Our Review of Modular Robotics Cubelets Discovery Set

This year, we got to review a cool robotic toy for kids. Cubelets is a product by Modular Robotics that allows kids as young as 4 explore and create. The kit we reviewed back in April was the Twelve Kit. This one is the more basic Discovery Set.

Photo credits: Modular Robotics

What you get in the Cubelets Discovery Set

This kit is composed of 5 robotic cubes that have different functions you can put together to build mini robots. The pieces are magnetic, so they are easy to put together. In this basic set, you get

  • 1 Battery Cubelet
  • 1 Brightness Cubelet
  • 1 Drive Cubelet
  • 1 Distance Cubelet
  • 1 Flashlight Cubelet
  • 1 Bluetooth Hat
  • 2 Brick Adapters
  • 1 Micro-USB Cable
  • A guide to building different robots with your kit

The battery Cubelet is what you charge and add to your creations to power them up. The brightness Cubelet will allow your robot creation to sense light and dark. The drive Cubelet has wheels to help the creation move. The distance Cubelet is another sensing one that determines how close it is to another object. The flashlight Cubelet has a light that can brighten and dim. The free downloadable apps pair with the Bluetooth hat so you can control your robot with the app. The male and female brick adapters will allow you to add Lego, or other brick building toys to your creation.

More About the Cubelets

These are some of the things you can build with this basic kit:

Of course, you can buy more Cubelets and other kits to build different functioning robots. There are Cubelets to detect temperature and a speaker Cubelet so your robots can make noise.

How to buy Cubelets

This particular set costs $139.95 Other kits have different costs, and you can even buy individual blocks. This would make an excellent gift for the aspiring young robotics engineer in your life.

Disclaimer- We were sent a kit to review for free. No other compensation has been given. Our reviews are honest and unbiased.

PowerUP 3.0 Smartphone Controlled Paper Airplane

This is a fun Christmas gift for the hobbyist in your life. The PowerUP 3.0 kit will allow you to take paper airplanes to a whole new level!

This project started out on KickStarter several years ago. The inventor is a pilot. It was originally iPhone only, which is limiting for some people, but now there is an app for Android. Some Android users report having issues with app connectivity on Android. The box says it works for iPhone 4S or newer, iPad 3rd Gen or newer and iPad Mini. Android version 4.3 or newer with Bluetooth 4.0 devices are supposed to be what works for those phones. If you have issues connecting, it is suggested to turn off Wi-Fi on your phone.

With the app on your smartphone, you can control the rudder by simply moving your phone from side to side. You can also control the throttle on the app by sliding it up and down.

Now the plane won’t fly with a propeller and rudder alone. You have to make sure that you make a good paper airplane, of course. Just in case you are a visual learner, there are YouTube videos on how to make the planes.


Each kit comes with

  • The PowerUP 3.0 smart module
  • 4 printed templates(including the Cardinal template as shown above)
  • Instructions for 2 airplane designs
  • Spare propeller
  • Spare rudder
  • Quick start guide
  • Micro USB charging cable

You can also download airplane designs for free on the PowerUp Toys website.

The battery life lasts up to 10 minutes per charge, and you can control it to around 200 feet. It’s carbon fiber body is sturdy and made to withstand some crashes, but you can buy replacement parts for $10. Also available for purchase are waterproof templates- which can be useful if you live in a humid area.

The basic kits are $50. For $20 more, you can get another kit for dogfights. People may balk at the $50 price tag, but for this novelty item, it may be worth it if you are looking for something more than a drone.

Thanks to PowerUP for sending us a kit for review. Our reviews are not influenced by the companies we review for.

A Review of Cublets Robot Blocks Twelve Kit from Modular Robotics

I have to admit, when I received the Cubelets to review, I couldn’t help but compare it to the Makerblock Neuron Inventor Kit that I just reviewed. Is it coming to the point where I’m reviewing a STEM product every week? If so, I’m cool with it.

So, let’s talk Cubelets. I don’t think I could have done this review if it wasn’t for my son, because he was really into them. Unlike a lot of STEM toys, which seem to emphasize coding, the Cubelets emphasizes creation. When my son started working with the Cubelets Twelve Kit, it was difficult getting him to quit.

When you get the Cubelets, they come in this box where they are packed in a particular pattern. You see, these Cubelets essentially lock together with magnets, and they come in a 2 x 4 formation, with another 2 cubes on each side. I hope that isn’t too confusing of a description, and I might have to do some kind of unboxing to really show off this product, hmmmm…..

So here’s the deal. Each of the Cubelets has a function, and by connecting them together in different ways, you can make a kind of machine that can do all kinds of things. Fortunately, it came with instructions.

