The Piper Computer Kit is an award-winning computer building kit designed with teaching children about building computers and playing with simple electronics. I was looking for a raspberry pi stem kit for my kids and came across Piper’s wooden computer.
A quick history on Piper, they started their mission to empower future inventors by putting their kit up on Kickstarter. It successfully raised approximately $280,000 with the support of 1,375 backers. This overwhelming amount of support has helped founders Mark Pavlyukovskyy, Shree Bose, and Joel Sadler promotes STEM education in a fun and engaging way.
Piper follows the path previously taken by Lego robotics: they employ a child’s plaything and use it to become an instrument of learning. In the case of Piper, they use Minecraft to help kids learn about code and easy electronics.
Each child’s Piper experience is a unique one, making every reassembly or coding mission an adventure of fun and learning. Whether you’re adding hardware or software, finishing or creating challenges, the Piper Computer Kit presents an opportunity for your child to learn. What’s great is once your child has completed the design and finished the game you can remove the components and let another child build the raspberry pi 3 computer kit and start Minecraft from the beginning. This is amazing.
But don’t just take the cake from me; after all, I’m just an average consumer with great admiration for what Piper does. Take it from the likes of Steve Wozniak—one of the innovators who created Apple—who says “I love Piper because it represents what enabled me to do all the great technology things in my life”. Or the nine awards its gathered for three years since its production.
Below is my detailed review of what Piper has to offer and my two cents on it. Hopefully, it will help you decide if it’s a great fit for your child (or if you want one yourself!).
Table of Contents
- 1 Our Piper Wooden Computer Build Experience
- 2 Updating the Piper Raspberry Pi Stem kit
- 3 Piper Computer Kit Review for Kids – Pros & Cons
- 5 Piper Minecraft Computer Kit – Product Features and Specifications
- 6 Why I like it
- 7 How to Use your Piper computer for the first time
- 8 Piper Raspberry Pi Computer Kit Conclusion
Our Piper Wooden Computer Build Experience
Helping my 13-year-old boy build this raspberry pi computer kit was a great bonding experience. While I guided him from time to time, he basically was able to complete the whole Piper computer kit build in under an hour. It’s a very similar experience much like building a basic home PC but on a more miniature scale.
We found it best to clear the kitchen table and fold out the Piper blueprints, it actually nearly covered the whole table.
I like the way Piper makes you build modules in steps. First the Storage box, then the base and folding lid. Next, comes the screen and Raspberry pie board. Connecting them all together is a simple plug and play system.
I really like the quality brass bolts and nuts, it really makes this Minecraft kids computer kit look like a quality piece of display furniture. So let’s check out each module part in detail.
Build the Piper Controller Box First
The easy way to build your Piper Minecraft Computer is to just follow the blueprints in order. Start with the controller box. No glue is required. The brass bolts will hold most pieces together firmly.
This is where the push buttons will be installed. It’s the hand controller for moving your character around the Minecraft game. During the game, you will be shown where to install the wires and push buttons.
Piper Storage Chest
Building the piper storage chest is next. This is a very easy box to make which has a see-through lid. This is the box where you will store all the leftover pieces, cables, wires, and the retractable mouse.
It’s a nice idea since there are many small pieces that are not required in the beginning. These get added on as your child progresses through the Minecraft game.
Screen and cables.
Next is to mount the display screen onto the wood backing and install the cables. The screen is powered by a USB cable and receives its signal from an HDMI cable. Be sure not to damage the delicate brown display ribbon cable.
The LCD screen is actually a high-quality 7 inch 800×480 pixels display that provides a very crisp image.
Piper Base Assembly
The wooden base assembly was the hardest part to build and may require the help of another pair of hands. As you can see there are a lot of brass bolts and hinges to install. A nice touch was the laser engraving of the location of all of the components inside of the box.
A small Philips screwdriver is supplied so you don’t need any other tools to make up this computer kit.
The Piper screen assembly is in step 5. There are a few parts to this so follow them closely. Make sure to have most of the green cables sticking out as far as they go. These will plug into the power bank as well as the Raspberry Pi. So the more room to play the better.
Once the screen is installed its time to plug in the Raspberry Pi, all the cables, and the mouse. Double-check all of your connections and fully charge up the power bank.
Its now time to turn on the Piper raspberry pi computer kit and watch the bootup process. This should only take a few seconds.
Congratulations you have now built one of the best computer kits for kids.
