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Here's where you'll find all the latest news about technology for children. We love to follow cool new inventions on Kickstarter and we hunt out all the latest announcements about tech toys and gadgets for the coming Christmas holidays. You'll also get our take on children's technology stories in the media.

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Our kids technology product reviews are intended to help you work out whether a toy, gadget or kit is a good fit for your child or family. There's lots of cool stuff available, but is it the right choice for the child or teenager that you are buying for? We'll help you make the right choices and get the best value for money.

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Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends assemble. We create gift lists to help you make good choices for kids technology which helps them develop the right skills for the future. We research the best in Coding Toys and Games, Making / Craft Tools and Kits, STEM/STEAM related gifts, Programmable Robots, Electronics Kits and Gadgets for Tech Age Kids and Teens.

PROJECTS$show=/search/label/project

Get crafty with technology. Here we'll post all our ideas and projects using technology to get creative and making with kids. You'll find anything from making a lemon battery to a glow-in-the-dark Minecraft sword. Our projects are tried and tested on our own kids or at events we run, so we are sure you can have a go at home with your kids. Some of our projects use specific tech gadgets which we provide links for you to purchase.

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STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. In recent years there is an increased focus in these areas of study. We like to include Art and Design too, so we often talk about STEAM (A stands for Art). At Tech Age Kids we believe Coding is a new literacy and children need to understand how technology works, practice making skills and grow in their curiosity to make a better future for us all.

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We think it's really important for kids to get hands-on with electronics and learn how to make circuits and write code to control hardware. Younger kids can start with conductive playdough. For kids who like to combine craft and tech, littleBits are fab. And we love SAM Labs wireless electronics components for making it easy for kids to make Internet of Things inventions. Lots of electronics kits for kids have support for the Arduino microprocessor environment. The DuinoKit Jr is one of our favourites. Arduino is a fab skill for older kids and teens to develop.

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We love robots at Tech Age Kids, especially programmable ones. We've got lots of them and write reviews and projects that use them. Our programmable robots for kids buying guide is a good place to start if you're not sure what's available. Roby the mBot Meccano robot dog is one of our popular projects and has been with us to lots of events. Our Ozobot LEGO trailer is fab for kids who love LEGO and robots.

MAKING AND CRAFT$show=/search/label/making

We're advocates of the creative use of technology, but this needs to be balanced with developing physical skills such as papercraft, woodwork, clay modelling, technical drawing and soldering. If children don't develop these skills as they grow up then physical making projects can become frustrating rather than fun. The Maker Community uses the term 'making' as a broad term to include all sorts of artisan skills or craft activities. Being able to make things can lead to life-long hobbies or even careers. It's a great feeling to be able to take a project from an idea in your head to a real object that does something. We're particularly interested to explore products that combine maker skills with tech skills such as electronics but others focus purely on the physical making skills that are still important to modern making.

Pimoroni Flotilla Electronics for Raspberry Pi - The Cookbook


Flotilla is a gorgeous range of plug-and-play electronics for the Raspberry Pi from Pimoroni. We backed the Flotilla project on Kickstarter and wrote a first impressions review once we'd had chance to play with the kit. It was early days and some things weren't quite ready (all perfectly normal for a crowdfunded project!) so we promised to return in future.

We've got the Flotilla kit out again and in this post we'll take a look at the Cookbook aspect of Flotilla.

See also:


When we originally looked at Flotilla we were really impressed with the physical hardware. It's gorgeous and we love the whole sea theme, but the software was still in the very early stages. Now there's a lot more to try out (though there's still more to come.)

The Flotilla Cookbook is a series of browser based projects where the software is pre-written and you just have to plug in the correct modules to the dock. We have the full Mega Treasure Chest which means we can create all of the Cookbook projects.

There are now 11 of the originally promised 20 projects available online (with more to come) so this gives us a much better idea of the Cookbook concept and plenty of projects to get started with.

Some of the projects make use of components that are included in the Mega Treasure Chest including wheels, laser cut parts and cardboard cut outs.