I’ll start with the Battery Block, which can be charged with a micro-USB. I noticed the Flashlight Block with a light bulb, and so I connected the Battery Block with it and turned it on. I saw a small green light on the Battery Block, and there was a small light on the Flashlight Block as well.

However, the bulb on Flashlight didn’t glow. I wondered if I did something wrong, but I then connected one of the Distance Blocks (yes, there are two of these particular Cubelets). This Distance Block had a sensor that could detect my hand in front of it, and when connected to the Battery Block and Flashlight Block, I created a luminescent flashlight that allowed me to change the brightness as my hand got closer to it. Granted, covering the Distance Block didn’t do anything, but you see what I am getting at. You see, I could magnetically lock these three blocks together in just about any order, and it worked.

So then I tried the Brightness Block, and I had a flashlight that was somewhat solar powered. The more light I shown on the brightness sensor of the Brightness Block, the brighter the Flashlight Block shone.

Are you getting this now? So let’s hook up the Drive Block, or two of them, because there are two. The Drive Block has these two rollers that look like small rolling pins. I can control their speeds in the same way that I controlled the brightness of the Flashlight Blocks.

So, yes, there is a lot that you can do with these. There are some other blocks like the Passive Block, which is like a wire of this Cubelets (that makes sense if you work with them). Then there is the Blocker Brick, capable of blocking a signal. What is really interesting is the Inverse Block, which essentially makes the Distance Block or Brightness Block have the opposite effect.

So there really is a lot you can do with this, and there is even a Bluetooth Block so you can sync it to your smartphone or tablet. To make this even more constructive, it comes with a male and female LEGO compatible brick. When you use these, you can make LEGO creations spin and go, just like some Technic or even MINDSTORMS creations.

I believe that the Cubelets is one of the finest educational toys, and the Twelve kits are available on the Modular Robotics site for $275.00.

Our Review of the Jimu Robot Tankbot from UBTECH

tankbotIn case you are wondering, this is a sequel review to our review of the Buzzbot and Muttbot. This is the same robot building kit from Jimu Robot from UBTECH, and you can read my review of that at the link, as well as my comparison to Lego.

The Tankbot is one of those robot kits where I am surprised that all the pieces that are in the kit are used, with only a few exceptions. Generally, the Lego collections allow for more than one creation. In the case of the Tankbot, what you see is the main thing that you can build, but you can build a lot with it.

Okay, I suppose that I should stop making Lego comparisons. Perhaps I can just get this other comparison out of the way and say that the Tankbot resembles a certain robot who was the star of a Pixar film. I mean, look at the colors of orange and black! I’ll spell it out for you: Tankbot is WALL-E.

The Tankbot is not able to crush garbage into little cubes, but he does have some cool tank treads. He can also reach out and grab things. My son and I tried it out and we found that he was quite adept at grabbing soda cans.

Like the Buzzbot/Muttbot, it comes with six servos, which are the small motors used to power certain things. In this case, it can operate both treads individually, which allows the Tankbot to turn on a dime with the remote control.

I have already talked about how the Jimu Robots use an Apple or Android device for Bluetooth wireless control in my last review, but there is something else that the Buzzbot/Muttbot doesn’t have. This has an infrared sensor that allows the Tankbot to pick up, detect, and maneuver objects around it. It is possible to program this, but I have to admit that I didn’t spend a lot of time doing this. My son seemed to take it on and was getting used to it in minutes.

Yes, this is one of those STEM toys that will educate kids as well as entertaining them. It is a toy that I will recommend, just like I will recommend the other models. You can get it for about $149.95.

As a holiday bonus, I have an unboxing video here with me and my son! This one addresses the Buzzbot/Muttbot, as well as the Tankbot.

Our Review of the Jimu Robot BuzzBot and MuttBot Kit from UBTECH

Jimu Website Product Detail A NEWAs someone who has written a book about Lego Technic and Lego Mindstorms, I was very pleased to review the Jimu Robot Buzzbot and MuttBot Kit from UBTECH. There is going to be a lot of comparison made to Lego, but please keep in mind that the Jimu Robot kits are definitely their own thing. It’s like those people who think that Star Trek and Babylon 5 are the same, when they are very, very different.

Yeah, this is going to get really geeky, but in a very Maker way. I mentioned in my review on the Circuit Scribe how there is a great emphasis on STEM learning with building kits designed for young hands. I would say that UBTECH’s Jimu Robot kits would fall under that category.

