By Mary Ryerse & Luke Ryerse
There’s nothing quite like test driving a new car, including testing out the lights, horn, sound system, and other special effects.
In the case of the car described in this blog — a car-shaped mini-computer designed to provide hands-on coding experience – – there are opportunities to test all those things.
The Code Car Kit is a product of Let’s Start Coding. This company was launched in late 2015 by Founder/CEO Fred Durham and it seeks to help beginners write real code by building handheld gadgets with hardware. The Let’s Start Coding products are a perfect next step for kids who have worked with basic electronics and basic coding and are now ready to move on to learn more about building and coding.
Especially for upper-elementary and middle school age kids, base kits offer a great entry point for some real, hands-on coding and making. The simple design, small packaging and natural draw of a car all made for a positive experience.
A few features of this car, which is great for learners ages eight and up, include:
- Built-in programmable LED lights, buttons and a speaker
- Compatible coding software (works with Windows, Macintosh, and Chromebooks)
- Lessons that allow users to flash the lights, honk a horn, or blare the siren with computer code.
- A simple small box that includes the car, connecting USB cable, and reference cards.
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
Here are the basic steps we took:
2. Watch a video to get oriented. Short and sweet with upbeat music. Gives a feel for how the process will work.
3. Set up your computer. There is an “easy enough” guided process to install a plug-in app on your computer and be ready to roll.
4. Pick a lesson and get hands on. There are dozens of projects to pursue. We chose the “Headlight On” lesson to get started and then completed “Car Tunes.”
5. Write the code. One of the best parts about this code kit is that there is pre-written code provided, yet there are opportunities to modify and edit the code so that it feels like “writing it from scratch” (without the headaches).
6. Step up to the challenge. Each activity includes a challenge. This was definitely worth the extra couple of minutes to extend the project. We added a music challenge, which was awesome! More in “Mom’s Perspective.”
Here’s what I liked about Code Cars:
- Kept My Attention. I liked that the code car always kept you engaged on it and not other things. And I loved when the car would light up or make a noise because then you new that you had finished.
- Videos. What I liked about the code car was that there were YouTube videos where you could see what other people were doing with their code cars. The person explaining the code car showed you at the end what the car does and he also showed you what went where including the USB cord.
- Variety. Another thing I liked about the code car was that there were a variety of things that you could do.
- Write My Own Code. I like that you could change the code so the code car could be what you wanted. I decided to write code to play the song “Happy Birthday.” Next time, I want to code my baseball walk-up song, which is Careless Whisper.
What Mom liked best about this set:
- Mom-son time. We worked together and we BOTH learned a lot. The way Let’s Start Coding is set up is that we can actually work “in the code.” That was a whole new dimension and we experienced something new together.
- Relatively easy entry point. This kit offered great Science-Technology-Engineering-Math (STEM) practice that was doable. That said, it definitely required parent support for a 10-year-old; could be more independent for older ages.
- 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!
- Coding guides. Included in the kit are project guides, with simple manuals to guide learners through step-by-step lessons.
- I learned something new, too! We extended learning to the physics of music! Because Luke wanted to have the car play a “song” we learned how notes correspond with Hz and we coded the notes of “Happy Birthday.”
Areas of improvement. As with when we did the first “Let’s Start Coding Kit,” I still found the process a little clunky to get started. Thankfully, we remembered there were helpful YouTube videos, so that was a good place to start. For example, despite the fact that we’d used the app before, we had to re-install it on our computer.
Overall, this is an awesome kit. I am confident we will be spending time this winter test-driving additional features and codes.
How about you?
For more fun activities to do with your kids, check out:
- Smart Review | Let’s Start Coding
- Smart Review | SAM Labs Inventor Kit
- Smart Review | Education App Gets Kids AND Parents Engaged in Learning
A sample product was provided to the author for this review, but the opinions contained on this page are genuine and uncompensated. If you are interested in having GettingSmart.com review your innovative product or book, please contact Editor@GettingSmart.com.
Stay in-the-know with all things EdTech and innovations in learning by signing up to receive the weekly Smart Update.