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Kniwwelino: An ESP8266-based Dev Kit for Children

Reporting from Shanghai, China
Jul 5, 2018

A new development kit based on ESP8266, designed for children and supported by Luxembourg’s National Research Fund, has just hit the market.

Kniwwelino is the first ESP8266-based development kit, which has been specifically designed for children attending elementary school. The whole project has been developed by Luxembourg’s Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) in the context of a national program, called "Bee Creative for Kids", which aims at enhancing children’s “digital literacy”, while nurturing their creativity and talents with new technologies. Kniwwelino has been supported by Luxembourg’s National Research Fund (NRF).

The name Kniwwelino itself is a combination of the Luxembourgish word “kniwweln”, which means crafting something, and the “-ino” suffix, which manifests the gadget’s compatibility with the Arduino ecosystem. Finally ,“Lino”, as a Luxembourgish name, is evocative of a lion, which is the heraldic symbol of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

The Kniwwelino hardware consists of a 5x5 LED matrix, an RGB LED and two push buttons. There are additional ports that can be used for extending the board with sensors and other peripherals. Kniwwelino’s micro-controller also has an embedded Wi-Fi stack which enables it to get connected to other Kniwwelinos over the Internet. The small size of its printed circuit board makes it possible for Kniwwelino to be integrated with other IoT installations, especially when implementing standard IoT protocols, such as MQTT.

For programming beginners, there is a documentation website providing examples that can be directly used or regarded as a starting point for further code modifications. It is envisioned that, after learning the basics of programming with Kniwwelino, children will be able express their creativity by implementing their own ideas.

In a recent article on hackaday.com, Elliot Williams made an interesting comparison between Kniwwelino and micro:bit (a well-known development board for children), saying that "Kniwwelino is the latest in a line of micro:bit-inspired projects", yet one that is “more like a super-blinky ESP8266 development kit”. Williams, then, added that “based on ESP8266, Kniwwelino naturally has an Arduino dialect that students can ‘graduate’ to when they’re tired of moving around colored blobs, and of course they could flash the chip with anything else that runs on an ESP8266”.

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