MakePad - DIY Tablet to Teach Coding
Tom Spendlove posted on March 13, 2018 |

Cesar Martins and his team at MakePi have a simple mission – to make code learning possible for everyone. They’ve been inspired for years by the maker culture and frustrated that most people depend on computers for everything but really have no idea how they work. After doing research they found that current programming education platforms missed the mark in three major areas: ease of use, affordability, and accessibility. They developed the MakePad to meet these needs and are running a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.

MakePad is a 10.1 inch tablet with a touchscreen display that children build before they can use it to learn programming and coding. Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is the platform for programming and four USB ports and 40 GPIO pins are available for long term expansion. An 8000 milliAmp hour battery is included with the system but no claims are made about longevity of one charge while in use. The unit ships with a 16 Gigabyte SD card. The MakePad has embedded applications that don’t need internet connection to use, and the team hopes that this will make the tools better for areas with little or no connectivity. The OS is available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Assembly requires color coded cables to be connected and a few quarter turn screw connections with an easy to use supplied screwdriver. The system is compatible with Lego blocks so the face can be customized by each individual user. With Blockly as a base for programming users can use the MakeMods app to change their Minecraft environment. Python is also available. Different sections called ‘planets’ are available for coding, games, art, web browsing, media, and other calendar / calculator / note pad apps.

MakePad is another entry in the crowded field of programming / STEM educational tools. I like their commitment to open source and expandability, and the emphasis on having parents work with children from the ground up to learning programming. Another great touch is the curriculum included that students can use, based on the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s Framework for 21st Century Skills. The campaign ends on April 12 and first units are projected to ship in October 2018.

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