Over the years, we have typed countless words about products to help create a passion for maker culture and have advocated for quality products that introduce coding concepts for children. And you… you’ve built, taken apart, and rebuilt so many different LEGO creations. You’ve snapped together all sorts of Snap Circuits projects. You’ve navigated your robot turtles. You’ve scratched together Scratch coding projects. You’ve done it all so that your kids can get a solid foundation, and now you’re left scratching your head and wondering, “What’s next?”
Enter the kits from Let’s Start Coding.
Based out of Louisville, Kentucky, Let’s Start Coding combines physical building and program coding to let users create various guided projects in order to take your older child’s (kits are designed for parents and children ages 13 and up) basic understanding of coding to the next level. The projects take longer, since you’re building both the physical item and coding the project to do what you desire, but there is satisfaction when your child’s patience pays off in the form of a completed project.
I received a pair of Let’s Start Coding kits for the purposes of this review, a Base Kit with Sensors and Flexible LED strip and a Base Kit with Maker Screen. Each kit comes in a plastic box that holds the components and the instructional cards. The boxes remind me of a fishing tackle box, and being a bit of a storage and organization geek (my youngest keeps her Hot Wheels in a tool box, if that gives you any indication), I found the aesthetic of the kit to please that weird affinity of mine.
The Base Kit set up in both boxes includes the following:
Also included in both are cards that talk about what each component is/does and cards that show you the physical build for various projects.
Additional components can be purchased separately or as part of an expanded Base Kit. As I mentioned, one of the kits I was sent contained a AA-battery holder, light sensor, sound trigger, temperature sensor, and flexible LED strip. The other contained a Maker Screen, as seen below:
Once a project is built, users can download the coding software, plug their Maker Board into their computer’s USB slot, and write the code for the project in C++.
Depending on the components used and the code written, you and your teen can build all sorts of projects. Want a simple LED flashlight? No problem. Want to change that to a multi-color glow lamp? You got it… just tweak the components and the code. A four-note piano with synchronized LEDs? You can build that. How about a blink thermometer? A light-activated nightlight? A digital alarm clock that wakes you with sound and blinking LED lights? All possible, again, depending on your components and how much you want to explore the coding.
The basic builds start off assuming your child has no coding knowledge nor experience. They teach by getting your child hands-on with both the physical and code build, as well as giving them hints on ways to explore what is possible by suggesting tweaks to the build. Kids can work their way up to more complex projects, or–if they have some background and basic understanding of how the build and coding works–can jump into the project of their choice right away.
If you have an older child who you want to continue learning and exploring over the summer and he or she learns best by getting hands on (and you don’t necessarily want them taking apart the DVD player in order to see how it works… not as if that’s ever happened), the the various kits available by Let’s Start Coding are a great resource. The Base Kit retails online for $40. In addition to the Base Kit, you can purchase additional components al a carte or as one of the expanded kits.
Disclaimer: I was provided a pair of kits, as mentioned above, for review purposes. All opinions are my own and come after completing a few project builds.