Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Ada: The New Computer for Creative Kids

UPDATE: Funding Canceled: Stay Informed at thisisada.com

Ada is a new computer for kids that makes coding and controlling electronics more accessible. We first met Ada at the Brighton Mini Maker Faire last year and loved the concept. It's great to see Ada launching their Kickstarter campaign today. You'll see our very own Elbrie talking about Ada in one of their campaign videos.

You've all heard the story, today's 'digital natives' are just consumers of tech, rather than the digital makers that they should be.

Ada's format harkens back to the computers that my generation learnt to code on. (For me it was the Sinclair Spectrum and the Commodore Amiga.) These computers plugged in to a television and kids could really take control of them.

The Raspberry Pi has been a huge success in getting back some of this accessibility. But many families find it daunting to put together a complete solution around a Raspberry Pi, especially when it comes to adding additional hardware to control and for younger children. Sometimes you want to focus on how it all fits together, but sometimes you just want to get on and make stuff!

That's where Ada comes in. Ada is based on the Raspberry Pi, but packages the hardware up into a keyboard that can just be plugged in to a TV or monitor. Unlike the computers from my childhood, Ada also makes it easy to program electronics with a build-in breadboard and Arduino compatibility.

Kids love building projects that combine hardware and electronics. There are lots of Arduino-compatible products available for children and kids tend to pick up electronics concepts quickly, but there can be lots of barriers in the way like getting the right drivers installed, interfacing with kid-friendly software and working out which components can safely be used together. Having a package that's built to work together is very appealing.

As well as pulling the hardware together, Ada also has it's own kid-friendly Linux-based operating system and educational content. Tutorials will guide kids through digital making projects until they're really to create stuff on their own. Good educational content is what ultimately determines whether children will be able to make the most of hardware and software so this is very important.

One of the things we love about Ada is the gender neutral design. We think Ada will appeal to girls without excluding boys. (This is our preferred approach to tackling the issue of making tech appealing to girls.)

The price tag will seem high to some parents, especially those that are happy to put together solutions themselves and help their kids get started with projects. But a lot of parents don't have either the knowledge or the time to do that, or want a solution that their kids can be independent with. For those families, Ada looks like a fantastic option.

The Ada Kickstarter campaign is planning to ship the first Ada computers in early 2017. You can also check out the This is Ada website.

Image Credit: Curious Chip Ltd

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