My son is 11, but since he was about 7 years old, he’s really enjoyed putting together the more complex LEGO sets. You know the ones that have hundreds of pieces and cost a hundred dollars? Yes, those are his favorites. He doesn’t get one very often, but when he does, he really impresses me with the time he puts into building his LEGO sets.
But what happens after he’d done with building them? They sit there. That’s the end of the road. He has no desire to break it apart and build a set again. But what if he could take his LEGO set to the next level? What if I could add STEM education to his LEGO’s?
Microduino has created a way for kids and tinkerers to add automation to their LEGO projects through simple magnetic stackable modules called the mCookies.
There are different mCookies that contain Microduino chips that enable a buzzer, a multi-color light, and sensors that can find lines, sense light, sound, a crash, and other signals. Whalaa… STEM education wrapped up with a favorite toy, LEGOs!
With the Microduino Itty Bitty City kit, Kids follow a STEM education step-by-step guide in building 8 different projects. It’s just like following a LEGO guide, only your child will build in mCookies to enable their project with technology.
Itty Bitty City Projects Include a:
- 1 VS 1 Basketball
- Piggy Bank
- Reflex Battle
- Music Box
- Smart Car
All the LEGO type bricks and mCookie modules you need are included in the kit. But there are only enough bricks and mCookies to do one project at a time.
STEM Education, One Block at a Time
Just like LEGO kit building, Microduino provides a color booklet showing all the steps and needed LEGO’s to work on a project. I let my son focus on what he does best, build, and I helped gather the needed LEGOs for each step.
Once a project has been built, your child can bring it to life using the Microduino software you download on your laptop. The programming, which uses Arduino, is all done for you, you just have to connect the project to the computer, using the included USB, and you can cause the project to move.
For example, the Windmill blades on the Windmill move. The Lighthouse can send out a light signal. A car moves and avoids objects by remote control and more.
Before building a project, you should test out the mCookies functionality first. My son and I didn’t have a laptop nearby, so we decided to build the Windmill first, then later see if our Windmill worked. It didn’t. 🙁
We had to take apart the structure to see what was wrong. We didn’t put the connectors in the right sockets, as clearly stated in the directions. I’m not sure how we missed that part, I think we were just eager to build the structure.
After correcting our mistake, we were able to get the windmill moving by clapping our hands, which the sound sensor picked up and started the motor, causing the LED light sensor to go through a series of colors for 20 seconds.
The program to make all of this happen can be seen in the Arduino application on your laptop or computer.
You can click on a tab that says UserDefn and here it shows you how to modify the program by changing variables. In the Windmill project, you can change the
- threshold of sound to activate the sound sensor
- speed at which the windmill rotates
- brightness of the LED light
- amount of seconds the windmill rotates and more
The idea of the Itty Bitty City is to help kids see what is possible with automation and programming. As kids build these different projects, they begin to see how the mCookies can be used with their other LEGO sets or even build something using their imaginations.
The beauty of Itty Bitty City is that it is an open system, built on Arduino. So there is already a ton of different programming code available as well as numerous projects users have shared online. Your child can learn basic programming skills to fuel his/her imagination.
If you’re thinking Itty Bitty City can be for adults too, you’re exactly right. Kids of all ages love the simplicity of using mCookies to empower their projects, without the need for soldering or heavy knowledge of programming.
As interest mounts, Microduino has more advanced kits and coding to accompany a child’s imagination.
- Helps kids learn electronics and programming
- Includes everything needed to build all 8 projects
- Comes with a full build guide for every project
- Kids can build and program their own projects
- Can work with both Windows, Mac, and Linux OS systems
- No wiring or soldering needed, mCookies are self-contained already
- Each project can be altered, as according to the interest of the child
- The programming brains, mCookies are color-coded, stackable, and magnetic for easy inclusion in projects
- The mCookie modules can be used to automate any LEGO set your child already has
Itty Bitty City Includes:
- 3 Trinkets (2 Types)
- 1 x Buzzer
- 2 x LED (Multi-color)
- 1 x mBattery — Rechargeable Li-ion Battery and Programmer
- 3 mCookie Modules
- 1 x Core Module
- 1 x Sensor Hub Module
- 1 x Motor Controller Module
- 7 Sensors (5 Types)
- 2 x Crash Sensors
- 1 x Infrared Receiver
- 2 x Line Finder Sensors
- 1 x Light Sensor
- 1 x Microphone Sensor
- Accessories (12 Types)
- 2 x Balls
- 136 x Building Block (Various)
- 1 x MicroUSB Cable
- 2 x Motors
- 1 x Omni-Wheel
- 1 x Remote Control
- 1 x Roll of Black Tape
- 1 x Rubber Sleeve
- 16 x Sensor Cables
- 1 x Set of Music Card
- 1 x USB Flash Drive
- 2 x Wheels
- 1 x Itty Bitty City Manual
- No previous knowledge of programming needed
- The mCookie is ingenious – it allows kids to tinker without worry of splicing wires, breaking spindles, etc.
- Engages “kids’ of all ages
- Teaches basics of programming and opens kids’ minds as to what’s possible by adjusting variables
- Works with all LEGO bricks
- There’s great satisfaction when you’re done building and the project works!
- Making all of the projects will take time – not a one and done type of kit
- Opportunities to build are endless…you can even use the mCookies with cardboard or paper
- Comes with a built-in Lithium battery so you can empower your projects wirelessly!
- The mCookies are even LEGO stackable…as well as magnetic to stack to each other easily
- Requires patience, even these simple looking projects can take some time to build
- Might require adult interaction to help set up program on laptop and work through the programming part
- There are only enough pieces to build one project at a time
- The connector wires ports are tiny, your child will likely need help to connect them in the right spot
- Is a little costly
The Itty Bitty City is available from Amazon for $139.00 plus free shipping.
A Mom’s Perspective
The Itty Bitty City Kit by Microduino is one of the best STEM education kits we have reviewed. First of all, it starts with one of kids’ favorite toys…LEGO’s. And in keeping with the LEGO style, Itty Bitty City uses a color workbook to follow step-by-step directions to make a project.
Each project can be made in 1-2 hours, dependent upon the speed of your child and if your laptop already has the Arduino program on it. But with 8 different projects, this entire STEM education kit doesn’t finish very quickly.
We’ve tried out countless other STEM education projects where the projects are great, but after they are completed, that’s the end. My kids never went back to it.
But with Itty Bitty City, it will take a while to build all 8 projects. In addition, I love how kids can see the programming for each of their products, with notes next to the code to explain to kids what the code is doing.
Kids can change some of the variables in the programming to get a direct cause-and-effect result of their changes. My son and I both loved this part and seeing how it affected our project.
Itty Bitty City can be the springboard that helps your child make the connection between the real world and coding or programming. With the circuits and sensors built into mCookie, the possibilities of automating other LEGO products is endless. And this is how STEM education is disguised as child’s play!
*I was given an Itty Bitty City STEM education for purposes of review. All opinions are my own.