The Boost Creative Toolbox ($159.99) is the perfect toolbox for kids who are too young to use Lego’s MindStorms robotics kit. The Boost kit is designed to teach children 7-12 years old robotics and coding. It includes building blocks, motors and app-based coding. This will allow them to create a range of robotic toys that respond to stimuli. This is a fun and affordable way to teach programming principles. It’s also very easy to use. Find out more teaching toys at ToyHQ.co.uk
What’s inside the Box?
A downloadable app is included for both Android and iOS. It contains instructions and code commands for five creations. The three main Boost bricks are included in the box: the Bluetooth-connected Move Hub and an interactive motor. The box also contains 843 Lego pieces, as well as a Playmat that is calibrated to the app. This mat helps children understand the code commands and the actions of the robots they drive.
The main controller of the kit is the Move Hub. It’s a Lego brick powered by a battery and has a tilt sensor, connections for the motor, and color-and distance sensors. The Hub communicates to your smartphone or tablet via the Boost app. It allows you to control the behavior of your creations. Programming is done in the app and not with Mindstorms and its Intelligent Brick which can be programmed directly.
You can build five robot projects with the app and kit, including Frankie, Frankie, Frankie the Cat, the Guitar 4000, the M.T.R.4, which is a vehicle that can pick-up and transport small Lego objects, and the Autobuilder. This tool will help you put together little Lego creations. Each robot has its own abilities and unlockable extras.
All Lego pieces come in plastic bags that are numbered. This will be great for your first build. However, if you want to go on to build another project, you will need to reuse parts and thus demolish what you have already built. This might prove difficult for some parents or kids. You can find out more.
After kids are comfortable with working with the Boost components they can start to use the Creative Canvas feature. This guide will show you how to create two bases models from which you can build your own Lego robots. The first is for creating animals and other creatures. The second is for driving vehicles.
Building Boost Bots
The app opens with a cute movie showing a family of two children using their Boost robots for a surprise dad. Next, you will be instructed to connect the Move Hub to the app via Bluetooth. The main screen shows the five main projects, as well as a beginner’s project that can be easily built and introduces you the Boost concept.
Clicking on an image of a project will take you through a step by step guide for building it. As you build each piece, you’re shown how they fit together. It is clear and simple to follow. It doesn’t explain what the pieces are doing or how they do so. As is the case with Lego kits, there’s no audio or text instruction. It’s just visual instructions. The app doesn’t require you to speak a word. However, it is easy enough for most people to follow. The Sony Koov’s app lacks interactivity. You can drag images to rotate them, look at them from different angles and see animations of how the pieces fit together. The Lego pieces fit together well and are strong.
I then tackled Frankie, the cat after completing the beginner project. This is a complex project that requires focus. I made some mistakes despite the clear instructions and had to revert a bit to correct them. It’s very easy to do. You can use the slider at bottom of the screen to navigate through the instructions or move back and forth. The app allows you to build in stages and encourages you try different features of the catbot. For example, you can get him to move by petting him. Next, you can “drink” from an bottle and then you can celebrate his birthday with a cake.
After Frankie was built I discovered I had many more ways to play with him, including building a harmonica for his color sensors. They will be eager to explore them all.
Coding the bot
Once your robot is complete, connect to your smartphone by pressing the green button at the top of the Move hub. Next comes the coding. The Boost kit does not use a standard code language. Instead, small icons are used to represent blocks of code and visual clues about the actions they will inspire in the robot.
You can drag the code elements to the middle of the screen and then click them together. Once you have created a string, press the Start code block to execute your commands.
Some code icons have arrows that point in straight lines, or make circles. The robot will follow these instructions. Some others inspire more complex moves. Others include an hourglass to pause the action, various musical sounds and, oh joy, a variety of fart sounds. (All audio effects are generated by your mobile device and not the robot. Make sure you turn the volume up.
You can add a code block to your string to find out what it does. Also, you’ll be shown how to create multiple code string so that your robot can perform different actions simultaneously. It was fun to experiment with different combinations, and see how the catbot responded.
Smart that each robot has so many tasks, because you will need to disassemble the one you have built to make another one. I recommend that you organize the pieces in a specific way. It may take more time to locate the small blue square or orange rod than to actually build the robot. I found it helpful to arrange by size.
The Lego Boost Creative Toolbox can be a great way to show kids that coding doesn’t have to be a goal, but merely allowing them to create cool projects. Although parental assistance may be required, the toolbox is accessible to all ages. These projects will be easy to manage if your children have worked with other Legos before. You and your children will have hours of programming and Lego fun, provided you keep track of the smaller pieces.