London-based edtech startup, pi-top, has unboxed a brand new flagship learn-to-code product, demoing the “go anywhere” Pi-powered pc on the Bett Show schooling fare in London right now.
Discussing the product with TechSwitch forward of launch, co-founder and CEO Jesse Lozano talked up the abilities the corporate hopes college students within the goal 12-to-17 age vary will develop and study to use through the use of sensor-based linked tech, powered by its new pi-top 4, to resolve actual world issues.
“When you get a pi-top 4 out of the box you’re going to start to learn how to code with it, you’re going to start to learn and understand electronic circuits, you’re going to understand sensors from our sensor library. Or components from our components library,” he advised us. “So it’s not: ‘I’m going to discover ways to create a robotic that rolls round on wheels and doesn’t knock into issues’.
“It’s more: ‘I’m going to learn how a motor works. I’m going to learn how a distance sensor works. I’m going to learn how to properly hook up power to these different sensors. I’m going to learn how to apply that knowledge… take those skills and [keep making stuff].”
The pi-top 4 is a modular pc that’s designed to be relevant, effectively, wherever; up within the air, with the assistance of a drone attachment; powering a sensing climate balloon; appearing because the brains for a rover fashion wheeled robotic; or connected to sensors planted firmly within the floor to observe native environmental situations.
The startup was already dabbling on this space, by way of earlier merchandise — similar to a Pi-powered laptop computer that featured a inbuilt rail for breadboarding electronics. But the pi-top 4 is a full step outdoors the standard computing field.
The system has a built-in mini OLED display screen for displaying venture data, together with an array of ports. It will be linked to and programmed by way of considered one of pi-top’s different Pi-powered computer systems, or any PC, Mac and Chromebook, with the corporate additionally saying it simply connects to present screens, keyboards and mice. Versatility appears to be the secret for pi-top 4.

