With Mask Project, pi-top Finds Timely Application

May 29, 2020: Volume 27, Number 11

pi-top (Austin, TX), a company founded in 2014 with the idea that a maker mindset is essential to developing the skills students need to be future ready, has found a practical application for its mission in the current pandemic.

In May, pi-top partnered with Maker Mask on a free video content series that teaches 3D printing and enables students to produce 3D printable respirator quality masks for themselves and their communities. The masks, which take about four hours to produce, are approved by the National Institutes of Health.

The pi-top business is anchored around a programmable computing device that combines digital making, coding and practical projects. The Raspberry Pi computing chip was integrated into a laptop computer to provide a more robust system with a learning management platform that includes lesson plans and can collect and analyze data. The company works with more than 10,000 schools globally.

Stanley Buchesky, pi-top executive chairman, told EER that project-based learning can be difficult to implement in schools where instruction time is limited, but what pi-top is providing is simple, age-appropriate and easy for teachers.

The new learning paradigm that COVID-19 is accelerating was already in the works, Buchesky said, and he expects new models to continue as teachers now are using technology in ways they did not before. Also, schools do not want to be unprepared again. They need turn-key solutions that can flip the switch to remote learning, he said.

About pi-top

In fall 2019, pi-top launched the latest evolution of its flagship product with the introduction of pi-top 4, a programmable computing device that combines physical computing and project-based learning to help educators and students design, code and invent in one system.

Jesse Lozano, CEO of pi-top, told EER that schools have struggled to teach coding in a fun and interesting way, saying it is not a subject that should be taught with a textbook. Despite some obstacles, coding with Scratch is being taught at lower grades and students are writing code by middle school.

Buchesky believes most states will require coding instruction in coming years, which should benefit pi-top with its programmable device with a management system behind it. Another trend that may benefit pi-top is more focus on the gap between what is being taught to students and the skills employers require. Buchesky gave cybersecurity as an example of a field of growing interest.

“The future strategic direction for pi-top lies very much in us continuing to deliver world-class teaching solutions that get students around the world learning by making and equipping them with the right skills to get the jobs of tomorrow,” Lozano said.

In September 2019, pi-top closed a funding round that brought in $4 million. The company is dedicated to expanding across the U.S. and to increasing investment in software development.



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