Your LEGO play is about to get a major boost with an immersive, engaging new system that marries creativity and basic coding. LEGO boost (set 17101) lets kids can build five different models and then bring them to life in many different ways through an app-based system.
For the purposes of this review, we Vernie the Robot, one of the lead models. It provides a good sampling of everything you can do with this system. At the center of this model--as well as the others--are the boost bricks, which are a battery operated move hub, an interactive motor and a color and light sensor. The move hub requires 6 triple A batteries, which are not included.
The app is free, and it works with iOS or Android. Now, if you already know LEGO's Mindstorms, you have an inkling of what LEGO has developed in terms of smart and programmable models. But here's the thing, LEGO Boost is for a slightly younger kid, so the tech and the engagement is all in the context of immersive play. The characters kids build have a lot of play built into them, so kids can bring them to life in different ways, both following directions and learning to cfeate their own programs.
The app is structured in various sections that take kids through the building and playing with the model and programming it. Each discovery builds on the next, so as kids work their way through the different levels, they get more sophisticated in the programming skills. Each segment starts out a sample of what you can do that guides kids through the steps. Then, it also inspires lots of exploration as kids bring their own creativity to the process.
One of the things we love about the curriculum of this, if we can call it that, until you go through one section, you can't move on to the next. One of the reasons we built Vernie was also to show off the play mat that comes with the set. This was designed to be used with models that move. The grid is calibrated to the movement of the model. So, for example, when you tell the model to move forward 3 times, it will move three spaces on the mat. It's an effective way to help kids understand the link between what they put in the program and the physical result of that.
Overall, the app has more than 60 different activities built in, and that creates a really rich and satisfying play experience. You should note that there is no speaker, so any sounds will come out of the device you're using to control it. We think this will really inspire kids to use their inherent ingenuity to come up with all kinds of scenarios for their robots. Whether competing, shooting darts, or setting obstacles and challenges, this is a well-made, brilliantly conceived and elegantly executed product that delivers on education and fun.
The level of sophistication is an ideal balance of technology and fun so kids will be excited to see what their creations can do.
The LEGO folks clearly have a sense of humor, too, because there's a lot of intriguing stuff they can do that will be primarily entertaining to a 7-10 -year old. Some of it is legitimately funny, and conveys a real understanding of what kids will find amusing. And that's great because when kids are having fun they tend to stick at things longer.
LEGO has graded this for kids ages 7-12.
One of the really great things about this is that kids can learn at their own pace, and that there really is a lot of long-term play value in this because as kids' understanding increases, so will what they are able to do with the models.
Kids older than 12 or who have a more sophisticated understanding of robotics and coding may want to invest in LEGO Mindstorms.
The other models include:
LEGO Boost requires 6 AAA batteries, which are not included.
While there is some discussion among teachers and in the academic world concerning whether this activity is coding or programming, for children who are the likely users of LEGO Boost, they are at an age when the terms are often used interchangeably. While kids are not creating the underlying code (coding language) to create the blocks that drive the movements and behaviors of the models, they are learning the rudiments of coding in terms of sequential commands. We very much like the ability to add variables into the programs as well, and the ability to have multiple command strings running simultaneously.
6 AAA batteries required
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