Kickstarter Raspberry Pi Project for Kids: Spy v. sPi

For the purposes of this blog post, let’s say there are two kinds of parents in the world. One kind would tell their kids to go out on a beautiful day and ride a bicycle. The other would say it’s a beautiful day to program a 2GHz 64-bit embeddable device controller.

For that second kind of parent, this Kickstarter project, titled Spy v. sPi Robot Coding Missions, will probably make sense. At its heart, this is really a bit of slick marketing from Dexter Industries, a maker of consumer-grade robotics stuff.

I think Dexter’s strategy is to cultivate and encourage the next-generation of Internet of Things programmers and designers from the under-12 demographic. Clever!

The whole IoT thing is not something I’m thrilled about. Leaving aside the astonishing privacy issues, I’m not looking forward to a future where my toasters, coffee makers, vacuum cleaners, and screwdrivers will be alive with embedded CPUs and spewing all kinds of useless information.

So what exactly is the Spy vs. sPi project?

After reviewing the Kickstarter page, I’m still a little confused. You’re forced into learning how to program Dexter’s Grove Pi using a fun development environment called Scratch. That part I’m clear about.  But your ultimate goal I think is to then use your programed Raspberry chip to find the spy.

Oh I forgot, there’s actually some non-silicon in the form of a manila envelope marked “Top Secret” that spells out what you have to do to complete the mission.

In my day there was Clue, along with Colonel Mustard and the rest of the gang, and we managed to avoid programming anything in finding the culprit.

For any kids reading this: there’s no such thing as an easy “drag-and-drop” development environment. Trust me on this!  This kind of thing — easy-to-use software coupled with custom hardware — never, ever works right and will drive you nuts when you realized how buggy the whole thing is.

I’ve worked with professional-grade tools and even they’re terrible.

For parents who really want to get their kids on a STEM track, I supposed the Spy vs. sPI project is a good start. But don’t be surprised when they get a tad frustrated and embark on  a real childhood adventure: strapping an M80 firecracker to the Grove Pi and detonating it.

Note to Dexter: how about a fun way to teach privacy and secure programming for another Kickstarter project?

Contributions start at $350 — just about the cost of a good bike.