This is a sponsored review post in cooperation with Creation Crate. All wording, details, and opinions are my own. Please see my full disclosure for more information about reviews.
When the Creation Crate arrived, my first thought was “Wow, that is a really small box.” I don’t know why, but I had this idea in my mind that electronics and coding were going to involve massive amounts of messy stuff. So the size and contents of the box were a pleasant surprise!
The box included an instruction booklet, eight wires in various sizes, a paper lantern, a USB cord, an UNO R3 unit, a bunch of resistors and jumper wires, a breadboard, and three LED lights.
The project for month one is to build a mood light and program it using the Arduino software. My fifteen-year-old son has a bit of experience with code so this project wasn’t difficult for him. Even if you do not have any experience with coding, the Creation Crate projects would be a great place to start because the instructions walk you through the coding process and explain as you go — and you end up with a finished project to show off.
Building the mood light involved following the steps of a diagram, much like building LEGOs from the instructions. He stuck all the wires in according to the diagram, unfolded the paper lantern, and it was all good to go. But it wouldn’t actually light up without coding.
The next step was to download Arduino on the computer and type in the code provided. Each piece of code came with a solid explanation of what the code would cause. After typing in all the code, Jonathan noticed that the code could actually be copied from the Creation Crate site but in our opinion that would pretty much ruin the project unless used as a last resort.
Much of the value of this Creation Crate project was in typing up, working with, and troubleshooting the code. We also had to download the MAC OS X driver for the UNO R3 unit and we did this from the My Creation Crate project page for month one. If you have a Windows machine this is a non issue, but it was super easy.
With the code typed in, the next step was to upload the code and troubleshoot it. Arduino highlights each piece of code that is incorrect and he was able to walk through each error and find his typos and mistakes. This didn’t take too long.
Once the code is all fixed, it is uploaded to the Mood Light through USB and you have light! With that done, it was time to do some of the extra exercises included to change the transition speeds and color. More fun!
Altogether, the first Creation Crate project took Jonathan about an hour from start to finish. The instructions were clear and easy to follow. The moment the paper lantern finally lit up was exciting!
Here are five ways that using the Creation Crate subscription service will help your child develop important STEM skills.
These skills include “numeracy and the ability to generate, understand and analyse empirical data including critical analysis; an understanding of scientific and mathematical principles; the ability to apply a systematic and critical assessment of complex problems with an emphasis on solving them and applying the theoretical knowledge of the subject to practical problems; ingenuity, logical reasoning and practical intelligence.” (UK Parliament, 2012)
- In this technology driven age, kids need experience with coding. Learning to code is like learning a foreign language – it makes you think. Plus, coding skill is a valuable asset for adults in the work place.
- Troubleshooting code improves your problem solving skills and thinking skills. That’s critical analysis.
- Creating and observing the connection between electrical wiring, computer boards, and code allows kids to understand so much behind the scenes in the digital world we live in. I overheard Jonathan say “Oh, so that’s what makes this work.” It’s moving from theory to practical solutions.
- Troubleshooting code also requires logical reasoning — Asking “What is making this not work?” and working through each line of code to find errors based on previous lines of code. For instance, Jonathan found several cases where a misspelling of a word in the beginning of the code messed up the code later when the word was spelled correctly. He had to figure this out himself and it required him to use logic.
- With the initial project and extra questions completed, students can come up with other ways to use and change the program for running the LED lights. That’s called ingenuity.
My Bottom Line: If you want to get your teens thinking about the world through the lens of STEM, a subscription from Creation Crate is a fabulous place to start.