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The LEGO BOOST 17101 construction set is one of the latest attempts by the company to really explore a new niche, and this time they’re focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). STEM toys are massive right now and there’s all sorts of kid-friendly options out there, but for kids who perhaps aren’t that experienced in the notion of robotics yet, LEGO BOOST is probably the best.

Now, if you’re anything like me, the first thing you’re going to notice about LEGO BOOST is the price. Wowza. But then you remember this is still LEGO. LEGO isn’t cheap, and it shouldn’t be, because it’s the best. But the robotics aspect of this, and the addition of specialist electronic bricks, does mean that this set is a little more than a standard set. Worth it? In my opinion, you get what you pay for, and what you’re paying for here is a high quality, fun, and comprehensive set that’s got the potential to last.

 

Not 1, But 5 Creations to Build

If the LEGO BOOST set does seem a touch on the expensive side, keep in mind that this isn’t a single build set. Although you do only get enough bricks to build one creation at a time, there are actually 5 different models to try your hand at, so it’s quite a versatile and diverse little kit. The options are Vernie the Robot, Frankie the Cat, Guitar4000, M.T.R.4 (Multi-Tooled Rover 4) and the AutoBuilder. It’s no doubt a good selection, but I do feel that LEGO could have done a bit better in two ways.

Here’s why:

1. Design Complexity

Although there’s 5 very different models to build, there is very little flexibility in the design complexity. Yes, the guitar is probably the easiest of the lot, while the AutoBuilder might be slightly trickier, but there’s really not much in it. We’ve got a kit here designed for 7-12 year olds, which at that age is a pretty big bracket, so it would have been nice to see some variation in complexity to meet all skill levels.

2. Theming

Venturing into controversial zone here, but the whole kits feels a little masculine overall with its blue & orange colour scheme and robot/rover models. Of course, while the number of women in STEM is increasing, it’s still very much a male-dominated sector so no one can blame LEGO for appealing to their target audience. To see more of a gender neutral scheme, however, wouldn’t have been a bad thing.

Onto the builds themselves, they’re not as easy as they look! While I don’t claim to be any sort of LEGO master, I like to think I know my way around a LEGO set, but this definitely took some doing. It’s a challenge, and it’s a challenge that older kids will probably be itching to get stuck into. Younger kids, unless they’re experienced with something like Mindstorms, will likely need a bit of adult supervision.

Surprisingly, there’s actually very little in the way of specialist bricks here, which is strange considering how much the finished models are capable of – moving and shooting missiles, for example. In fact, with the exception of the move hub and the colour and distance sensors, we’re mainly working with standard LEGO bricks here, so even though the builds are complex, there’s a sense of familiarity with is quite comforting! It also opens up doors to customising your models with additional bricks from other sets.

 

Coding LEGO BOOST Creations

I’ve built all 5 structures, I’ve played around with them, and I’ve sat thought about the coding process in probably more detail than I should have (I think I definitely earned the ‘Procrastination King’ title that day), and I still can’t decide whether I’m down with the coding setup, or whether it seems a bit patronising? Now, LEGO BOOST is designed for kids as young as 7, so obviously what’s patronising to me at… an age older than 7… won’t seem patronising to them, but something just seems a little bit ‘off’.

The whole point of LEGO BOOST, as I see it, is to delve a bit deeper into the STEM world than kids have explored already, but this isn’t meant to be an introduction. Things like the Fisher Price Code-a-Pillar are an introduction, this is designed to go a bit further. We know this by the complexity of the builds. Even for an adult, these builds need a bit of attention; you can’t do them while simultaneously whipping up a homemade lasagne and watching Emmerdale. So to find the that coding setup is brightly coloured drag-and-drop boxes just doesn’t seem in keeping with this notion of taking things one step further.

Everything about the LEGO BOOST set feels ‘grown up’ except for the coding aspect, which feels like it’s been designed for children younger than 7. On the one hand this is good, especially for kids who haven’t had much of an introduction to coding yet. On the other hand, shouldn’t kids aged 7+ also be encouraged to improve their reading and comprehension through a text-based coding system? Possibly a controversial comment, as LEGO BOOST is mainly focused on coding, not literacy, but it feels like the coding part of it has been ‘dumbed down’ slightly to fit in with the touch and drag nature of a tablet PC.

Of course, it can’t be denied that drag and drop boxes and tablets get on like a house on fire, and despite this feeling of it being dumbed down, it has to be acknowledged that the whole thing actually works very well. There’s certainly a decent selection of interactive behaviours, all of which go through minor changes to make them relevant to whatever model you’re working on. And do you know, these behaviours are impressive. For a kit that is specifically designed not to be as good as its big brother, LEGO Mindstorms, I’ll admit that I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the range of interaction with LEGO BOOST.

 

Final Thoughts

Call me old fashioned, but I really don’t think you can beat the traditional LEGO sets. But that hasn’t stopped LEGO from trying and, to be honest, they’re not doing too bad a job. Yes, there’s room for improvement, but there is with anything. Despite a few picky comments about the way the coding is handled and the colour scheme, I can’t find anything truly negative to say about LEGO BOOST 17101, which is the first (and currently only) kit in the LEGO BOOST range. Personally, I’m very much hoping we see more in the future, because this set has what it takes to get kids interested in STEM.

What’s in the Box

LEGO BOOST Construction Set

LEGO BOOST 17101
Design85%
Usability65%
Fun85%
Addictability75%
Education90%
80%Overall Score
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