pi-top’s strategy to computing and electronics is versatile and interoperable, that means the pi-top 4 will be prolonged with normal electronics elements — and even with Littlebits‘ style kits’ extra manageable fine details.
pi-top can also be aspiring to promote just a few equipment of its personal (such because the drone add-on, pictured above) to assist get youngsters’ artistic venture juices flowing — and has launched a spread of equipment, cameras, motors and sensors to “allow creators of all ages to start learning by making straight out of the box”.
But Lozano emphasizes its platform play is about reaching out to a wider world, not in search of to lock lecturers and children to purchasing proprietary . (Which could be all however unimaginable, in any case, given the Raspberry Pi core.)
“It’s really about giving people that breadth of ability,” says Lozano, discussing the sensor-based abilities he desires the product to foster. “As you go through these different projects you’re learning these specific skills but you also start to understand how they would apply to other projects.”
He mentions numerous maker initiatives the pi-top can be utilized to make, like a music synth or wheeled robotic, however says the purpose isn’t making any particular linked factor; it’s encouraging youngsters to give you venture concepts of their very own.
“Once that sort of veil has been pierced in students and in teachers we see some of the best stuff starts to be made. People make things that we had no idea they would integrate it into,” he tells us, pointing by means of instance to a photo voltaic automobile venture from a gaggle of U.S. schoolkids. “These fifteen year olds are building solar cars and they’re racing them from Texas to California — and they’re using pi-tops to understand how their cars are performing to make better race decisions.”
pi-top’s new system is a modular programmable pc designed for maker initiatives
“What you’re really learning is the base skills,” he provides, with a mild sideswipe on the flood of STEM toys now focusing on dad and mom’ wallets. “We want to teach you real skills. And we want you to be able to create projects that are real. That it’s not block-based coding. It’s not magnetized, clipped in this into that and all of a sudden you have something. It’s about teaching you how to really make things. And how the world actually works around you.”
The pi-top 4 begins at $199 for a basis bundle which incorporates a Raspberry Pi 3B+,16GB SD card, energy pack, together with a collection of sensors and add-on elements for starter initiatives.
Additional instructional bundles will even launch down the road, at a better worth, together with extra add ons, entry to premium software program and a full curriculum for educators to assist budding makers, in keeping with Lozano.
The startup has definitely come a good distance from its founders’ first luridly inexperienced 3D printed laptop computer which caught our eye again in 2015. Today it employs greater than 80 folks globally, with places of work within the UK, US and China, whereas its artistic studying units are within the fingers of “hundreds of thousands” of schoolkids throughout greater than 70 nations at this stage. And Lozano says they’re gunning to move the million mark this 12 months.
So whereas the ‘learn to code’ area has erupted right into a riot of noise and shade over the previous half decade, with all types of linked playthings now competing for teenagers’ consideration, and pestering dad and mom with quasi-educational claims, pi-top has stored its head down and targeted firmly on constructing a critical edtech enterprise with STEM studying as its core focus, saving it from chasing fickle shopper fads, as Lozano tells it.
“Our relentless focus on real education is something that has differentiated us,” he responds, when requested how pi-top stands out in what’s now a really crowded market. “The consumer market, as we’ve seen with other startups, it can be fickle. And trying to create a hit toy all the time — I’d rather leave that to Mattel… When you’re working with schools it’s not a fickle process.”
Part of that focus consists of supporting educators to accumulate the required abilities themselves to have the ability to educate what’s all the time a fast-evolving space of examine. So colleges signing as much as pi-top’s subscription product get assist supplies and guides, to assist them create a maker area and perceive all of the ins and outs of the pi-top platform. It additionally offers a classroom administration backend system that lets lecturers monitor college students’ progress.
“If you’re a teacher that has absolutely no experience in computer science or engineering or STEM based learning or making then you’re able to bring on the pi-top platform, learn with it and with your student, and when they’re ready they can create a computer science course — or something of that ilk — in their classroom,” says Lozano.
pi-top desires youngsters to make use of tech to sort out real-world issues
“As with all good issues it takes time, and you could construct up a financial institution of expertise. One of the issues we’ve actually targeted on is giving lecturers that capability to construct up that financial institution of expertise, by way of an after faculty membership, or by way of a particular lesson plan that they could do.
“For us it’s about augmenting that teacher and helping them become a great educator with tools and with resources. There’s some edtech stuff they want to replace the teacher — they want to make the teacher obsolete. I couldn’t disagree with that viewpoint more.”
“Why aren’t teachers just buying textbooks?” he provides. “It takes 24 months to publish a textbook. So how are you supposed to teach computer science with those technology-based skills with something that’s by design two years out of date?”
Last summer time pi-top took in $16M in Series B funding, led by present founders Hambro Perks and Committed Capital. It’s been utilizing the financing to convey pi-top 4 to market whereas additionally investing closely in its workforce over the previous 18 months — increasing in-house experience in designing studying merchandise and promoting in to the schooling sector by way of a variety of hires. Including the previous director of studying at Apple, Dr William Rankin.
The founders’ philosophy is to mix educational experience in schooling with “excellence in engineering”. “We want the learning experience to be something we’re 100% confident in,” says Lozano. “You can go into pi-top and immediately start learning with our lesson plans and the kind of framework that we provide.”
“[W]e’ve unabashedly focused on… education. It is the pedagogy,” he provides. “It is the learning outcome that you’re going to get when you use the pi-top. So one of the big changes over the last 18 months is we’ve hired a world class education team. We have over 100 years of pedagogical experience on the team now producing an enormous amount of — we call them learning experience designers.”
He reckons that focus will stand pi-top in good stead as extra educators flip their consideration to methods to arm their pupils with the techie abilities of the long run.
“There’s loads of competition but now the schools are looking they’re [asking] who’s the team behind the education outcome that you’re selling me?” he suggests. “And you know what if you don’t have a really strong education team then you’re seeing schools and districts become a lot more picky — because there is so much choice. And again that’s something I’m really excited about. Everybody’s always trying to do a commercial brand partnership deal. That’s just not something that we’ve focused on and I do really think that was a smart choice on our end.”
Lozano can also be excited a few video the workforce has produced to advertise the brand new product — which strikes a hip, city be aware as pi-top seeks to encourage the following technology of makers.

“We really enjoy working in the education sector and I really, really enjoy helping teachers and schools deliver inspirational content and learning outcomes to their students,” he provides. “It’s genuinely a great reason to wake up in the morning.”

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