It's a neat idea to have projects that allow kids to use the electronics modules immediately and understand what they do.

First Projects

The first project is a balance game, but my kids found it too hard and confusing to work out what was going on. They quickly moved to the bat and ball game which is a two-player game using a slider and dial. It says that the first player to 10 is the winner, but the scoring is backwards and the first player to 10 is actually the loser. Again the kids found the game hard to play.

We found that some of our modules have really sharp points of solder so be careful of that when playing with them.

Projects with a Physical Make

We've tried two of the Cookbook projects with a physical making element, the Mood Light and the Line Following Car. 

Mood Light

The first physical project we tried was the Mood Light. This uses a laser cut acrylic base to which you attach the Rainbow LED module and slot in cardboard parts. The light can be controlled by the touch pad module or set to automatic mode. This is a lovely project which my younger son really enjoyed.

It's a shame that the instructions were printed on the back of the card as they can be seen in the finished project. But it's a nice simple project with just two plastic nuts and bolts to attach.

We loved the plastic nuts and bolts, much easier to work with than the metal ones that we're used to.


Line Following Robot

The line following robot is the most complex make and has a video tutorial to show you how to make it.  It uses every long bolt in the pack so we'll have to be really careful not to lose any.  LEGO style step by step instructions would have been helpful. The assembly was fairly straightforward but hard to follow as a video so I had to help my eight year old quite a lot. 

You need to make a course for the robot to follow. We cheated and borrowed one from another robot (the mBot.)

The interface doesn't have any explanation but you can change the colour of the rainbow LED that shines underneath the robot. We didn't have any luck with the red or green colours, but with blue the robot slowly followed the line. My eight year old had the idea of shining a bright torch at the robot, this worked really well and it followed the line much faster. 

Note that you have to keep the Flotilla attached to the Pi via USB while using it but the cable is quite long so this is okay. 



Verdict

The Cookbooks projects are nicely done and give kids an idea of what is possible. We really like that physical parts have been included to get you started. It can be hard for kids to imagine what they could make with electronics modules without seeing some examples first. The mix of card craft, laser cut parts and electronics works really well.

The screws will be a bit tricky for younger children and make it feel like a bit of an effort to take projects apart to build new ones rather than just slotting things together. The USB cables aren't exactly subtle and tend to dominate projects. Overall though the approach is much simpler than working with the Raspberry Pi GPIO for beginners.

Quite a few of the projects could be done using a learner electronics board such as the Circuit Playground or BBC micro:bit which is more convenient and a lot cheaper. But the range of modules in Flotilla is impressive and it can be convenient to be able to build projects where the individual modules can be positioned as you want them.

The projects are a great introduction to the kind of things you can do with Flotilla hardware. Unfortunately there's no real path for kids to then make projects like this. The Cookbook projects are written in JavaScript and this doesn't seem to be an official option for programming Flotilla. The source code is available on github, advanced users may be able to use these as examples but there's no easy route for kids to create similar apps.

The Rockpool interface doesn't allow you to create projects that have a user interface on the Raspberry Pi (which all the Cookbook projects do.) You can program Flotilla with Python but the examples are minimal and nothing like the Cookbook projects. We will look at programming Flotilla with Python but it would be hard for kids to get started on their own. My kids know a bit of Python from programming Minecraft on the Raspberry Pi but will need a lot of help to get started with programming Flotilla. We're also going to take a look at the node-red support for Flotilla.

Flotilla works well for a family with mixed ages as younger children will enjoy the pre-canned Cookbook projects while older children can start programming the modules. You could also use the Cookbook projects with a younger child and then have lots of capability for them to grow into as they get older and learn to code.

You can buy Flotilla sets at Pimoroni








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Tech Age Kids | Technology for Children: Pimoroni Flotilla Electronics for Raspberry Pi - The Cookbook
Pimoroni Flotilla Electronics for Raspberry Pi - The Cookbook
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Tech Age Kids | Technology for Children
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