Inside: A review of makeblock‘s mBot Neo and coding software for kids
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If you have a child who’s anything like my 10-year-old, you may find yourself looking for robotics projects only to be disappointed with what’s available at your local Walmart or department store. Even when browsing online, there were few options that seemed promising.
But how user friendly are their products?
Do children need lots of help along the way?
Will it really teach them to code?
And are their products worth the investment?
MakeBlock Robotics and Coding Review
Let’s break it down and look at who makeblock is as a company as well as checking out their various kits, etc., and then what our personal experience has been with the robotics and coding set they sent us.
What is Makeblock?
I had never heard of makeblock before, so maybe you haven’t either.
They are a STEAM-oriented company that has products geared toward making robotics, coding, and other areas of STEAM accessible to children. Their products are geared toward children who are preschool age and up. They partner with schools and homeschoolers alike to introduce the next generation to science, technology, engineering, art, and math.
On their website, you’ll see that all of their products come with a 12-month warranty, free shipping, and a 30-day return and refund policy, which I thought was great.
A few products they offer:
Smart Robots for Preschool Learning
The mTiny Smart Robot is geared toward preschoolers. Unlike many of the other products from makeblock, this one is completely screen free. It still teaches the beginning of coding with tangible coding block pieces and a pen reader. Besides the coding cards, it also includes maps, storybooks, game cards, activities for musical literacy, and more.
Of course, this is not one of the products that we have personally tested, so I can’t vouch for the content of the stories, etc.
STEM Learning Kits
Their NextMaker STEM kits come with DIY projects for your child that include elements of crafting, building, and programming. There are 3 levels. Level 1 comes with three projects, level 2 includes six, and level 3 has twelve. Each level comes with free online classes to go with the projects. It uses step-by-step instructions to teach your child to code.
We have not tried these learning kits, but they look like so much fun! My kids are all interested in trying them in the future.
Robotics & Coding Kits
Like the STEM kits, the robotics kits are a blend of hands-on learning and coding skills. There are several robotics kits to choose from, ranging from beginner sets to advanced sets that allow your child the option of building up to 10 different robots. The Ultimate kit is Alijah’s personal goal, and he’s already started saving up his money.
One set that isn’t buildable but offers a great mid-ground between the preschool learning robots and the beginner sets for older children is Codey Rocky. With it, children can learn coding, math, game design, and engineering. They can even use their LEGO blocks to make additions to Codey.
The robot set makeblock sent us was their mBot Neo. The rest of the review will focus specifically on this set.
Our Experience with MBot Neo
We’ve had mBot Neo for a month now. Building the robot was a quick task for my son which only took him about 30 minutes. Since that point, he’s been doing about an hour of coding two or three times per week. He’s still using the block coding for now, but eventually the program transitions kids to working with Python programming.
Whenever he does a bit of coding, he can upload it to the robot itself, and whatever he has coded is saved.
But there are other ways for your child to play with his or her robot without working on coding. There is a place on the app that allows you to drive your robot just like any other remotely controlled vehicle.
How Easy is it to Code Using MakeBlock?
After building the robot and becoming fairly familiar with the basics, he of course wanted to jump straight into coding. This is what he was waiting for!
In our haste, we skipped some instructions, but thankfully it was easy to get back on track. After building, a QR code on the instructions leads you to their website and gives you the next steps. You really do need to look these over so you get everything set up properly. If your child is old enough, they could even follow these instructions themselves.
After proper set-up my son was able to get the hang of block coding very quickly. Make sure to download all programs necessary on the coding app, and you’ll be golden! The interface is drag and drop and can be accessed through a computer, smart phone, or tablet.
Some of the things that I like about makeblock and mBot Neo are:
- It builds skills that are important in our world. While our family is all about back-to-basics, we also know that the world is full of technological advances. We don’t always love what people do with them, but if we want to make a difference in what we see, we should raise people in the next generation who can use technology for good.
- The robot itself has quality parts and is very durable. Who wants to buy another flimsy project just for it to fall apart in a few weeks?
- Makeblock makes it easy to get started coding. Since it starts off as drag and drop, he’s able to learn the basics before needing to fully understand a coding language.
- Much of the learning comes through play. There are games included with mBot Neo which encourage coding skills. And even the block coding in itself has been play for him. It’s been fun to watch him as he experiments and troubleshoots until he gets things just the way he wants them.
- It’s (mostly) hands-off for the parent. I’m no programmer! That’s something that made me hesitant to jump into coding projects with him before.
- The instructions are easy to follow (when you know where to look). Everything is basic enough that most children above the age of 9 could follow instructions without much assistance.
By way of drawbacks to makeblock’s products, most of them require use of screens. We are a family that generally limits screen-time. But even with the limitations, Alijah has still been able to enjoy coding and reap the benefits of learning it.
Many of the kits are also on the pricier side, which can be difficult if you’re on a budget like we are. If your child is interested in coding and robotics, I would say that this is probably one of the best companies out there to purchase from.
Some ideas to help it fit into your budget if it’s something you’re interested in:
- Make it a Christmas gift
- Ask grandparents or other relatives to chip in for the purpose of your homeschool
- Figure it into your homeschool budget for the year
To check out their products, you can visit their website here. USE CODE: smithpartyof6 at checkout to get $10 off!
Until next time,
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