mCookie Electronics Kits from Microduino – Review #STEM
What do you get if you combine electronics and Lego ? – mCookie from Microduino ! mCookie is a series of magnetic, stackable modules that allow you to explore electronics and create projects that include both working electronics and Legos. They are simple to use, require no soldering and are sold in a variety of starter kits as well as by individual components. I tested the mCookie 101 Basic kit which is the simplest of the mCookie kits available. The basic kit includes 4 modules: 1 core USB module, 1 Bluetooth 4.0 module, 1 battery management module, 1 sensor hub module; 6 sensors: 2 LED color sensors, 2 crash/impact sensors, 1 buzzer sensor, 1 microphone sensor; plus instructions for a variety of simple projects.
To program the projects you first need to install Arduino IDE program plus the mCookie drivers on your computer, this is pretty straight forward and the directions can be found here. The kit includes a brochure with instructions for 3 projects, the mCookie website has instructions for 6 projects that can be done with the 101 kit. You can also buy additional modules and sensors individually to allow you to build more of the many mCookie projects that are listed on the website.
To test how user friendly the projects are I had my 12 year old son do the first 2 projects without any assistance from me. For his first project he built a Lego birthday cake. When he pressed a switch it sang Happy Birthday and the candle lit up . His second project was to build a Bluetooth controlled Lego lamp with a dixie cup lampshade. Then I completed one of the projects without any help from him I chose the Grumpy Grandpa project, which I’ll describe below to give you an idea of how the projects are done.
This project uses the Microphone sensor, buzzer, switch, core module, battery module and hub module. It is designed to respond to loud noises by setting off the buzzer, which can then be turned off with the switch.
Software: The first step with all the projects is to connect the core module to your computer via the USB cable and open the Arduino IDE program. From there you can choose the Grumpy Grandpa file and download it to the Core Module. The user can just download the program and use it. However, if they want to learn more about the program and how to tweak it they are given the information to do so. The website explains the program step by step and explains changes they can make to the program.
Hardware: The hardware set up for the project is shown both by pictures and by text. For the Grumpy Grandpa project I did notice a mistake in the written directions for the first step, although the diagram is correct.
Step 1: Use the included wires to connect the buzzer to port 6/7 of the Hub, the switch (crash sensor) to port 4/5 and the microphone to port A0/A1. The pictures show which port is which. The wires are a little fiddly to instal, so I wouldn’t recommend this for under 12’s.
Step 2: Switch on the battery box and use the wires to connect it to the Battery Module
Step 3: Stack the Battery, Core and Hub Modules. the Hub has to be on top due to the wires but the others can be in any order. The modules are magnetic to very simple to stack.
Step 4: Build your Lego Grandpa and attach the electronics. There is a picture of a sample Grandpa, but you would need some specialized pieces e.g. a 90 degree connector to make this so I built mine very differently. Both my son and I had some difficulties with connecting the projects to the Lego. The Modules are easy to build legos on top of as their top surfaces are Lego compatible, the lower surfaces need to use connectors. There are 4 connectors included – you need 2 to connect the battery box and 2 to connect the stack of modules. You can purchase extras on the mCookie website, but would be nice if spares were included because if you lose one, as my son did, it becomes tricky to connect the project to your Lego Build. The sensors are also not Lego compatible so we found it tricky to get then to stay in place well without resorting to using tape. mCookie has addressed this problem with the sensors in the second generation of the mCookie kits by making the sensors also Lego compatible.
Pricing and availability:
The 101 kit is sold out and being replaced by the updated 102 kit. The second generation mCookie kits including mCookie 102 kit and the Itty Bitty City are currently available on Indiegogo for a substantial discount. The 102 Kit is 42% off at $52 and the Itty Bitty City is $79. The Itty Bitty City brings even more Lego builds to life including making remote controlled vehicles. After the Indiegogo is over the new kits will be available via the Microduino website.
mCookie is a series of magnetic, stackable modules that allow you to explore electronics and create projects that include both working electronics and Legos. In the first generation kits e.g. the 101 that we tested the modules are Lego Compatible but the sensor are not, this has been fixed in the second generation kits e.g. 102 which are due to ship next month. These kits are a great way to get Middle School and High School students engaged in building electronics projects without soldering. They allow them to bring Lego builds to life and to learn how to change the computer program that controls the project- fun and creative STEM education. I have been using the kit as part of our STEM projects for homeschooling my 7th grader.
NOTE: A product was supplied by the company for review purposes, no other form of compensation was received, all opinions stated in the review are those of the author and have been offered honestly. Reviews may include affiliate links.