Updating the Piper Raspberry Pi Stem kit
As this Piper wooden computer kit uses LINUX as its operating system its best to connect it to the internet to do updates and level upgrades.
Activating the WiFi in the Linux menu is easy. Click the network item in the top right-hand corner. This will let you connect to a WiFi network. To input, the SSID password, use a USB keyboard and plug it into a spare USB slot on the Raspberry Pi.
Once connected to your network run the Piper Minecraft game again and select install updates. Make sure to have a full battery or plug in the power bank to a micro USB phone charger. If you run out of power while an update is being run there is a possibility of corrupted game files
This will update the game for stability and extra levels. The update will happen automatically next time you run Minecraft, which will take around 5 minutes depending on the speed of your internet connection.
If you don’t have WiFi you can always use an ethernet cable connected directly to your router and plugged into the Raspberry Pi.
It was nice to be able to explore the Linux operating system and see that the Raspberry Pi 3 is fast enough to do web browsing and play youtube videos. This means you have a fully functioning PC that even comes with some free Word and Excell processing programs.
Piper Computer Kit Review for Kids – Pros & Cons
- A complete kit for children and adults alike
This Piper children’s computer kit has all the software and hardware needed for the basics of learning how a basic computer works. Children get to learn the hardware aspect by assembling Piper, and soon learn the software aspect when they boot it up and take on the missions.
- Complete customizable
This amazing build-your-own computer kit can be assembled and disassembled multiple times. This makes it a great gift to be shared by siblings, or for experimentation.
- Great customer service
Piper’s customer service actively engages with customers, helping them continue to upgrade their experience and challenge them. Some children, after completing all the Piper missions, can experiment with their Pipers to turn them into Amazon Alexas and Echos just by adding a USB microphone. Others customize their Pipers into more advanced versions.
Piper Minecraft Computer Kit Cons
- Contains small parts
This kit is for ages 5 and older for a reason: the kit contains small parts. These parts present themselves as choking hazards for younger children. Adult supervision may be necessary when it’s being used in the presence of young children.
- Instructions are very basic
This raspberry pi kid computer has one set of blueprints that fold out into one massive blueprint. It’s mainly picture diagrams like Lego so sometimes my child got confused about what part went where. A little guidance was all that was required. I would have liked to see more of a manual on fault-finding if anything goes wrong.
- Needs a micro USB cable for power
As the Piper kit is powered by an internal 6000mah battery you will need to supply power to charge this battery up. If your children spend hours on it eventually you will run out of power. I would have liked to see an included micro USB wall charger included. Any phone wall charger will work that has a micro USB connection.
- PC parts like the battery and speaker just float loose.
I would have liked all of the components to be securely clipped into place. This is not so with this Piper kids computer kit. I guess this is so you can quickly plug in extra items during the game. It’s a very hands-on system. Don’t worry its all low voltage.
Some Dual lock velcro works perfectly for this and it’s what I have done to secure some of the parts that are floating around. I have noticed some other people online using double-sided tape but this can become messy if you need to remove an item. Dual Lock Velcro is fantastic.
Piper Minecraft Computer Kit – Product Features and Specifications
The Piper Computer Kit contains the following parts:
- Handcrafted laser-cut 24 pieces wooden computer case with an HD LCD display
- A fully functioning Raspberry Pi 3 Quad Core computer system
- Electronic gadgets—including, LED lights, buzzers buttons, switches, cables, and sensors
- It contains 1 Lithium-ion battery, 6000 mAh power bank that comes with cables for screen connection.
- Large laminated blueprint instructions
- A small 2-button, scroll wheel USB mouse with a retractable cable.
- An SD Memory Card with 8 GB worth of memory
- Minecraft preinstalled on the custom Raspberry Pi edition
- 3 Electronic breadboards
- 9 Switches and 25 jumper cables.
- 6 Buttons and 5 LED lights
- 2 Piezo buzzers
- And a Piper Philips head red screwdriver!
The Piper Computer Kit has the following specifications:
- 1 GB RAM
- A 1200 MHz Quadcore CPU
- 1 Raspberry Pi 3 Project Board with 4 USB ports for expansion.
- WiFi enabled so you can Download new levels and sharing capabilities
- Weighs 4.5 pounds
- Has dimensions of 15.5 x 10.5 x 3 inches
Why I like it
Admittedly, I like the Piper kid’s computer kit more and more each day. I’ve tried finding reasons not to… but I think I’ll put that over in the next section! Below are my main reasons for enjoying it.
