As seen on the official website, the Piper Computer Kit is “the computer that prepares kids for a lifetime of building technology.” It comes with all the parts needed to build a case and setup a Raspberry Pi device, and the software for a Minecraft story-line. Users will receive on-screen instructions to physically modify the Raspberry Pi by adding buttons and wires in order to solve Minecraft puzzles. This toy will be perfect for curious kids who want to learn more about computers and engineering, and especially for those that like playing Minecraft.

It took us an hour to fully construct the Piper kit, so it’ll usually take a kid 1-2 hours to finish it. The blueprint included clear text and large images, which were fairly easy to follow. All the parts were clearly labeled with letters and numbers, but some adult supervision might be needed to guide the building process, since there were some small screws that a child might lose. One thing you should keep in mind is that you need to first charge the power source with a micro USB cable (not included). The instructions didn’t explicitly say that, which was why our device didn’t turn on when we finished the kit. We liked the design: the wood was sturdy, and the clear plastic on the back makes the Piper kit look well-designed. The rectangle shape and the brown/tan wood fits the Minecraft chest theme. Kids that haven’t built anything like this before will definitely be delighted with the finished product. Overall, the construction process was difficult enough to challenge a 8 to 12 year-old kid and force them to problem solve, but easy enough that it shouldn’t be impossible.

The story-line is that a asteroid is hurtling towards Earth, and that it’s up to you to save humanity. With the help of on-screen instructions, we solved puzzles in Minecraft by physically interacting with the Raspberry Pi device. For example, the game first limited us to just looking around the Minecraft world. However, by plugging in two red wires and a button into the Rasberry Pi, we were able to walk forward in the game and continue the story line. This kind of interactive learning is based on Dr. Joel Sadler’s (Piper co-founder) Standford research on skills teaching, and we can absolutely see how Piper’s engaging design will be a great educational experience for kids.

In addition to the Minecraft story-line, you can also use the Piper like a regular Raspberry Pi device. You can open office programs like LibreOffice, program with Scratch, or connect to WiFi and browse the web. Although this will obviously pale in comparison with a full PC, kids will enjoy the extra usage after finishing the 8-hour story-line.

The few problems are mostly due to the cheap hardware. Piper’s sound quality was quite bad, with a lot of audio static. In addition, the physical buttons were sometimes unresponsive and needed multiple presses. It became tiring to constantly look at the small, 7″ LCD display.

Want the Piper Computer Kit? Get it here ($230)