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I don't think I can be any more thankful that I'm not a student in today's educational climate. That's not a knock on teaching, or even the system as a whole, it's just that everything is so much more data-driven than when I was in school, so the focus has shifted a bit. One of the biggest changes I've seen is the implementation of STEM education. Basically, STEM education focuses on four core disciplines—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Obviously, science and mathematics have deep roots in education, but not like today. Additionally, engineering and technology—two things typically associated with college studies—have made their way into early education.
It might seem daunting for kids, and understandably so, but there has been an influx of tools to hit the market in recent years that help facilitate the process a bit. My son, as I've said in other pieces, is a bit of a science nerd. Well, not a bit of one, he IS one. For Christmas I bought him the SpikerBox neuroscience kit, which was a big hit. But of course, being the boy genius that he is, he needed another "toy" to stimulate his brain.
So we did our annual post-Christmas rounds to find something cool, and we found the perfect gift—Microduino's Itty Bitty City. With a focus on STEM education, it seemed like a no-brainer (no pun intended). Ultimately, I ended up grabbing one for little Billy on Amazon, and I'm glad that I did.
What is the Itty Bitty City?
Itty Bitty City is an 8-in-1 project featuring Microduino’s mCookie Series modules. Its main function is to teach kids electronics and programming, essentially focusing on the TE part of STEM education (with a sprinkle of math and science in between). Basically, it allows your child to build their own project with building blocks similar to classic LEGOs®, only they take it a step further by giving you the ability to power it. With detailed instructions, even the most novice of children can fully grasp the creation process.
The four modules, which are basically the backbone of the operation, include the Core Module, Sensor Hub Module, Motor Controller Module, and the mBattery. These mCookie modules are actually available for separate purchase, so Itty Bitty City is, in a sense, combining one of its flagship educational tools with a larger-than-life, easy-to-use kit.
In addition to modules, the kit comes with seven sensors (Crash, Infrared Receiver, Line Finder, Light, and Microphone), three trinkets (two LED and one buzzer), and twelve different accessories—two balls, 136 different building blocks, a MicroUSB cable, two motors, an "omni-wheel," remote control, sensor cables, a set of music cards, a USB flash drive, two wheels, a rubber sleeve, and some handy-dandy black tape. The black tape is pretty much the only thing I could manage, but with my son, it's a whole different story...
Eight Unique Projects
Now, I'm sure you're all just DYING to know the types of things you can make with this Itty Bitty City. Well, they're all actually pretty cool, which makes it that much more rewarding knowing you built and powered it.
The eight projects included are:
- Smart Car—A remote control car, but that you built!
- 1-on-1 Basketball—If you've ever played a finger basketball game, it's pretty much just that.
- Piggy Bank—Store your dough. It makes a cool sound every time you add money to it.
- Reflex Battle—A game to test whose reflexes are superior.
- Windmill—A windmill that starts to turn when you clap your hands.
- Music Box—This is what those music cards I was talking about are for. Swipe them and they'll play a little song!
- Lighthouse—A friggen' sweet lighthouse that changes colors with the remote control.
- Nightlight—If your child is still a scaredy-cat, they can build themselves a nightlight. But if they're smart enough to build this, they should probably know the boogeyman isn't real...
It's also LEGO® compatible!
One of the main allures of Itty Bitty City was its built-in compatibility with LEGO® products. My son has a million different LEGO® sets, so it was a natural fit. Being the little genius that he is, LEGOs don't really get the job done anymore, so finding a way to actually bring those sets to life was huge. Once he's done making all of his projects, he can try to make something on his own, or simply soup up some of his older work.
There's tons of resources available.
If you're worried that your kid (or you, depending on who I'm talking to) might not be able to grasp this—don't. It comes with a bunch of different resources on simple coding, project management, and more. I might refer to Billy as a boy genius, but that's just me being a proud parent. He might be an honor student, but that doesn't make him the next Tesla.
After using this though, at least he'll have the confidence to think he is. And confidence, after all, is key.