Challenges my children the right way
When using the Piper Raspberry pi laptop kit, it’s best to let the kids do the work by themselves. If they’ve never had any exposure to electrical parts or reading blueprints, they may need some guidance or direction. However, your child gets to build his/her confidence by completing each challenge by their own—guided or unguided—effort.
Each level in the Minecraft game lets them add the included extra components to their Piper computer. They can’t complete the level without adding these extra sensors or LED lights.
A fun way to learn about computers
They may not realize it, but Piper allows children to learn the fundamental concepts of computer hardware and software. The child may look at it as a different way to play Minecraft, but they are already subconsciously learning what makes a computer work.
Grows with your child
The kit can be customized to your child’s needs. Does he/she want to access the internet? Watch cartoons? The Raspberry Pi has preloaded software available for you and your child to tinker and experiment with. Even better, you can upload other programming software to it, thanks to the USB plug. Want to try another programming language? All you need is to plug in a keyboard via the USB port, and you’re good to go!
The complexity of Piper depends on how advanced your child is. Although Piper is quite a bare-bones kind of PC, it’s a great investment for a child. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. The Piper Raspberry pi children’s kit uses LINUX as its operating system and don’t worry, it’s very user-friendly and looks much like Windows 10 or below.
How to Use your Piper computer for the first time
Turning it on
- Connect the power bank to the Raspberry Pi. (Best to fully charge it up the first time)
- Press the power button on the power bank firmly once. Your screen should turn on and the Raspberry Pi 3 will boot up. It will only take a few seconds. Yep, it’s that fast.
Turning it off
- Firmly press the power button on the power bank once.
Checking the battery level of your power bank
- To turn on the LED, quickly tap the power button.
- To turn the LED off, quickly tap the power button again until the light goes out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Piper Computer Kit good for one use? Can I disassemble and re-assemble?
The Piper Computer Kit can be disassembled and re-assemble as many times as you want. Each piece is robust and can handle the physical conditions each rebuild takes, ensuring they last many cycles of assembling and disassembling. This makes every rebuilding experience a unique adventure for both parent and child.
What can the Piper Raspberry Pi computer kit do, aside from playing Minecraft?
The Piper Computer Kit’s Raspberry Pi configuration allows Minecraft to be brought up automatically. However, as the kit is customizable you can alter it to function like a Linux box. This allows you to access the internet!
Its a great learning experience for the little ones! But like any online connected device please be aware of what your children may be viewing online, or who they may be talking to.
What programming language does the kit use?
The Piper Computer Kit uses Python as its programming language. This is built right into the system, as the kit is essentially a Raspberry Pi with preloaded software. Use it as you would use any other Raspberry Pi.
Can the kit be used for older kids (ages 11-13)?
This depends on the child’s familiarity with electronics. If the child hasn’t had any exposure to computer hardware and the concepts it takes to get a computer up and running, then this kit will surely be a good fit and will teach your child heaps. It also helps if they’re Minecraft fans!
Does the kit have a warranty?
Yes! Purchasing this DIY Piper Computer Kit comes with a one-year warranty from the date of purchase. There is also an email help address included in the kit if anything is missing or does not work they will send out a replacement straight away.
Piper Raspberry Pi Computer Kit Conclusion
One of the inspirations of this build your own computer kits birth is the impact of technology on our generation and the rewards that come with it. I have wanted to provide educational toys to my children so that they learn while they play and it’s great to expose them to amazing technology every day. Whether it’s smartphones and tablets or computers, today’s technology is simply amazing.
Many children want to create something that’s magical but when tech-related opportunities come up they become intimidated. This is because most kids don’t understand how computers work. Piper wants to change that.
I have found my children more engaging now when they use a computer as they know the work that has gone into making a computer from scratch. They know about Light-emitting diodes, switches, buzzers, batteries, and most of all respect for a computer they helped to build.
I greatly enjoyed helping my children make it, and I believe that it’s a great investment for everything it gives back in return: it builds confidence, encourages creativity and learning, and brings out the curious in every child. It doesn’t hurt to know that parents and children can bond with it too. For all it’s worth, I believe every child should have one of these kits. Let’s bring up a generation of future innovators one DIY kit at a time.
I am a qualified Industrial Electrician for the past 20 years and I love to share my knowledge on home repair and maintenance jobs.
I love fast toys like Motorcycles, Cars, Jetskis, Boats, and Computers so writing about them is easy. Working on them is fun.
To keeps costs down I do all my own mods, repairs, and servicing. These skills I want to share with everyone. DIY is a skill everyone can learn.