Introducing the Kano Pixel Kit. It’s a smart, high-tech version of your childhood Lite Brite that teaches your kid to code and doesn’t leave a mess of sharp plastic pieces behind. Which is to say it’s really cool.
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The Kano team sent me a kit for review and it’s one of my favorite STEM toys of the year so far. In addition to coding animations and interactive art that responds to sound or movement, Kano’s 128 lights on a 16×8 grid can produce 16 million colors. The creative possibilities are endless.
Kano, best known for their $150 DIY computer kit, is rolling out a series of other kid-friendly technologies. The Pixel Kit is part of that collection. The kit contains almost everything you need to get started–just add your own computer.
Kano Pixel Kit
The items are neatly packaged and the kit is simple to assemble. The colorful instruction booklet provides clear directions to get the product up and running.
You, I mean your kid, can start playing with the Pixel Kit right away. It comes preloaded with three “light shows” and three games. This allows your child can get a feel for what’s possible before downloading the app and starting to code their own fun.
The instruction booklet guides users through the features of the light board which include a built-in microphone, a joystick and two buttons. My version also included a tilt sensor came, but this might not be included in future versions according to company literature.
The real excitement comes when you connect the kit to your computer (via the USB cable provides or wi-fi) and download the free app. The Pixel Kit is compatible with Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, and the Kano Computer Kit. I had issues with it connecting to one of my older computers, but the process was seamless when I tried it with another.
If your child uses Scratch, Blockly, or similar learn-to-code programs, Kano’s drag-and-drop Kano Code will come naturally. But even if coding is new to your family, the robust assortment of tutorials will get you started in no time. After that, you’re limited only by imagination. As you see in my video above, you can watch the programming play out on your screen with a virtual Pixel Kit at the same time you see it working on the actual kit.
A growing online Pixel Kit community will provide additional inspiration and support as your child dives into the technology. Kano also provides resources and lessons for educators, so if that’s your jam, take a peek.
Like many other programs for kids, Kano provides virtual rewards. I prefer intrinsic motivation to gamification and I’m not fond of rewarding kids for just showing up, so I rolled my eyes (side effect of living with teens underfoot) when I saw these awards in my Kano App account.
The Kano Pixel Kit retails for $79.99 (if the Amazon link to the left is still way above the MSRP, check out the Kano site for sales info). It’s more costly than a Snap Circuits Light Set, but less expensive than a Sphero programmable robot. The Kit hits a sweet spot for curious kids who are more driven by art and creativity than robots or technology, but the latter groups will like it, too.