Mr Long's physics lessons were a constant source of amusement at school. When not learning about kinetic energy with a ticker tape cart, we were building circuits for electronics. If only it was as easy as SAM Labs Bluetooth building blocks.
These little bundles of technology all connect using Bluetooth 4.0 and are controlled by an app, to make a wireless tech building solution. There are blocks for switches, lights, motors - essentially broken down into sensors and actions - just as it was in Mr Long's lessons.
But here you get to dispose of the wires and you get to quickly experiment in a sort of "if this then that" world. The app lets you create connections between your blocks, simply by dragging a line between them.
Want a light to come on when it gets dark? No problem. Want a pressure sensor to turn on a light? No problem.
It sounds like basic stuff and that's part of the key. It's so simple to use, making it a great way to learn and play at the same time, building the complexity as you go. But the good thing about this SAM Labs' solution is that your innovation doesn't have to be stifled by a lack of coding or electronics know-how. It reminds us of the approach taken by Kano, with it's approachable build-it-yourself computer.
That's key. When we're all talking about the importance of coding education both in and out of schools, SAM Labs makes a valuable contribution and can be much more detailed, because you can include coding elements too.
That means you can add lines of code to create actions, you can hook in other services, like having a light flash when you're mentioned on Twitter and so on. It makes it easy to experiment, to switch things around and see what you can create.
There will be a range of kits available, starting at £89 for the most basic and ranging up to the "family" for £599. That might be a bit steep for home use, but in schools or other education centres, it's the foundation for a lot of fun. It's currently on pre-order, with deliveries expected in July.
We fully expect Mr Long to buy a set for his class.