I first saw the FUZE at the Education Innovation Conference in February of 2014 (In fact I am using their mouse mat at my desk right now!). At the time I was very impressed with the concept and fell in love with the design. The kit essentially does what it says on the box: “A Raspberry Pi powered computer programming and electronics workstation”
Why did I fall instantly in love with it?
As a child of the 1980s I spent much of my time programming in BBC Basic on an Acorn Electron computer plugged into my parent’s TV. Back in the day programs were saved onto C60 cassette tapes and I still remember with fondness the loading sound! The design is so reminiscent of this time that it brought back many happy memories.
The Acorn Electron first introduced in 1983
The idea of taking a Raspberry Pi and embedding it at the heart of a robust, school friendly computer works really well with the FUSE. As both a product reviewer and a teacher running a Raspberry Pi club I could easily see this being used in the classroom and during a club setting – but more about that later.
In the kit I was sent to review there was:
- FUZE computer station
- A mouse, power supply, SD card
- A solder-less breadboard
- User guide for FUSE BASIC
- Electronics componets
In the electronics componet box there was:
- Jumper cables
- 7 segmented LED
- LEDs (Red, Yellow and Green)
- Smaller jumper cables
- Micro switches
The FUZE is incredibly simple and quick to setup and within 5 minutes we were opening up FUZE Basic and writing our first program which obviously was “Hello World”. It was at this stage my 9 year old son who is very tech savvy and enjoys programming in Python wanted to get involved.
After a couple of hours of writing in Basic Philip was very excited about what he could do with the FUZE.
- If you are looking at introducing computer science / electronics into the curriculum and you lack specialist teachers and resources this would be an excellent place to start.
- The workstations are extremely well constructed and I believe would survive well in a classroom / club situation. The all-in-one aspects would also make it an ideal candidate for clubs or groups where the Raspberry Pis have to be dismantled at the end of every session. I currently spend over an hour setting up and taking down every session.
- FUZE basic clearly fits in well where students are now required to learn two programming languages (one textual). Whilst many people are dismissive of BASIC (after all it is basic!) it does offer students a good introduction into a textual language.
- Incorporating electronics into the kit. This I feel was a moment of sheer brilliance. Including both the connectors and physical space for the breadboard at the top of the unit is excellent. It has been my experience that even the most careful of student, setting up their breadboard, connecting it to the Pi can easily find it all falling out and not working when the Pi is moved or touched.
- The price point is very competitive for a school IT solution and I would love to buy one of these for home. Having been to many trade shows and educational events I often complain that a piece of technology is essentially a shiny box designed to help a school spend money, which then gathers dust on the shelf. Within a few minutes of unboxing the FUZE students can be engaged in programming and get the immediate rewards for their efforts. This is often impossible to do with school Mac or PC based solutions which will need much configuration before use on the network etc.
If you are looking and don’t know where to start down the journey of IT and CS in school – this is definitely a good starting point. I believe that this product has been developed with the end-user in mind. I know for one, that my son will be very sad when this has to go back to the PR company next week.
Part 2 will contain more information about using the breadboard and the electronics aspect of the kit.