Tuesday, 12 January 2016

DuinoKit Jr Hands On Review - Arduino for Kids

The DuinoKit Jr is an Arduino learning environment which comes on a single board and is packaged in a metal case which stores jumper wires and the USB cable needed to connect the kit to a PC. You also get a set of spy-style mission cards that teach hardware control through a series of fun lessons that use the kit.

Arduino is a popular choice for hardware control projects and learned how to develop for the Arduino platform is a really useful skill set for young people. 

In this hands-on review we'll take you through what to expect from the DuinoKit Jr and give our views on the kinds of families and kids that would benefit from it. 

Disclosure: Tech Age Kids received a DuinoKit Jr for this review. This doesn't influence our opinions. 


The DuinoKit Jr is a learning and prototyping kit for controlling electronics components using the popular Arduino platform. It's a self-contained package with hardware and lessons, you just connect to a PC for programming.

The kit contains a single board with lots of electronics components mounted on it. You don't need to solder components or even attach them to breadboard. You just use simple jumper wires to connect components.

Educational content, written by a teacher, is provided which teaches Arduino development skills. The content is presented as a series of Missions which will appeal to young people.

Once the course has been completed a young person will have the skills to come up with their own projects using the kit and to use it for prototyping projects that they can then build from regular components.

DuinoKit Jr is the smaller version of the DuinoKit which started as a Kickstarter project.

Required Skills

DuinoKit Jr would be suitable for older children and teenagers who already have some experience of programming using a text-based programming language. The focus here is learning how to control hardware. The programming required is not complex, but would be a big jump for someone with no previous coding experience.

For families with younger children a DuinoKit would make an interesting family project with parent and child working together and this is how we have been using it. My 7 and 9 year olds have really enjoyed trying it out. They are able to complete the simpler missions himself with guidance from a parent - the main thing that stops my younger son doing more himself is his typing speed. 


The Arduino Nano processor and all the electronics components used in the projects are mounted on a single board. The components on the board are all clearly labelled so you can see what everything is:

This includes a really good range of components:
  • Lots of coloured LEDs, some paired with push button switches
  • An RGB LED
  • A light sensor
  • Temperature and humidity sensor
  • A potentiometer (variable resistor)
  • An LCD (liquid crystal display)
  • A distance sensor
  • Piezo buzzer (horrible noise maker!)
  • Real time clock
  • Rotary encoder 
  • Infra-red sender and receiver (as used by remote controls)

The required resistors are built in to the board and you also get jumper wires and a USB cable to connect to a computer.

There's also a battery input so you can make projects portable once they are programmed. This is a nice touch for showing off completed projects.

The main omission is motors or servos, but they tend to be a focus with most robot programming kits so it's actually nice to have something different.

Getting Started

You'll need a PC to write software on and you use the provided USB cable to connect the DuinoKit to the computer.

We found that the USB cable is a bit of a tight fit between the components, but it does go in and we could leave the cable connected and still close the case so it only had to be done once.

To use the DuinoKit you need to install the Arduino software development IDE and possibly drivers, select the right board and COM port. 

This is where the kit falls down slightly. There's not a lot of information on how to do this and it can be a bit daunting if you've never done it before. It's tricky to have detailed instructions because it depends on the operating system and other details. You can go to the online forum for help if you need it. 

Getting started wasn't a problem for us, but I'd recommend getting through the setup part before you give the kit to an enthusiastic child.

Mission Cards (Projects)

The DuinoKit Jr comes with a set of 20 Mission Cards. These make the difference between having a load of electronics kit that sits in a cupboard gathering dust and actually having your kids learn about Arduino programming.

The mission format drew my kids in immediately. As they complete each mission and its sub-missions you tick them off on an accomplishments card which is a great motivator. There are guided parts and 'should you choose to accept it!' follow on activities.

The Mission Cards include a wide variety of projects that use the included electronics components in fun ways. You get to build a Weather Station, a Morse Code Device and learn how remote controls work, plus lots more. 

There's plenty of breadth here and you get to use a really wide variety of components. 

Storage Case

I'm rather obsessed with storage for our tech, we have lots of kit and it's really annoying when the kids are keen to do a project and we can't find something. The DuinoKit Jr scores very highly in this regard, it comes with its own metal flight case. 

The board with all the electronics is fixed in the case. The case has room for the USB cable, jumper wires and mission cards. 

This is a fantastic design. It means that everything is ready to go whenever you need it. The case looks fantastic when it's stored and it's so much more durable than a cardboard box. It's also very techie-looking and really appealed to my kids as soon as they saw it.

Home Use

DuinoKit is a good choice in homes where parents haven't got a lot of technical expertise or would struggle to find time or inspiration to come up with lots of projects. 

The course is well structured so once teens are up and running they will be able to work through the kit independently and develop the skills they need to come up with their own projects. 

For younger kids DuinoKit would be great for families that want to learn together. 

Clubs and Schools

DuinoKit Jr would work really web in an after-school or holiday tech club or camp. The completeness of the solution means that it would be possible for an interested teacher to just stay a lesson ahead of the children.

There are certainly cheaper options for hardware few offer such a complete solution. But you'll have to worry about designing compatible circuits and including resistors. This is all done for you with the DuinoKit.

Cheaper options typically require a lot more effort to turn into a course that you can teach. You'll either need to purchase a companion book or write your own lesson plans and you'll need to think about how children will access tutorial materials. 

You might want to laminate the DuinoKit Mission Cards to protect them, but the lesson content is all there, ready to go and designed for the hardware.  

If you bought separate components you would also have to think about how you will store and keep track of all the components. With DuinoKit you just grab the case and go. 

There's very little to do to set up a DuinoKit at the beginning of a lesson or pack it away at the end of a lesson so you can really make the most of the time.


DuinoKit Jr is a brilliant introduction to microprocessor programming for older kids and teens who are comfortable with text-based programming. It also works well as a project kit for a family to use if the parents are willing to get involved and work on projects along with their kids. 

We would also recommend the DuinoKit Jr as a packaged solution for schools and clubs. 

Do expect to give kids a bit of help getting everything installed and ready to go before they complete their first mission. 

Note that there's also a larger DuinoKit with more components which is suitable for more experienced teenagers and adults too.   

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