At first sight the Fuze might seem just like another case for the Raspberry PI, a very cool retro designed case which reminds me of a red BBC micro, but it is far more than just a case (although you can buy it as just a case if you really want)
The package I have includes
Fuze Case containing 512MB Raspberry PI
FUZE Wireless Mouse & mat
Mains to USB Power supply
Electronic Projects Component Kit
Quickstart & FUZE BASIC Programmer’s Reference Manual
Project Card example (PDF)
(Screen shown not included)
The Fuze takes square aim at the Raspberry Pi fundamental aim of improving the use of computers in schools and hopefully promote programming amongst the younger generation. It provides an all in one package that schools can plug in and use to teach the UK curriculum.
The case is really well built and the keyboard seems like it will take a bashing – something I’m sure schools will approve of.
It uses a programming language called Fuze BASIC to do this. I have some issues with the choice of this language as it has some odd choices in loop structures – who has ever heard of a BASIC without a For..Next loop. Having said that it is still a very good basis to learn programming from.
The Fuze is supplied with a folder containing a series of project cards which are supposed to take you through the whole curriculum. The ones I saw were very good but there were only a few included. Fuze are adding cards on their website but it is taking them time to get to the complete set written.
I found the beginners cards to be very well thought through and humorous enough to keep people interested. What I did find frustrating was trying to use the cards on the PC. The problem is that everything is controlled using the mouse but the Fuze BASIC window does not support the mouse infact the mouse pointer will not go into the BASIC window. This leads to an odd dance where you have to drag the mouse all round the outside of the BASIC window to get back to the card to move to the next step, I guess this will be easily over come by either printing the cards out or having them projected on a wall in class.
I also found the mouse itself quite frustrating with double-clicks particular difficult.
I should point out the unit I had was a prototype so there may be some changes forthcoming.
I’m hoping one of those changes is labelling the IO board correctly. In my kit I has to apply a cardboard overlay which requires quite accurate cutting out in place. The problem is if you don not use this then the labelling does not match the Fuze BASIC port usage. I was also worried that the powered outputs were exposed as one of the Project Cards remarks connecting an LED across these could make it go bang. I would like to see some form of protection for these (perhaps a switch)
Having said that the IO board, Breadboard and accompanying kit of connectors, resistors and LEDs really make this kit. Seeing the delight in the eyes when a program keyed in causes LED lights to switch on and off in a pattern is great (and that was just me)
I can see this really enthralling kids and is a really good start in teaching basic electronics and process control. Skills in this area is something British industry really needs.
I have to say this is really well done and clearly explained in the project cards.
There are a few minor glitches but all in all the Fuze is a fabulous idea and I hope will really enthuse a generation of new programmers and electronic engineers which cannot be a bad thing.
Because of the small issues I can’t quite give it the full five stars but it is very worthy of four.