The kit itself has the picture of what you see here, and I had a chance to make the MuttBot. On inspecting the pieces, I found that some of them looked like Lego Technic. I noticed a lot of beams with holes in them designed for connector pegs, and I understand if you might not know what I am talking about. Just so you know, the Jimu Robot parts are not compatible with anything Lego. I tried to fit them together, and the holes are smaller than that of Lego.

The box opened to reveal lots of interesting boxes in pastel colors marked with peculiar labels. The blue “Main Control Box” was set up with what I believe is the brain and heart of this, a small gray box with many ports. The “Recharging Power Adapter” was a plug-in that charged the gray box. Then I noticed the “Robotic Servo Motors” which had these motors on them that could spin, when properly powered.

The box of “Fasteners” really intrigued me as it contained wires as well as a small gray box with an on/off switch. The rest were these connector peg things that were very small and could easily get lost.

Then there were the other boxes that were full of non-technical parts. The “Character Parts” was so named because it will give the creation character. I think that is the best way to describe it. Now, the last box of “Connectors” had these parts that had these interesting slots on them for sliding parts into place, and this is what is difficult to describe.

Generally, most Lego kits come with detailed instruction booklets on how to build models. The Lego Mindstorms sets have to be downloaded as programs for your computer, but I didn’t see any option of viewing the instructions on my PC. I was able to download the app on my mobile device, and the Jimu robots app is good for Android and iOS.

I kind of wish that the instructions were available on my PC, so I could see them better. However, it was handy to have them on my touchscreen, where I could pinch to zoom and rotate the individual steps in three dimensions.

imag1657I got my son to help me, and things seemed to be going pretty smooth. We did have some problems with the connector wires, which looked like they would break easily if we unplugged them. I had to contact UBTECH to make certain that it was okay to yank them out. Needless to say, it was all right.

I also realized that we had to align the servos correctly, and they are marked to spin properly. You have to check it out for yourselves, and I like how it is marked. I also like how the servos are small motors that are smaller than what is on Lego Technic or Mindstorms.

We also had trouble on the instructions because some of the parts didn’t match exactly on the instructions. It did not affect the model or its functionality.

It took about two hours worth of work, but we had the MuttBot assembled. From there, I thought it was going to be frustrating getting it working, but it actually turned out to be quite simple. The application helped pair with my smartphone, and I was able to make the MuttBot walk and do all sorts of pre-programmed tricks.

My son also discovered that he could program the Servos so he could do all kinds of tricks. What is strange is when we programmed a servo to move, we could see it happen virtually on my mobile device.

I can see that there is a lot that we can do with these Jimu Robots, and I haven’t really discovered everything as yet. However, since this kit allows some kind of exploration, I will want to learn more.

Anyway, I am going to be reviewing another UBTECH robot kit next week, but I can’t get into that right now. I highly recommend getting a BuzzBot and MuttBot kit for yourself, at the Jimu robot site here.

BlueBee Pals Leo the Lion, a Talking Educational Learning Tool

bluebee-petsIt seems like I am filled to the brim with reviewing educational toys, and this one is the Bluebee Pals. Before I get to the review, I would like to thank whoever sent it to me, because it came to my door without any warning. So here is our review of Leo the Lion.

I suppose that the best way that I can describe our Leo the Lion is just compare him to Teddy Ruxpin. Yeah, you probably saw that one coming, as this is how my wife described it when I showed it to her. If you are not familiar with Teddy Ruxpin, it was a Teddy Bear with a tape recorder on his back. When you put in specially made tapes, his lips would move with the dialogue.

Leo The Lion, as well as other animals in the Bluebee Pals collection, has the same basic ability. However, it is made for the age of smartphones and tablets, and it will sync via Bluetooth to any Apple or Android device. Not only will it read a story to your youngster, but he or she can see it acted out on the screen.

Some might find that a little weird, but people have been saying that since the days of … Teddy Ruxpin. Of course, no machine can take place of a parent, and if you need a reminder, the parent doesn’t say things like “remind to charge”. Yeah, you do need to charge this thing with the included USB Micro-charger cable.

You can get Leo the Lion on the Bluebee Pals site for $64.99. You can also find his friends Hudson the Puppy, Riley the Zebra, Parker the Monkey, and Sammy the Bear for the same price.

The Scribble n’ Play from Boogie Board

boogie-boardYou might be familiar with Boogie Board as they make these eWriters. They are not the eReaders like a Kindle, but something that you can write on electronically. While it may not be the Sync that allows you to save something, the Scribble n Play is definitely made for a younger audience.

You should be able to write or draw on the Scribble n Play with anything like your fingernail, and it leaves a rainbow trace. I didn’t know how to describe it any better than that. By the way, your drawing can be erased at the touch of a button.

