Lego Boost Cre­ative Tool­box

£129 inc VAT from tinyurl.com/y7jt­b2Lm

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Do you want to build re­ally cool Lego ro­bots, and then con­trol them with your tablet? Yes, please. Lego Boost is aimed at chil­dren aged seven to 12, so I was a lit­tle wor­ried that it would be too hard to en­joy with my son – he’s five just started school. But while I had to di­rect the com­pli­cated builds, con­trol­ling the fin­ished ro­bots and ve­hi­cles with the iPad app was well within his grasp – and so much fun for both of us.

Lego Boost teaches chil­dren in two ways: the builds them­selves are a les­son in me­chan­ics, show­ing how the mo­tor, gears, and pieces fit to­gether to make a mov­ing ro­bot. Plus, the tablet app is full of pro­gram­ming chal­lenges to di­rect the ro­bot to do what you want him to do.

How Lego Boost works

One Lego Boost kit lets you make five ro­bots, one at a time. That’s be­cause the ‘brains’ of each ro­bot is the Move Hub, a lit­tle box cov­ered in Lego bricks. It con­tains the bat­ter­ies (you’ll need six AAAs), the Blue­tooth chip that com­mu­ni­cates with your tablet (iPad, An­droid or Fire), and a friendly green power but­ton.

The Move Hub also has a cou­ple of ports, where you con­nect wires from two other spe­cial Lego pieces. One is a mo­tor, and can turn wheels, con­trol arms and legs, and so on. The other is a sen­sor that can be used for in­put – you can pro­gram the ro­bot to re­act when he sees or hears some­thing.

First you’ll build Vernie the Ro­bot, fol­low­ing step-by-step with in­struc­tions in the app. The first phase, build­ing the ro­bot’s body and head, took me about 40 min­utes. Then you get to use the iPad to turn him on and have him say hi be­fore you plunge into next phase, build­ing his wheels. I like how the app breaks things up a lit­tle like this, be­cause the com­plex builds took me a while, even work­ing alone and mov­ing quickly.

Once Vernie’s body, wheels, and arms were fin­ished, my son and his bud­dies loved us­ing the

iPad to have him move around. Every­thing he can do is rep­re­sented as a lit­tle puz­zle piece in a tool­bar along the bot­tom. Chil­dren can drag pieces into the pro­gram­ming area, string them to­gether, and then press Play to have the ro­bot act out each step.

Pro­gram­ming the ro­bots

Lego Boost also comes with a play mat you can use to help you de­sign your pro­grams. The mat is di­vided into a grid, so when you pro­gram a mov­able ro­bot to go for­ward once, it moves one space on the grid. That way, kids can de­cide where they want the ro­bot to go, and then count how many times it needs to go for­ward and where it should turn.

My son and two other five-year-olds had no prob­lem fig­ur­ing this out, and needed very lit­tle help from me once the ro­bot was ac­tu­ally built. Since it’s de­signed for chil­dren aged seven to 12, Lego Boost should be eas­ier to grasp than Lego Mind­storms, which is for chil­dren aged 10 and up and uses more com­pli­cated pro­gram­ming meth­ods.

My team of five-year-old testers did great with Lego Boost, though, and they never got sick of it, be­cause the app has ex­tra chal­lenges you can do with each ro­bot. With Vernie, your next job is to build him a lit­tle rocket launcher that sits on his shoul­der, then con­struct a sign that he’ll shoot and knock down. I’m not ex­ag­ger­at­ing when I said we did this nearly a hun­dred times. Play­ing each chal­lenge un­locks the next, although my son quickly fig­ured out he could just tap Next all the way through chal­lenges in or­der to un­lock the next build.

Next you’ll build Frankie the Cat, Guitar4000, a con­struc­tion ma­chine called the Au­toBuilder, and the bull­dozer-like M.T.R.4. Each of them winds up be­ing cute as well as rel­a­tively tough. They broke if the chil­dren were ex­tra rough with them, but they also sur­vived a lot of bumps and crashes that I thought would do more dam­age.

Why we love it

The Move Hub pairs au­to­mat­i­cally with Blue­tooth 4 when­ever you turn it on, so chil­dren don’t have to know how to set up a Blue­tooth de­vice. The ro­bots and the app’s de­sign ap­peal to all chil­dren, re­gard­less of gen­der. They don’t even need to know how to read.

Lego Boost has lots of re­playa­bil­ity, too. The app has more than 60 chal­lenges spread across the five ro­bots, and since these are just Lego bricks, chil­dren can tweak the ro­bot de­signs, stick their own mini fig­ures onto them, or build other Lego cre­ations for the ro­bots to in­ter­act with. I didn’t mind let­ting my son and his pals play with it for long stretches of time, and they re­ally seem to en­joy it. The ro­bots also make sounds, but those all come out of the app, so be sure to keep your tablet’s speak­ers up. Also, pro­grams that use au­dio in­put also use the mi­cro­phone on the tablet, not on the ro­bot him­self.

The big­gest chal­lenges are ac­cess­ing the Move Hub when you even­tu­ally need to change the bat­ter­ies, and keep­ing the Lego Boost bricks sep­a­rate from the rest of your Lego col­lec­tion, be­cause you’ll need them all to build the other ro­bots. But if you keep your bricks pretty or­ga­nized any­way, maybe you’d still be able to find the pieces you need. Fol­low­ing along with the iPad in­struc­tions isn’t too dif­fi­cult, even though the builds them­selves are pretty com­pli­cated, and you can al­ways page through the in­struc­tions once to find all the pieces needed, and then again to ac­tu­ally as­sem­ble the ro­bot.

Ver­dict

At £129, it isn’t cheap, but it’s got more ed­u­ca­tional value and just as much play pos­si­bil­ity as a reg­u­lar Lego set. Susie Ochs

From left to right, you’ll build the Au­toBuilder, which ac­tu­ally con­structs small LEGO fig­ures; move stuff around with the bull­dozer-like M.T.R.4; play songs on Guitar4000; pro­gram Vernie the Ro­bot; and cud­dle up with Frankie the Cat

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