Ma’ayanot Coding Students Build New Tablets From Scratch

The newest tablet device is neon yellow, has a seven-inch screen, and weighs about a pound. But what makes this tablet stand out is that is was designed, programmed and built by juniors in Ma’ayanot’s Introduction to Computer Science course.

“The course was primarily for students to learn coding skills, but I wanted to give them a sense of how coding skills tied into everyday devices like iPads or tablets,” said Mr. Benny Reiner, the Network Administrator at Ma’ayanot who taught the class.

The 11 girls who took the one-year elective course first became fluent in the programming language Python. They then teamed up to research how to apply what they learned and build their devices from scratch. “It was perfect hybrid of linking their knowledge of hardware and software,” said Mr. Reiner.

“Today technology comes in a closed box and we at Ma’ayanot  aim to expose the the inner workings of technology,” added Mrs. Orly Nadler, Co-Director of STEAM Education & Innovation. “There is no better way to understand the complexity of how the various components work together than to actually recreate a piece of equipment that our students use on a daily basis.”

Toward that goal, the students printed the tablet’s bright-colored body on the school’s 3-D printers. Then they built their tablets’ programs on a small, single-board computer called Raspberry Pi. They hooked it up to a touchscreen and soldered on a power source so it would have a rechargeable battery.

Things didn’t always work out as planned, but there were valuable lessons to be learned from failures. “Getting the touchscreen to turn on was a challenge, but the students got a real sense of fulfillment when they problem-solved on their own,” said Reiner. “When it finally worked they were shouting in the classroom!”

The results: A fully functioning tablet that can surf the Internet, run software, and hold memory. “It’s as robust as your smartphone,” said Reiner.

“It was really cool because now I understand what goes on inside my phone or tablet,” said Hana Chen, a rising senior. “I got to code a keyboard and now I have a working keyboard on my screen.”

Her classmate Sandra Kaplan added, “It was amazing using the skills we learned to create a piece of technology that actually worked.”

What’s more, a new iPad retails for $329. Each Ma’ayanot tablet cost $160 in materials. But the experience of learning to code and integrate what you’ve learned into customizing your own device? Priceless!