FUZE powered by Raspberry Pi V2 review
Back in the 80s, the UK led the world in home-computer ownership. Since these early computers had little in the way of ready-written software, enthusiasts learned to programme and a generation of computer programmers was born. See also best Raspberry Pi starter kits
Today's PC and tablet owners rarely write their own programs and experts are concerned at the effect this is having on the UK computer industry. In an attempt to resolve this, the Raspberry Pi was launched in 2012 as an educational computer to get people programming again. The aim was to do for this generation what the BBC microcomputer had done for a previous generation (and now the BBC is launching it's own successor: the micro:bit)
The Raspberry Pi (now in version 2 form) is small and cheap and it's doing a lot to encourage schools to teach programming. And FUZE believes it can build on this success further. Its "FUZE powered by Raspberry Pi V2" takes the Raspberry Pi credit-card sized computer, houses it in a case with a keyboard, and pre-configures it with the BASIC programming language.
In addition, so that people can learn to drive electronic circuits using software, it also has a patch board on which you can create a circuit and wire it to the Raspberry Pi's inputs and outputs. The kit we looked at also includes a box of electronic components although you can buy it without.
The FUZE has a decidedly retro look about it – very in keeping with the era that inspired this resurgence of interest in programming. While this isn't a problem in schools (indeed the metal case is virtually indestructible), it would look rather out of place in the home. And while a patched up electronic circuit will never be a work of art, a cover for the breadboard while not in use would have helped.
The system boots into a Debian flavour of the Linux operating system although initially that won't concern you as you'll only be using FUZE BASIC. In the previous version, a few project cards are provided as PDF files to get you started. Now there are 10 printed mapped projects, which take you through the fundamentals of programming in BASIC from getting started with FUZE BASIC 3.3 to making a robot arm move and do thing (you can buy a kit which includes a robot arm for £229.99).
The projects are aimed at key stage 1-4, but you can work your way through the Programmer's Reference Guide (a printed book whcih is included) but which will be hard work for a beginner. In a school setting, though, this shouldn't be an issue with teachers at hand.
In use everything worked without a glitch and we were up and running in no time thanks to the Easy Setup Guide. We tried one of the project cards – the one that involved patching up a circuit – and that too worked perfectly.
Compared to the original version, which came with the Pi Model B, the latest version ships with Pi V2 and an updated version of FUZE BASIC which is quicker and more responsive.
SHOULD I BUY FUZE POWERED BY RASPBERRY PI?
The FUZE system goes a long way to making the Raspberry Pi easier for the novice to use and providing the resources necessary to learn to program in BASIC.