Monday, 13 November 2017

Code Car from Let's Start Coding Review


Code Car is a new programmable electronics board from Let's Start Coding. The circuit board is in the shape of a car and has four buttons, four coloured LEDs and a speaker.

We've previously reviewed the larger Let's Start Coding kids are really liked the approach. The Code Car is a simpler and cheaper option for children aged 8/9+.

Disclosure: We received a Code Car for the purposes of this review. As always our opinions are our own.

Out of Box Experience

The Code Car is nicely packaged in a clear plastic box and comes with a cable for programming and a set of cards with code samples to use as a reference.



The packaging clearly says 'Free software and lessons at www.letsstartcoding.com'. You'd be surprised how often that information is hard to find! But here it's straightforward.

I got my 11-year-old son to try out the Code Car. He actually wants to design a similar board himself (but not a car.) and understood the idea straight away.


Getting Started

I didn't give my son any help. He worked out the website he needed to go to and completed the setup and found the lessons.

There's video content and clear instructions for getting started.

The Lessons

The approach taken is that kids work with real typed code written in Arduino C but they are given starter projects so they don't have to do too much typing.

There are 14 lessons plus a further project to encourage hacking (exploration.)

The projects have video content that explains the concepts and code used.

There's lots of information as well as challenges to complete and quizzes that test that concepts have been understood.

My son really enjoyed working through the projects, completing them and adapting them.

You can make the car stand up using a pencil but my son preferred to do things the hard way and get it to balance!


Hacking

My son wanted to program the car to play music but he understands musical notes or Midi notes as in Scratch, not the frequencies in Hertz used by the Code Car. He was easily able to find a mapping between the different representations so that he could write music.

He did comment that kids don't understand frequencies so it would be nice to have an alternative so it was easier to write and understand music code.

Difficulty / Age Range

Let's Start Coding recommend the Code Car from age 8+ (on the website) and age 9+ (in the product packaging.) Some kids this age will not be ready to start typed coding even using this approach, but others will. It will help if children are comfortable using a text editor. They don't need to be able to touch type but keyboard familiarity is necessary. They will need to work with punctuation.

My son spent an afternoon working through the projects independently. He's got a fair bit of experience so I can see how a slightly younger child would manage if they had the motivation.

Verdict

This is a really accessible coding kit which teaches the basics of Arduino programming in a really accessible way. 

It's a great taster of the Let's Start Coding platform which provides a way for kids to get started with typed code without the boring bits. Personally, I don't think there's any hurry to move kids on to text-based coding, but when kids are ready to make the next step the Code Car is a great option. 





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