch on the Arduino the animation plays on the LED matrix on the Gamer. The kid made a growing tree:

Explore other Sensors

The Gamer comes with a light sensor, infrared emitter and receiver, and buzzer for sound. More recent kits (made after October 2015) also have a capacitive touch. You can learn more about these sensors and try different projects using the resources on TWSU online to get started.


The TWSU DIY Gamer is a fantastic kit for a maker family wanting to learn new skills. We would recommend it to anyone wishing to get started with Arduino, as it provides a platform and great resources for any beginner. As mentioned before this kit is definitely aimed at tweens and up, but within a family setting with younger kids, could be used by younger siblings with help.

TWSU have other kits that work with the Arduino platform, so once you get to grips with it, you may wish to look at extending your learning.

Other kits by TWSU we've reviewed include: DIY Synth Kit & Electro Dough Kit

Source: Technology Will Save Us

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