Review of the Cytron Technologies Edu:Bit STEM and Coding kit

SC Lim of Cytron Technologies was kind enough to send me a review sample of their Edu:Bit, which is based around the micro:bit. Originally a successfully-funded Kickstarter, the Edu:Bit is, primarily, a large, red circuit board which houses a micro:bit and various sensors, a motor controller and some other bits and pieces. The joy in this kit, however, is not so much the technology but is instead the great printed educational material that comes with the kit.

TL;DR – If you want to get into physical computing using the micro:bit, this kit is superb. See the bottom of the post for retailers.

The packaging

You know I like a good bit of packaging, and here it is!

The Edu:Bit comes in a sturdy box containing the physical book, additional cardboard “props”, the Edu:Bit circuit board itself plus other components including a servo motor, a DC motor and a load of Grove plug-in connectors. The plastic housing inside is strong enough that it will keep all the hardware safe for quite a while.

The hardware

The PCB that is the actual Edu:Bit is large at 16cm x 12cm, but that does make it kid-friendly. Everything is well labelled, as you can see. The micro:bit (which comes with the kit) is a version 2 and slots in the top. Cleverly, there is a cut-out behind the micro:bit giving access to the physical on-board reset button. The supplied cable has a USB plug that goes into your computer on one end and then a microUSB plug for programming the micro:bit and a barrel jack to power the Edu:Bit board and (primarily, I suspect) any motors that you may use. You can see the input sensors and outputs in the picture above. Sensibly, they have replicated the A and B buttons from the micro:bit into two big-capped buttons on the bottom right. This puts everything “together” at the bottom of the Edu:Bit. Of particular note is the sound output board bottom left which has an audio jack output which can be switched to using the INT/EXT switch. This really is an excellently-conceived kit – with all those inputs and outputs, you’ve got everything for a group of students (whether home or school-based) to explore the wonderful world of physical computing.

The bits and pieces are all programmable using the usual MakeCode block interface, so that’s wonderfully familiar if you’ve used a micro:bit before and a great way to start with visual programming.

Just as an aside: the sensors can all be broken off to be used with the Grove cables. I didn’t, because I want to keep it intact, but it’s a great way to allow you to take the pieces and put them inside something else, for instance a 3D printed case.

The additional components

Together with the main Edu:Bit, there is a servo motor, a DC motor, some Grove connector cables and some servo-compatible plastic pieces.

The prize of the package – the printed book!

I know I’m prone to gushing with praise occasionally, but in this instance the book that comes with the Edu:Bit is truly worthy of that praise. First of all, the book is the ideal thickness to be not-overwhelming for kids, but it’s no 10-page pamphlet. As you can see above, this has a proper spine, is about 6mm thick and is 126 pages long! It’s also, thank goodness, full colour which means that the appeal to kids continues inside…

The instructions are clear, with just enough help for a visual programming novice (which, as it turns out, is good because I’m *still* a bit clueless when it comes to visual stuff! 🙂 )

Obviously, it takes you through using all of the components on the Edu:Bit – and there is plenty of learning material here. My particular favourite chapter is the music chapter which gives you enough music theory knowledge to make up simple tunes using the on-board speaker (or audio jack) as an output. I was particularly impressed with the extra pages that challenge the reader to carry out a programming task without giving them much help apart from hints as to the way forward. Very good, because it means you have different challenges for different levels of skills, which is great for the classroom, for example. There’s a bonus chapter on using the radio functionality of the micro:bit to communicate with a second micro:bit that I really liked, too.

Reassuringly, the content has been tested by a 7-year old, as the book proudly proclaims!

As well as the book, you also get some cardboard components which are used throughout:

As you can see, there’s a Twister board and there’s also Snakes and Ladders – all great examples of the gamification of the learning, which is very encouraging and, obviously, aimed at children.

Conclusion

This really is a first-class box of fun for youngsters who want to take the leap into physical computing.

From the retail packaging to what is contained inside, Cytron have just got everything right.

I cannot recommend this kit enough – the amount of learning available is amazing, and it’s so well-produced.

Sorry to be so gushing but… No, I’m not really – good job, folks. Cytron Technologies has a winner.

Buying the Edu:Bit

Please note: some of the retailers do not supply the micro:bit with the Edu:Bit, so just keep an eye out for that.

If you’re in the USA, try RobotShop for the Edu:Bit or DigiKey.

In the UK, you can find the Edu:Bit at the following outlets: The Pi Hut, Kitronik and the UK arm of RobotShop.

If you’re in the Far East, you can find the Edu:Bit on the Cytron Technologies website.

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