The FUZE machine builds upon the already astronomical success of the Raspberry Pi; a barebones, credit card sized single board computer aimed at the promotion of teaching basic computer science to complete novices. Having noticed them beforehand on the list of exhibitors at PlayExpo, I was very keen to get the chance to learn more about this interesting business and how it could potentially change the way we teach children basic programming, here is what I managed to gather from our conversation with Jon Silvera, the managing director of this wonderful idea, at the expo.
As aforementioned, the Fuze machine is built upon the Raspberry Pi technology and aims to provide a more solid, simpler, easily accessible system for those completely new to computer programming. Instead of having to put together your own piece of programming Pi, all you have to do is plug the machine into a monitor to get going – no lengthy installations necessary. I have absolutely no prior knowledge of computer programming and so I was probably a good person for the FUZE team to test their product accessibility on. Whilst at the exhibition stand I was taught in a relatively short amount of time how to do a few simple things and get acquainted with the basics. Jon taught me how to show various font types on the computer screen, how to create simple processes and also gave me an intriguing demonstration of what could be done after you have mastered the more basic levels. The machine itself can be loaded with either the BASIC, Python or Scratch coding languages for school or home based learning.
The case itself provides a sturdy workstation for an already useful machine – allowing users to treat it more like a PC and less of a mish-mash of circuitry. Jon explained to us that the main market for Fuze is schools and the education sector. After the machine is bought (prices range from £69.99 for the basic circuit board to £179.00 for the Maximite edition), there is constant support for students and teachers alike with project cards. These cards are free and will be constantly added to over time. In a sense they act as a guide in what can initially be quite a daunting world of computer programming.
They seem to advance at the right pace; with the first project card teaching you the programming lingo, how to set the system up and how to modify your first lines of code. Further project cards introduce guides on how to control variables and even how to change light output through the Fuze. It’s clear that as you go on, you will soon get a broad basic knowledge of computer programming, and perhaps for many young people this could potentially kickstart a future passion, career or hobby.
Overall, this seems like a very promising technology for the years to come. We in Britain have a severe lack of computer programmers and IT specialists. This kind of product is coming at a perfect time and the Fuze team should be very happy with the market that they have identified. The lessons are already based on the British IT curriculum so it’s ideally positioned for schools.
Who knows, maybe in five years time there will be Fuze machines in every school for the teaching of our next generation of computer programmers; one thing’s for sure, this piece of kit is definitely one to watch!
For more information on Fuze and what has been described above, head to http://www.fuze.co.uk/