Crowdfunding Friday: Child’s Play, Tech Style

You know what they say—children are the future (which is either terrifying or cause for optimism, depending on your point of view). With that in mind, let’s take a look at some crowdfunded gadgets that help kids learn—or just have fun.

Catalyst Frame Wants To Turn Your iPhone Into A Microscope

We’ve seen plenty of clip-on iPhone lens attachments, but how about a clip-on microscope? That’s precisely what the Catalyst Frame team wants to make. This little gadget attaches to the back of your phone or tablet, and transforms your device’s camera into a microscope viewfinder.

The Catalyst Frame Microscope supports 30x, 50x, and 170x magnification levels, and since it works with your phone’s camera, you can actually take photos of whatever you’re looking at. So if you really want to gross someone out, place a dead insect under the microscope, snap a photo of it, and send it to your friends. Just don’t blame me if your friends never open another email from you again.

Pledges raised: $3197 | Goal: $15,000 | Days left: 27

KIBO Teaches Kids To Program Robots

It’s no secret that US school systems are putting more emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. But how do you get kids interested in topics like computer programming in the first place? I’m no teacher, but KIBO seems like one way to make that happen.

KIBO is a robotics kit that’s designed to introduce children ages 4 to 7 to basic programming concepts. It’s an open-ended kit, which means that kids can build just about anything with it. KIBO includes a set of wooden blocks, each representing a different function: To program it, sequence the blocks to make the robot do what you want, then scan them with KIBO’s on-board scanner. Clever.

Pledges raised: $43,895 | Goal: $50,000 | Days left: 15

Zumo Helps Kids With Disabilities Use Tech Gear

It’s easy to take manipulating a keyboard and mouse—or tapping on a touchscreen—for granted. But for many kids with physical disabilities, those seemingly simple tasks may be difficult or impossible. The makers of Zumo want to change that.

Zumo is an accessible input device designed for use with tablets that makes it easier for children with disabilities to play games, browse the Web, read an e-book, whatever. It uses a combination of switches and sensors that allow kids to control a tablet through multiple means: You can hit it with your hands, or manipulate it with your feet, for example. The idea here is that if conforms to the child’s needs, not the other way around.

Zumo is a long way from reaching its fundraising goal with only 12 days to go, so it needs all the help it can get.

Pledges raised: $12,236 | Goal: $65,000 | Days left: 12


Nick spends way too much time in front of a computer, so he figures he may as well write about it. He's previously written for IDG's PCWorld and TechHive.