If you want to save your drawing, there is an eWriter app that is available only for Apple products. You can save your creation, and upload it to the cloud, sharing it with everyone. I checked, and I couldn’t find it on Google Play.

Of course, you don’t want to use your fingernail when drawing on this, so it is fortunate that it comes with four styluses. These are the yellow things that fit on the sides of the Scribble n Play, and they have four different points. One is a small point like a Sharpie, the other is a Magic Marker, another is a like a small comb, and the last is a wide tip.

The only downside is this: I found out that the styluses have these side marks, but they don’t really do anything. Like they have these waves, but if you press them on the board, they don’t make waves. You’re going to have to try it out to see.

The Boogie Board Scribble n Play has this rubber blue band so you can strap it to your hand, which is another great feature. If you have someone who has young hands, or you just need something to scribble on, then the Boogie Board Scribble n Play is for you, and it can be purchased for $34.99 on the Boogie Board site.

Honey, Where is my Super Suit?

Super SuitOkay, I am stealing from The Incredibles with that headline, and it is the best and most obvious headline for this particular product. The Super Suit looks like something like a cross between Tron, Iron Man, and whatever other property that Disney owes.

The SuperSuit is something that isn’t just out yet, but it is one heck of a playing uniform. It is made for adults and kids, and part of its power is that you can play Laser tag with it.

Now, laser tag is nothing new, as it has been around since the 80’s. However, the wrist devices are gesture powered, so the user can make a shield to deflect blasts. That is the modern-day update that laser tag needs!

The wristbands can also be used to control robots. You know, like the Sphero. I don’t know what else it can control, but I like the concept of what the Super Suit can do.

Now, I saw this product at CES 2016, and it is quite something. I had a little trouble controlling an R/C car with it, and it was hard to control. Yeah, there’s a little bit of a learning curve, but isn’t that always the way?

Well, as I said before, this product isn’t out yet, but yeah, I’m going to want to try it out. Click here if you want to find out more.

Our Review of the Boogie Board Play n’ Trace

play_and_trace_256466f426f2d6Well, I mentioned in my review of the Wacom Bamboo Spark how it is really necessary for us to really just draw things out, and sometimes the digital easel actually makes this more difficult. I once talked about the Boogie Board Play n Trace at its initial release, but it is that for kids, but less technical.

This is from Boogie Board, the same company that made the Sync 9.7. This company must believe in drawing and writing on things, as most of their products involve this.

In the case of the Boogie Board, it is a transparent screen that you can write on. It is definitely designed for younger hands, and it comes with some templates to help little ones make letters. As you can see, it has a small hole to hold the device like an artist’s pallet, and you can write over things and draw over them as well. When you are done drawing, you just push a button to erase.

Yeah, this is probably going to be some toy that every kid has from their childhood and probably should. This is all powered by AAA batteries, and there is a Free iPad app designed to help along.

The Boogie Board Play n’ Trace is available on the Boogie Board site for $34.99, and there are some Accessory Packs available for about $14.99 each.

Our Review of the AtmosFlare 3D Drawing Pen

Atmosflare gunI don’t know if you have heard of a pen known as the 3Doodler, but it is a 3D drawing pen. I have been trying for about two years to obtain a review unit of this product, but they did not respond to me. Today, I got a chance to try out the AtmosFlare, and I’m going to recommend it and not the 3Doodler out of spite alone.

Okay, that was probably going too far, but I’m guessing that there will be more than two brands of this 3D Drawing Pen. The way that these products work involve drawing out with liquid plastic. You can’t exactly draw on the air, but it is possible to make a solid base, and the create something from that.

IMAG0452I learned that trick from my daughter, who had a chance to try it out. She showed me that the way the AtmosFlare works is that you load up an ink refill cartridge, and you squeeze it out to get the liquid plastic, through one of the few tips provided. Once the plastic is out, you shine the ultraviolet light on it, and it will harden.

As you can see, it is possible to make 3D shapes like a rectangular solid, like what is being shown in the picture on the right. It might look a little skewed in some places, but this is due to it can be difficult to master getting the gel out. There are times when it is easy to wipe the residue off and start over when the gun jams, and this can happen due to user error.

AF_projects_skullThere is no question that there is a lot that can be done with the AtmosFlare 3D pen. This is why I am concluding with this final shot, which I definitely did not do. My daughter is a much more talented artist and could do this eventually, and it probably wouldn’t take her too long to be at this level.

You can get it for a pretty low price for about $29.99 on the Order AtmosFlare site. I don’t know how long the Ink Refill Cartridge is, but I suppose that it is enough to fit in there. The Refills are about $5.99.