Introducing Kids to Programming and the Internet of Things

This Christmas I am looking to introduce some of the kids in my family to the world of programming and the Internet of Things.

(Devices that can do stuff, like hit a button and make an LED light up)

I am not 100% where to start, but I am thinking about first starting out with some basic electronics, moving to programming and then combining them.

This is going to be a multi-year process. Since this stuff is not necessarily easy.

Basic Electronics


There is a pretty clear winner out there for starting the journey into electronics.

Snap Circuits SC-300 Electronics Discovery Kit

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The snap circuits have won many awards including: The National Parenting Center-Seal of Approval, Dr. Toy 100 Best Children’s Products, Dr Toy Best Educational Products

Basic Programming


  • Scratch
    • Scratch has been around a while and was developed by the MIT Media Lab
    • They have a vibrant community with lots of examples.
    • Developed by Microsoft.
    • They have a partnership with the BBC micro:bit project that is rolling out about a million devices across the UK schools.
    • The video and editor are easy to use.
  • Code Studio This one was is used by code.org and comes with a bunch of great lessons.
    • There is a minecraft themed lesson, that would appeal to a whole lot of kids.
    • There are many very user friendly lessons.

Each programming environment works with various devices. So it important to know which device each works with, to understand the long term capability.

Programming and Devices


The Pi’s

Arduino

Programming Environment Raspberry Pi 2 arduino
Scratch Great support

You can use scratch on the raspberry pi with no computer.

Experimental
Touch Develop A bit of work A bit of work
Code Studio

Scratch also works with something called the PicoBoard

pbarrowsusb

It is not a full board and requires a computer to really do anything.

It is a start, but you would end up buying an Arduino or Raspberry Pi if you wanted to do something serious.

Other Devices

I have had a gadgeteer board for a couple of years now.

To be exact it is the FEZ Spider, but it is way more expensive ($149.99) and you are asking a kid or parent to download and setup visual studio.  It can be messy. Before Windows 10 IoT it was really the best option to build and deploy .Net code to a device and watch it run. I will say I am biased towards Microsoft technologies, and that is mainly because I want to be able to provide some guidance and tech support.

My Recommendation is to go with scratch and the raspberry pi.

Raspberry Pi has great support and it ends up to be a computer you can put in your pocket. Plug an Hdmi into and program on your tv.

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