You’ve got a maker space, you just don’t know it.

Stuart Swann
Learning by Making
Published in
4 min readJul 12, 2019


At pi-top, we want to inspire a generation of makers, and that can happen anywhere.

Maker spaces are becoming ever more popular (there’s probably one near you). But making doesn’t always have to mean 3D printers, advanced robotics, and CNC laser cutting machines. You can start with something simple and cost-effective at home or in a club or community centre.

Start small, think big

The fact is, most of us do have resources for making, we just haven’t gathered them into a single space. Cardboard packaging pulled from kitchen cupboards, off-cuts of wood from the garage or shed, clothes and fabric from wardrobes, building systems such as LEGO, Meccano and K’Nex from bedrooms and lofts; we see pi-top [4] as something that can connect all of these things and more.

The thing about materials like LEGO, cardboard and fabric, is that they let you prototype very rapidly, making and remaking the design to improve it. What’s more, they let you do that safely — you don’t need safety goggles to cut, clip or glue. Indeed, we’re such a fan of cardboard as a cheap, easy-to-use prototyping material, we built the very first prototype pi-top with it.

Cardboard prototype of a pi-top [1]

We’ve built this rapid prototyping mentality into pi-top [4] too. The accompanying Foundation Kit lets you plug, code and play quickly so you can get something working fast.

This happens in clubs, in classrooms, on kitchen tables. The space doesn’t matter. It’s what it enables.

pi-top [4] and the components found in the Foundation Kit can also be used to breathe life into your existing building projects. Want to add flashing landing lights to your LEGO Millenium Falcon model? The pi-top Foundation Kit has six LEDs with LEGO connectors that can be easily integrated into any LEGO system via the included connectors.

How about adding an environmental twist to a Meccano model? The pi-top [4] components are magnetic and so can easily attach to metal. Imagine your remote-control Meccano car taking readings of light and sound levels as it drives around.

Whether you are building a mini LEGO stage for a sound and light show for an animation project, or monitoring light levels in your mini K’Nex greenhouse, putting the pi-top [4] at the heart of these activities gives real meaning to making and coding.

By doing this and sharing your ideas with the pi-top community on Further — our new social making platform — you can see how learning by making encourages and enhances creativity, individuality and experimentation.

So where does all this lead? Well, the skills that children and young adults learn through making are exactly the ones they’ll need to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution. It’s this generation, Generation Z, that are going to have to colaborate, create, design, code and make solutions for a whole host of challenges. That journey starts now.

Back pi-top now on Kickstarter and get a pi-top [4] for just $199

About the author

Stuart Swann
Physical Computing Curriculum Lead
Stuart has been with pi-top since October 2017 and is the Physical Computing Curriculum Lead. He has over 20 years teaching experience, and has worked in schools, as an Advisory Teacher for a local authority and as a freelance consultant, writer and trainer for, amongst others, LEGO Education and Apple Education. He has lectured and facilitated professional development across the UK and in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East.



Stuart Swann
Learning by Making

Education Consultant, Teacher,  Distinguished Educator,  Education Trainer, LEGO Education Academy Certified Trainer.