Makeblock mBot Review: Teach Your Kids To Code

MakeBlock mBot

Are your kids watching too much YouTube and you're worried it's rotting their brains? You know they're addicted to their screen time so just cutting them off and ordering them outside won't work. What's a parent to do? How about introducing them to the Makeblock mBot? It's a friendly little robot they program on their smartphone, tablet or laptop in a game-like setting that also just happens to teach them the fundamentals of computer programming. They get their screen time, and you get some peace of mind.

In today's fast-evolving world of borderline science fiction technology -- handheld communicators were fantasy on the original Star Trek, now we can browse the internet on cell phones -- it's more important than ever to give our children the tools they'll need to compete. That means they can't just learn how to read, write, add, multiply and divide. They're going to need more than history and literature and art (although a well-rounded education is still vital!). To survive in tomorrow's hi-tech economy, our kids are going to need to be able to build and program...robots!

No, I'm really not kidding! Robots are going to take over the world. They're not going to knock down your door and eat your medicine, but they're going to play an increasingly large role in our daily lives. We're already starting to see automated cashiers, automated warehouses, and self-driving cars. Computer programs are starting to take over customer service, tax preparation, even medical prescriptions!

The people who can create and program the future can write their own ticket. The first step in getting them started is building and programming your Makeblock mBot!

Robots: The total STEM package

MakeBlock mBot

STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering and Math. It's the catchall term used to describe the various fields forming the core of our modern world. Pretty much everything from the food you eat to the clothes you wear to the city you live in is made possible by some aspect of STEM. Getting a head start in STEM is one way to get a head start in the coming tech-heavy economy.

That's what makes the Makeblock mBot so awesome. It combines every part of STEM in one easy to understand package that's both fun and educational.

What Is The Makeblock mBot?

The Makeblock mBot is a boxy, clunky-looking, yet somehow adorable little robot. I'm still trying to figure out how they managed to make a box cute. It has two large back wheels and an omnidirectional marble "wheel" in the front that gives it surprising maneuverability. It comes disassembled, but it's so easy to put together that even taking your time, you'll need, at most, 20 minutes. You can purchase the Makeblock mBot Robot Kit for between $70 and $120 depending on where you purchase it.

The software the mBot runs on, however, is free to download on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. The Makeblock mBot comes with either Bluetooth or WiFi capability depending on your need. Makeblock's recommendation is Bluetooth for home use and WiFi for use in schools (so the signals don't get mixed up). The software is simple to use and lets you program the Makeblock mBot to go pretty much wherever you want it to go.

The Makeblock mBot also a built-in obstacle avoidance feature (which helps you program it to play some pretty lively soccer games with other mBots). This is located in the "eyes" on the front of the mBot so don't cover them up! There's also a "follow the line" mode that allows you to create a map or a maze for you mBot to navigate and complete tasks. This is a big part of various robot competitions for kids so this is an excellent way to practice at home!

What's it for?

What can it do?

What the heck is block coding?

Think icons

Is it a toy or a learning tool?

The Competition

Makeblock mBot Coding Robot Kit, Learning & Educational Toys for Kids...
  • 【Entry-level Coding Robot for Beginners】Designed for learning electronics, robotics and programming in a simple and...
  • 【Rich Tutorials for Programming】Makeblock offers rich tutorials, available both on online community and coding cards...
  • 【Easy to Building】mBot STEM building kit can be easily built within one hour with just a screw. Kids will learn more...

There's a lot of different DIY robot kits on the market. Many are more expensive or more limited.

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There's the UBTECH Astrobot which looks an awful lot like a certain treadmill robot from a certain film from the 1980s (cough Short Circuit cough). It's other two forms are a car or a two-legged robot, and its block programming is great for kids. It has 371 snap-together parts, 1 infrared sensor, 1 speaker, 2 LEDs, and 5 smooth motion robotic servo motors.

LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox 17101 Fun Robot Building Set and...
  • Who doesn't love robots? Introduce kids to the creative world of coding with the best educational STEM toys to foster...
  • Includes 847 LEGO pieces that kids can build and rebuild into 5 cool multifunctional models. The best and most popular...
  • Construct and code Vernie the Robot to dance, rock out on the Guitar4000, foster Frankie the Cat, interact with the...

Then there's the LEGO Boost System. This is pretty cool because it can fully make use of all of your regular LEGOs. That gives the set a much wider variety of applications than any other DIY robot kit. You can build a robot, a cat, a working guitar, various vehicles, a dragon that shoots (plastic) lightning bolts and more. The Move Hub features Bluetooth connectivity, an activation button, internal tilt sensor, two encoded motors, and light.

It also has a color and distance sensor that detects motion, color, and distance. To operate it, you must have a mobile phone or tablet. It is compatible with iOS, Kindle, Android, and Windows 10 devices. The system is designed for younger kids, so the programming is more basic and limited. 

LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 31313 Robot Kit with Remote Control for Kids,...
  • Builders of all ages will love building and coding their fully-functional robot to walk, talk, and even play games or...
  • LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 is built with 601 pieces and includes the intelligent EV3 Brick, 3 servo motors, plus color, touch...
  • LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 comes with instructions for 17 different robotic designs, each with its own unique features....

On the other hand, there's the other Lego DIY robot set: LEGO Mindstorms. This is the hardcore stuff before you wander into adult robot territory. The Mindstorms line has available for purchase infrared sensors, color sensors, ultrasonic sensors, and all kinds of additional attachments. It also uses block programming and can switch over to regular programming when your child is ready to advance to the next level. But LEGO Mindstorms is meant for older kids. 

Ten and over compared to eight and over for Makeblock mBot. Also, the mBot is the better choice for first-timers.

Makeblock Interactive Light & Sound Robot add-on Pack Designed for...
  • Shape your mBot with new look: The pack includes RGB led, sound and light sensors etc, so you can transform your mBot to...
  • Easy to use: The instruction included will teach you how to assemble it with mBot within 10 minutes easily.
  • Free APP to control: It is easily to control it or learn graphical programming via the mBlock Blockly App (iOS/Android)...

We should note that the Makeblock mBot also has a slew of extras you can buy to keep the fun going. One kit has a temperature sensor, a light sensor, a three-color LED, and more. Another has a sound sensor and a small LED screen to display information (or a face) on. And still, another comes with servos to add moving parts like arms to your boxy little buddy.

Getting the full set is an expensive proposition but, remember, these are accessories, not required items. You can always have your junior robot builder save up their allowance or do extra chores to save up enough money to buy one when they're ready.

BEEP BOOP Destroy All Humans!

OK, we're probably a few decades away from Skynet turning on the human race and wiping us all out. And the Makeblock mBot is just too darn cute to ever be the end of humanity. But while we're waiting for the rise of the robots, why not set you kiddo's creative juices flowing with a little box of fun that will keep them entertained for weeks on end? And while the mBot is being adorable, it will be teaching them what's already one of the most in-demand skills in today's economy. Not bad for an oversized LEGO brick with wheels.

Last update on 2021-10-19 at 14:01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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