By Mary Ryerse & Luke Ryerse

There’s nothing quite like opening up a tackle box for a little summer adventure.

Yes, fishing tackle boxes are great and can lead to awesome adventures, but there’s another type of tackle box these days—one packed with gadgets that lead to a hands-on coding experience.

Let’s Start Coding—launched in late 2015 by Founder/CEO Fred Durham—seeks to help beginners write real code by building handheld gadgets with hardware. It’s an ideal next step for kids who have worked with basic electronics and coding and are now ready to move on to learn more about building and coding.

Especially for upper-elementary and middle school age kids, the Let’s Start Coding base kit offers a great entry point for some real, hands-on coding and making. It’s packed in a tackle box look-alike and includes a maker board, carrier board, lights, buttons, a speaker and more.

The focus of this blog—co-written by our 10-year old, Luke and myself—is on our experience testing the kit.

USING THE KIT

As outlined by the helpful resources, we started by downloading the app within our Chrome browser, inserting the microcontroller (essentially, a “one program computer”) into our laptop and loading the program. Instructions were solid enough to get it done. Here’s a quick run-down:

1) Get Your Kit. The base kit costs about $30 and is available on Amazon or at Let’s Start Coding.
2) Set Up Your Computer.  Easy enough guided process to install a plug-in and be ready to roll.
3) Watch the video. Short and sweet with upbeat music. Gives a feel for how the process will work.

4) Get Hands On. There are hundreds of projects to pursue. We chose the blinking lights lesson to get started.
5) Step Up to the Challenge.  Each activity includes a challenge. This was definitely worth the extra couple of minutes to extend the project.
6) Complete More Projects. There are plenty of options!

LUKE’s PERSPECTIVE

Here’s what I liked:

  • Real coding. Other coding sites are more like a young video game with buildings blocks or squares to move. This included real code.
  • Not all kid stuff. Some kits feel “kid” – like wood, legos, etc. This has real parts that look cool. Real components, not baby components.
  • Tackle box style. I could easily see and reach for the parts I needed. Plus they were organized.
  • Goodies. There was also a bracelet packed inside.

MOM’S PERSPECTIVE

What Mom liked best about this set:

1) Friendly STEM with an achievable entry point. Great STEM practice that was doable. It definitely required parent support for a 10 year old, but it could be more independent for older ages.
2) Hands-on. There was a nice combo of screen work and gadget work. As a mom of three boys, I know how important hands-on activities are!
3) Project Guides. Included in the kit are project guides, with simple manuals to guide learners through step-by-step lessons.

4) Mom-son time. We worked together and we BOTH learned a lot. The way Let’s Start Coding allowed for us to work “in the code” added a whole new dimension and we experienced something new together.
5) Multi-faceted: PBL, SEL and more. I liked that the kind of skills we hope kids learn—thinking creatively, problem solving, reasoning systematically and working collaboratively are all reinforced and practiced. The process wasn’t always easy, so Luke needed to practice patience and ask for some help.
6) Areas of improvement. Could use more sequential instructions (although Luke said he liked how it wasn’t just 1-2-3, so maybe the younger brain responds better to some of the intuitive processes).  Another challenge was that when uploading code to makerboard, there were several different coding upload options and some didn’t work (but with 3 options, one of them always did).

Overall, this is an awesome kit that’s a more “grown up” version than some of the other websites and kits we’ve tried. After we go fishing, we are going to trade one tackle box for another and start coding! How about you?

For more fun activities to do with your kids, check out:

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Stay in-the-know with all things EdTech and innovations in learning by signing up to receive the weekly Smart Update. Getting Smart received a free Let’s Start Coding kit for reviewing purposes; the opinions expressed in this review are the genuine thoughts of the author.

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