In the startup area of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018, I watch as a founder pitches a variant of Raspberry Pi in a case with a touchscreen with great graphics aimed at getting kids to engage in tech.
Teaching kids to code with a drag-n-drop interface is just one of a myriad of tech projects here that are getting cheap and easy enough for an average family to purchase for their kids.
Nowadays you can find AI embedded in devices that can just plug in to the expansion pins on a tiny computer like the Raspberry Pi and you have a non-trivial development and testing set at your fingertips, with enough horsepower to run both an operating system, and yet support direct hardware development if that’s your thing.
Whether you bolt on relays that turn things on or off in your home, or plug in a LIDAR sensor that can sense the computer’s surroundings and drive the robot that’s also controlled by the Raspberry Pi, it’s tenable to hack a system together like this for the price of a child’s fancy bicycle, and you get to learn a career in the process.
I rode next to a math professor on one of the CES busses, and we mused why more kids don’t more aggressively seek out STEM technology.
To one way of thinking, they can interact at a high level with technology, but the deeper stuff is sort of out of view, and so doesn’t feel as accessible. Yet there are free code classes where a student can watch videos and tutorials to their heart’s content and make the next generation of cool stuff.
Row after row of startup tech here has tiny modules designed to be mashed up into the next big thing if their founders have anything to say about it, and the trend continues. You can buy sensors by the drawer-full and bolt them all together, so it seems the next generation of inventors should be knocking the doors down.
“If we get enough kids on the good side of tech, it will help keep us all safe”
At ESET we invest heavily in the next generation – through projects like the annual Cyber Boot Camp and Securing Our eCity – not just because we find the technology cool, but because today’s young people will have to defend against future threats to data and digital technologies. To do that, kids first need to learn how those technologies work. Ironically, learning how to tear apart and fix a given technology is foundational for how many of those students learn.
In the end, if kids can get turned on to tech early, through an interface that’s easy to use and aimed at a low-cost and fun toolset, then that will go a long way toward making it fun. The Raspberry Pi teaching platform founder said he came from a teaching background, not a tech background as you might think; if he approaches the problems in a way that translates to kids learning, all the better. If we get enough kids on the good side of tech, it will help keep us all safe. Bear in mind: we either invest in them or defend against them. Investing is cheaper.
Author Cameron Camp, ESET