Review: Fuze powered by Raspbery PI

Review: Fuze powered by Raspbery PI

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)

FUZE_Pi_Complete_3-300x300

The package I have includes

Fuze Case containing 512MB Raspberry PI

Solder-less Breadboard
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.

http://www.fuze.co.uk/product/the-fuze-powered-by-raspberry-pi-pre-order/

 

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4 thoughts on “Review: Fuze powered by Raspbery PI

  1. Hey Garry,

    Firstly, can I personally thank you for your review of the FUZE. It’s always great when editors ‘get it’ – The core purpose of the FUZE is to make programming easy to learn and perhaps even more importantly, easy to teach.

    We are of course, only at the very beginning with this first release but I can assure you, all comments and criticisms are noted and will be considered as we refine and tune the product ever-closer to its core objective.

    However if you don’t mind, I’d like to reply to a few of your comments and add a little reasoning and context to why things are the way they are.

    FUZE BASIC is evolving very rapidly but I think you’ll find it supports For Next loops but they are slightly modified in that they take the form of;

    FOR A=1 to 100 CYCLE
    PRINT A
    REPEAT

    This is the same as a standard FOR NEXT loop but uses REPEAT instead of NEXT. You can still include STEP and so on.

    I must add here that Python is also included and a full set of Project cards will be produced for this.

    I am personally responsible for the project cards and have to admit have been struggling for time. I am back on the case (pun apology!) so we should have a few more out in a few days to a week.

    Mouse clicking – we do need to adjust this on the Raspian settings as it is a bit too tight.

    Power sockets and the FUZE IO board; First and foremost the FUZE IO Board provides much needed protection back to the Pi’s own somewhat vulnerable GPIO. If you inadvertently connect the 5v output into a socket it doesn’t belong it will not fry the Pi IO chip.

    The possibility of blowing anything up is very slim – and near impossible if only the supplied components are used.

    However, I like the idea of a switch to disable access to the IO board – this might be very useful in some environments. We will look into this.

    So rest assured, we will constantly improve and enhance the FUZE, and upgrades, when hardware, will be made available and will be very low cost. On the software and project card side of things, we will keep this freely available for as long as it is viable to do so.

    Once again thank you so much for a wonderful and very perceptive review.

    Sincere regards

    Jon Silvera
    teamFUZE

    1. Thanks Jon. A very well thought out response to my review. I think it is a very important project so please be aware that my criticisms are minor in the grand scheme of things

      I was aware of the FOR CyCLE REPEAT construct but still feel this is a very unusual implementation for BASIC and different to implmentations students are likely to meet in the real world.. Having said that I have no doubt the language will serve its aim of encouraging programming. I’m glad you will be supporting Python as well.

      Thanks for highlighting the extra protection the FUZE IO board provides to the PI – this is something I should have mentioned. My concern with the power ports come from experiencing an exploding LED many years ago. I do accept the chance is slim and I would also say it is something your project cards warn throughly against. I’m glad you like the switch idea.

      Please do keep us informed on any progress.

      All the best and keep up the really good work
      Garry

  2. I have a add a little note here. A couple of months ago we had a test session with four children aged 9 and 10. They were loving it and all four were huddled over the top of the unit when sudenly we had a loud pop and a shatter. It turned out one of the lads had done exactly as you feared and connect a low voltage LED directly. A few seconds later it actually exploded – at this point we decided upon using 5v LEDs which while unfortunately are a bit dim, cannot explode when using them with the Raspberryy Pi or other similar devices!

    Needless to say the kids loved every second of it and wanted more to play with – one went on to ask “what kind of other things can I explode”!

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