There’s no shortage of products purporting to help teach kids coding these days, whether it’s Kano’s DIY computer kit, or the Robot Turtles board game, or any one of the many programmable robots. Toys with a STEM twist that aim to keep kids tinkering and learning indoors are all the rage.
U.K. startup Naturebytes is bringing a different emphasis to this tech-plus-education space. It’s aiming to combine hackable technology with a mission to spark kids’ curiosity in the great outdoors. And given kids’ dictionaries have this year been jettisoning nature-related words such as acorn and buttercup, and adding in tech terms like broadband and ‘cut and paste’, there are perhaps signs technology risks becoming a little all consuming for ‘digital natives’.
Naturebytes has just kicked off a Kickstarter for a Raspberry Pi-powered camera trap kit for capturing wildlife photos. The idea is to inspire kids about what electronics and coding can do while also giving them an appetite for learning about and experiencing nature. Putting technology outdoors might also be a way to get kids interested who might otherwise prefer running around outdoors. Add to that, embedding technology in the natural environment is something we’re going to see more of, with the rise of the Internet of Things.
The weatherproof camera trap kit is designed to survive the elements. It houses a Raspberry Pi Model A microprocessor (other more powerful Pis can also be used), battery pack, Pi cam and an infrared sensor — a set up that enables motion-sensitive photo (and video) capture of any passing wildlife. The camera comes in kit form so kids get to put it all together and learn along the way. There’s also scope for expanding functionality — for instance the kit can be upgraded with a Wi-Fi link to automatically upload wildlife snaps.
As well as crowdfunding these hardware kits, Naturebytes is intending to build a web platform where users can share images they’ve captured with the camera, and get involved with citizen science projects. Kits start at £45 for more advanced makers who already have a Pi and Pi cam and want to 3D print the camera casing themselves. Stepping up to £85 for a kit that has everything except the Pi included, or £95 for all the bits and bobs.
At the time of writing the team has raised more than 10 per cent of their crowdfunding target, with a month left on their campaign clock. So not bad going. They’re targeting around $45,000 in total pledges in order to produce and ship their first batch of kits — with an estimated shipping schedule of December.