New STEM Toy Releases
As more manufacturers and new start ups cotton on to the growing demand for educational toys, the STEM toy market is growing rapidly. There are tons of exciting and innovative new toys coming out, so much so that it can be hard to keep track of! Luckily, we’ve got our finger on the pulse. Check out our favorite new STEM toy releases for 2018 below.
Released: September 2017.
Recommended Age: 8+ years.
Best for Learning: Basic Electronics, Creativity.
The Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit is the multi-award winning set from Little Bits that aims to teach kids the basics about electrical components and inspire creativity through building their own Star Wars droid. Kids have to assemble their own R2D2 following animated instructions in the companion App, so a compatible device is required. The set comes with ‘electronic blocks’ including a servo motor, a DC motor, battery, proximity sensor and control hub, which are assembled along with the body to complete the droid. However, the idea is that you can customize the droid in different ways with included stickers, as well as take it apart and reassemble in different ways following in App missions.
The little robot can be controlled in a number of ways. Firstly there is force mode, where kids make use of the proximity sensor to control the droid without touching it. Then there is the drive mode where you can control the R2 manually with the App, and lastly self navigation mode where the droid operates by itself to avoid objects. These are all fun, but where this kit is lacking is that there is currently no option to program custom code into the R2D2, which is a common component of similar robotics kits. That said, what we do really like about this kit is that it is compatible with all other Little Bits electronic components, which really opens up the potential for customization. Overall, this is a cool kit but we would really like to see the coding element added in the future.
Released: September 2017.
Recommended Age: 11 – 15 years.
Best for Learning: Coding Principles.
Cue is the latest release from educational robotics company Wonder Workshop. Aimed at a slightly older audience, it develops on the older Dash and Dot robots and is designed for kids to learn some more advanced coding concepts than its predecessors. It features a new App with Chat, where you can send and receive text messages to Cue, although this is more for entertainment than education.
Released: August 2017.
Recommended Age: 7 – 12 years.
Best for Learning: Mechanical Engineering & Coding Basics.
Released in August 2017, Lego Boost is the new robotics kit from Lego that aims to teach kids the fundamentals of engineering, robotics and coding. Building on from the success of Mindstorms, the new set is targeted at a younger audience and has several features to accommodate this. For starters, the builds are not as complicated with less fiddly parts. Lego include instructions to build a cat, robot, guitar, rover vehicle and auto builder that can assemble small Lego models!
Kids will need to follow the guide in the Lego Boost App, so a compatible tablet is needed. The App is also needed to program the robots, which is achieved through a simple drag and drop graphical interface. This differs from Mindstorms, which can also run more complex coding languages like Python. As such, if you child has a bit of coding experience already, they might find the Boost a little basic and we recommend moving straight onto Mindstorms!