Great STEAM “Toys” For Your Kids and Teenagers!

Parents often ask me, “What’s the best robot, kit, software, etc, to buy for my child?” At MacInspires we are constantly keeping our ears to the ground for what’s new, exciting and for great solutions. In addition to what we learn about at MacInspires and at home, I visited the NYC Toy Fair February 19th! It’s impressive and inspiring how many toys are focused on education, creativity and building a better future for the kids.

Wonder Workshop Dash, Dot & Cue Robots – Dash $149, Cue $199

Wonder Workshop’s Dash & Dot blue robots have been out for a few years and are a hit at homes, schools and libraries. They

have over a dozen components that make them move, sense and light up and play sounds. Dash now has a more capable sibling called Cue. While Dash was made for second through fifth grade, Cue is intended for middle school students. In

addition to Blockly, a Scratch based block programming language, Cue also features Javascript, so it’s a great way to get kids into formal coding languages. We use Dash in a lot of our Robotics courses!

 

Circuit Playground Express – $29.99

Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is the perfect introduction to microcontroller electronics and programming. Microcontrollers are small inexpensive computers that we can code to sense and acts with the world around us. This two inch round circuit board is packed with sensors and lights for us to learn and play with. Because you can program the same board in 3 different ways (Block based language, Python and Arduino) – the Circuit Playground has great value and re-usability. The gold pins on the side can be connected to other components with wire as well as conductive filament, allowing this to also be used for wearables. We recommend this from 5th to 12th grade depending on the child’s experience. We host Microcontroller workshops at both stores on Saturdays!

 

Solar Powered SKULL Blinky LED Pendant Kit – $29.95

I will never forget my first lesson in soldering when I was in middle school. Now I use that skill weekly to repair and build everything from jewelry to quadcopters. Lumen Electronic makes awesome kits… Want to get your child into soldering? It’s safe to do with adult supervision and is super fun. We teach how to solder at MacInspires and there are plenty of videos online. Purchase a soldering iron kit and some copper wire to practice. Then solder this wearable piece of artwork to show off to friends! We recommend this from 5th to 12th grade depending on the child’s experience.

 

Kerbal Space Program – $39.99

Here at MacInspires we LOVE Space. Our popular enrollment SpaceX-It’s Rocket Science, largely features this program that

literally teaches people about rocket science, orbital mechanics and more! It’s wildly fun, intriguing and complex. The good

news is it’s easy to get started and in addition to MacInspires, there are plenty of tutorials online to get a student on his or her way. With Space flight becoming more and more less expensive, it’s going to become a more widely available platform, thus creating future jobs for our students. This “game” will get kids ready for these jobs, even NASA agrees KSP is amazing! KSP is ideal for 3rd grade and up, when students have the patience to troubleshoot problems. Keep in mind although elementary school students enjoy and learn from this game, so do adults! We use this program in addition to hobby rocketry and 3d Printing for our SpaceX – It’s Rocket Science Courses.

littleBits – $79.95+

MacInspires has been a littleBits fan since the beginning, and every year they make more reasons to love them! These little electronic modules snap together so you can create your own inventions! Learn about electricity, sensors, motors, servos and computer logic. Their kits currently start at $79, but we met during the Toy Fair and we are super pumped they are coming out with an even less expensive series of kits this year! The possibilities are endless with littleBits, but they can be a bit fragile we recommend third grade and up for these.

 

Cubelets – $129+

Another favorite of ours, Cubelets have been in use at MacInspires for about three

years and we are impressed with this young company’s growth. These modular cubes are similar to littleBits in that they teach about sense, think and act, and they snap together, but after that they are totally different. Cubelets are perfect for making various robots and are super easy to connect to Lego. We also saw this team at the NYC Toy Fair and was impressed to see their new lineup coming out this year, with some lower price points. Cubelets are amazing in that kindergarteners can play with them, use them for a couple years, put them in the closet and bring them back out when older as you can add a bluetooth cube that allows you to code them! Perfect for kindergarten through sixth grade. MacInspires Robotics workshops on the weekends features these robots and more!

Squishy Circuits – $30+

We love teaching about electricity and circuits. Conductive and non-conductive dough is a great way for kids to creatively explore electricity’s requirements and excitement. These kits are great for grades Kindergarten through fifth grade!

 

I hope these tips help you find something for your child! Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions and make sure to visit our schedules! Happy Making! – Travis Sluss 3/27/18

Education@MacInspires.com