Intel PC DIY STEM kit review
Image: Centre Com.

Intel PC DIY STEM Kit review: hands-on gaming

8

Giving tech-curious children a taste for building their own devices, the Intel PC DIY STEM Kit helps them understand what makes a gaming computer tick.

As times change, it’s been obvious for a while that Australia’s economy needs to focus less on supplying raw materials to the world and more on high-value innovation.

Becoming the smart country, rather than simply the lucky country, requires a smart workforce. This begins with education, thus the growing focus on ‘STEM’ subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The push to get kids interested in a high-tech future has also spawned a plethora of STEM kits and projects. As part of this, the Intel PC DIY STEM Kit aims to demystify the inner workings of computers.

To put the kit to the test, I enlisted the help of my 17-year-old daughter, a very bright Year 12 student who is tech-savvy but has no experience with building PCs.

Intel PC DIY STEM Kit review

Intel PC DIY STEM Kit first impressions

At first glance, the Intel PC DIY STEM Kit struggles to live up to expectations as a “kit”. It’s basically a box full of PC components and a copy of Windows 11, accompanied by an 11-minute YouTube video briskly walking you through the build.

It’s worth noting that the kit is not available from Intel directly, but rather via Australian computing retailer Centre Com, either online or via its retail stores.

The $1,248 price tag seems rather expensive for what is supposedly an educational kit aimed at children. You’re basically paying retail prices for all the components, which doesn’t include a monitor, keyboard or mouse.

They could have cut back in a few places to save a few dollars, although the aim seems to be to produce a half-decent gaming rig rather than just a budget PC. That’s not unreasonable considering that PC gaming is going through a revival, driven in part by social media and influencers.

It’s possible to customise the list of components, but sticking with this configuration ensures that everything plays nicely together and matches up with the YouTube tutorial.

Intel PC DIY STEM Kit specifications

ProcessorIntel 14th Gen Core i5-14400F
10 Cores, 16 Threads 4.7 GHz LGA1700 
MotherboardAsus Prime H610M-A WiFi DDR4 LGA1700 mATX
RAMTeam Group T-FORCE Delta RGB 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4 3600MHz XMP
StorageKingston SNV2S 500GB NV2 PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD
GraphicsIntel Arc A750 8GB GDDR6 Graphics Card
PowerAntec PSU PSA-VP650P-PLUS
CaseDeepcool Macube 110 Tempered Glass mATX Case – Black
Operating systemWindows 11 Home 64-bit
Price (RRP)$1,248
Official websiteCentre Com

Quality

Rather than review a box full of PC components, it makes more sense to focus on reviewing the Intel PC DIY STEM Kit’s YouTube tutorial – as this is what actually makes it a “kit”. It’s hosted by Australian game developer and content creator SassQueenAmy.

It’s been a very long time since I built a PC from scratch, but even that experience would make it hard for me to fairly judge a tutorial aimed at children with limited hardware knowledge. So I let my daughter take the lead and do all the work, only stepping in to offer assistance when the YouTube tutorial failed to make things clear and she got stuck.

Thanks to the choice of components, I was actually surprised at how easy the build was compared to my experiences more than a decade ago.

There’s no fear of bending pins when installing the CPU, and the heatsink/fan is much easier to attach. Meanwhile, the lack of optical and hard drives means you don’t need to mount them and run a lot of extra data and power cables.

Following the tutorial

The tutorial does a good job of explaining what each component does and why it’s important. Unfortunately, it skims through the actual build and sometimes fails to provide the extra bits of helpful advice that you’d expect from a tutorial aimed at beginners – my daughter got stuck several times.

For starters, it fails to mention that you need a precision screwdriver set to deal with tiny screws, something I obviously have in the cupboard but many homes would lack.

From here, overly-tight editing fails to make a few things clear, such as the fact that the motherboard’s CPU release lever needs to be pushed down and across before it will come up.

Nor are you told that the motherboard screws are not included with the motherboard, but actually wrapped up in the case’s cables. We frantically searched the dining room for them, assuming we’d lost a tiny packet, before a Google search turned up the answer.

The tutorial could do a better job of explaining cable routing inside the case as it goes, so you don’t get to the end and realise you made mistakes earlier.

It also fails to explain that you can detach two pins from one of the power supply’s eight-pin PCI-e cables, so you can connect it to the graphics card’s secondary six-pin PCI-e connector – another head-scratcher which had us Googling answers.

All of this might seem nit-picking and obvious to someone who knows their way around the inside of a PC, but a tutorial aimed at beginners really needs to do better. It could do with some more play testing.

How long did the build take?

In all, the build took us about two and a half hours to complete, not including installing the operating system. With a little extra detail in the video, we could easily have trimmed 30 minutes off that.

Finally, the tutorial also fails to explain how to connect a keyboard, mouse and monitor, or how to navigate the BIOS on first use. Nor does it provide any advice on installing Windows 11, although you get some tips on configuring Windows for gaming. Once again it assumes prior knowledge which perhaps isn’t intuitive to absolute beginners.

A teen or pre-teen with absolutely no PC building experience would not make it through the entire build on their own. Assistance from an adult who was also a tech novice would be of little help, you’d both need to seek help elsewhere.

If a supposedly step-by-step tutorial leaves you Googling for answers or calling tech support, it needs more work. To be fair, it wouldn’t take much to add those extra details and Centre Com tells me the tutorial is going to get an update.

Who is the Intel PC DIY STEM Kit for?

If your child is keen on PC gaming and you’re looking to nurture their interest in what happens under the bonnet, the Intel PC DIY STEM Kit might be right for you. That’s presuming you’re in the market to spend more than $1,200 on a gaming rig, plus the cost of a monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Be warned, you’ll struggle through sections of the tutorial if neither you nor your padawan have any previous experience working with PC components.

It also feels like the kit goes against the STEM ethos of being educational, affordable and inspiring creativity. A cynic might say that Intel and Centre Com are jumping on the STEM bandwagon simply to inspire children to develop an interest in spending money on PC gaming rigs.

If you’re looking to nurture a child’s interest in technology, not just gaming, your money would go a lot further on something like a Raspberry Pi robotics kit or arcade cabinet (which I’ve also built with my kids). This kind of project would also inspire more creativity and problem-solving than simply assembling PC parts, especially when the youngster is also getting a taste of programming.

Intel PC DIY STEM Kit
The Intel PC DIY STEM Kit lets youngsters build their own gaming rig and understand what's happening under the bonnet.
Features
8.5
Value for money
7.5
Performance
8.5
Ease of use
7
Design
8.5
Positives
Components complement each other
Tutorial walks through build with exact components
Specs will handle gaming
Negatives
Expensive for a STEM educational project
Tutorial lacks detail in places
Not as hands-on with hardware and software as most STEM kits
8