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Piper – Using Raspberry Pi and Minecraft to Learn to Code

Julian Jaynes said that, ‘Understanding a thing is to arrive at a metaphor for that thing by substituting something more familiar to us. And the feeling of familiarity is the feeling of understanding’.

Piper combines Raspberry Pis, Minecraft and the building of real-world electronic components to help people build their mental models of how electronics works, to help them ‘arrive at a metaphor’ for the way computers work and how to code.

They launched a kickstarter campaign a week ago and have already hit treble their target. It’s taking off fast!

Here’s Mark Pavlyukovskyy, co-founder of Piper, with some more details – or just head over to their kickstarter page and check it out for yourself!:

“I tried many times to teach myself coding and electronics from scratch. It was a painful process, and I gave up every time.

It took a near-death experience to make me realize that I wouldn’t be satisfied with my own life unless I made something that improved other people’s lives. And I had to do it with technology because that was the only way to reach millions of people all over the world.

So I learned the basics, and then began experimenting with different projects. I wanted to give young kids a way to learn and play with technology in a way that was different from the boring, didactic way that coding and electronics had been taught when I was growing up.

My friend, Shree Bose and I started using the Raspberry Pi, a recently invented, inexpensive microcomputer to give kids a way to play and experiment with technology. As we were testing and demoing our electronics kits in schools, kids would always ask us if they could play Minecraft on these microcomputers.

Through those questions we realized that kids, like everyone, need a motivation and a tangible reason to do anything. As an example, learning a second language is boring and difficult unless you a) travel to that country and have to rely on your language skills to meet even the most basic needs, like buying food, or b) if you are playing a game.

So we decided to connect Minecraft with electronics components, and give kids a way to hack and improve Minecraft by adding these physical components such as buttons, lights and sensors to the Raspberry Pi microcomputer that was running the game. We created an adventure map in Minecraft where your mission is to guide a robot around a foreign planet. Unfortunately, he is a very buggy robot, and is constantly breaking down. So you must build switches, lights and sensors physically – I mean really making electronics hardware in the real world – in order to restore the robot’s functionality back in the virtual game.

With overwhelming positive feedback from the kids, we continued developing this Minecraft toolbox for budding inventors and engineers, and have launched our project on Kickstarter to allow makers, inventors, and just parents who want to give their kids an introduction into the world of technology and electronics to get a toolbox for themselves.

Please check out what we are building with Piper, and get a toolbox for yourself to learn about and hack with electronics in a fun, accessible way.

Mark Pavlyukovskyy Co-founder, Piper”

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