A few weeks ago, I was asked to review a new electronics kit by the startup, MakeXchange, out of Chicago, IL. In this article, I’m going to speak to the benefits and drawbacks of this kit, as well as who it’s for, and where you can get yours. Let’s dive into this MakeXchange Inventing with Electronics Kit review.
Inventing with Electronics in the Classroom
Inventing with Electronics for Beginners is an Arduino electronics kit designed for students ages 10 and up. As you can see, the packaging is designed like a book. When you open the front cover, the electronic components and cables and wires are divided up into their own little compartments. The Arduino Uno (MakeXchange-branded Clone) and breadboard are mounted to an acrylic base plate. The baseplate is then attached to the inside cover. When students want to learn with the kit, the book’s magnetic binding detaches for easy access.
The kit includes standard components (LEDs, resistors, buttons, potentiometers, jumper wires, etc.) that you can use alongside a project guide to learn electronics.
Benefits to the MakeXchange Inventing with Electronics Kit
The biggest value I think this kit provides is its included Project Guide. The Project Guide is a 62 half-page full-color spiral-bound booklet. And let me tell you, it’s wicked nice.
I’m a very tactile person, which means I like having a booklet or guide or something physical that I can use while I’m learning something new. So, if you’re like me and would rather read a physical book versus an eBook, you’ll appreciate the quality that was put into the Project Guide.
Also, if you’ve never built anything with Arduino or are new to electronics, the Project Guide outlines a very easy-to-read notation. So, if you’re new to electronics, the graphics are really big, and you could easily follow along without any prior knowledge.
Just at first glance, it looks like these projects get more complex as the book goes on. You can start at the beginning not knowing anything about electronics, and then by the end, you’re building mini Arduino games and projects using motors and sensors. The Project Guide is probably the most novel thing that they have, maybe with the exception of their packaging.
Easy clean up, easy storage
The packaging is also very nice. Most toys come in this annoying plastic shell that you have to fight with to take apart. This packaging for this kit is meant to store the components and keep all the little pieces organized. MakeXchange wanted to make something that was self-sufficient. Now you don’t have to go out and buy a storage solution to keep all these parts.
And, anyone that’s familiar with electronics knows that when you have these little tiny components, and younger children using them, it can be really difficult to keep them all contained. You can tell that they spent a lot of time designing and developing the packaging, and that’s really where I think the bulk of your money is going towards for this product.
You’re paying for the full experience
If you have the $90 to spend, by all means, go ahead and buy this kit. It’ll definitely help your son or your niece get into the electronics space. I definitely think that they would enjoy this kit.
I also feel that this kit may not be worth $90. I say that hesitantly because I can tell that MakeXchange put a lot of effort into the packaging and the Project Guide, but the reality is, the electronic components are not that expensive. And you’re buying a kit because you want to learn how to use the components…
The components are just not that expensive, but the whole bundle could be. You could go out and buy all the little pieces if you knew what you were looking for. And that’s really where I see the benefit of this kit. They put it all together and they present it in a very easy-to-understand manner. For this particular kit, you’re paying a premium because you’re getting everything in one bundle: the components, the Project Guide, and a storage solution.
Convenience Learning Could be Worth it
So, with that, you’re going to pay a premium because it’s already packaged for you. You don’t need to think about it. You could put this kit in front of a ten-year-old, give him all the equipment, and then he could sit down like he’s playing with a kit of LEGOs and build himself a circuit. This kit isn’t for makers, hackers, engineers, or anyone who’s built things with Arduino. Let me tell you why.
Not for Makers
If you’re a maker or have used Arduino in the past, this kit probably won’t interest you. There’s nothing novel to it. And that’s okay.
It’s not designed for someone who knows what components he/she needs. So, this would be the wrong kit for you.
You’d be better off taking and stretching your $90 to buy your custom PCB’s, sensors, etc. to build the prototype you’ve designed. But it is great for classroom downtime or possibly libraries looking to get into the creative space.
Overall, it’s a draw
So with perspective in mind, this kit ends up being a draw. What’s valuable to person A, may not be valuable to person B. It really just depends on the situation:
If you’re a 5th-grade teacher, you could get two of these (or one of these) for your in-class library. Students could go and check them out and learn electronics themselves.
You don’t have to be an electronics engineer to have these resources available. I think if that’s the space you’re in, $90 could be worth the student experience.
However, if you can handle buying your own components and supplementing them with a really good electronics book or online tutorial, then you probably won’t see the value in having a $90 Arduino kit (that isn’t branded by Arduino).
Wrap Up and Final Thoughts
In the future, MakeXchange will be launching additional volumes so that you can learn more advanced subjects such as the Internet of Things and Raspberry Pi. If you want us to review any more of their products, be sure to let us know in the comments, below.
Thank you so much for reading this article. If you liked it, go ahead and leave a comment below. When you’re done, be sure to share it with a friend!