What is mBot Neo?
When Makeblock approached me about reviewing the mBot Neo, I was intrigued. In my last couple of years of teaching, when I was STEM Lab Coordinator, “coding” was starting to emerge in elementary schools. My students participated in Hour of Code programming challenges and used Scratch on a fundamental level. As part of the Science and STEAM, I try to stay current on everything related to STEAM. This includes coding and robotics.
When we built our STEM programs in elementary and middle schools, we had to sort through many materials to see what would best meet the needs of students. Hopefully, this review will help you as you choose which coding robot(s) is the best fit for you and your kids.
mBot Neo is a programmable robot made for kids ages 8 to 12. Here is a video showing you a little more about it.
How to Put the mBot Neo Together
The mBot Neo was pretty easy to put together. From the time I started opening the box to completion took me less than an hour. For someone with no experience building robots, I think this was good.
There are a couple of things that would have made it easier. While the screws were packaged in different bags, the size of the screw was not on the bag. I needed to keep referring back to the page in the instruction booklet to see which screw was which. When I finished building the mbot Neo, one wire was left. I assumed I had missed a step and contacted customer service to see where it should be hooked up. I was told it was extra. In this case, it would have saved me time if it had been labeled as such. Other than that, the instructions were straightforward. A nifty two-headed screwdriver came with the kit, so nothing else was needed.
Students and the mBot Neo
Since neither of us is still in the classroom, we asked a teacher friend, Eric, if he had students he thought would enjoy checking out the mBot. He had a couple of kids in mind right away. The students have been doing coding since kindergarten. They used Scratch and the Hour of Code in grades kindergarten through fourth. In fifth grade, they were introduced to SNAP. The students have also coded robots using BirdBrain Technologies’ Finch robot.
Overall Impression (Likes and Dislikes)
Since the students had experience using Scratch, they found coding simple. Python programming can also be used. The code is uploaded to the mBot, allowing it to run autonomously. They liked that it could be controlled through an app on their smartphone. They particularly enjoyed the drive and draw feature.
The students found that the mBot strayed from a straight line when going more than three or four meters. Unfortunately, the code cannot be uploaded from a personal smart device in school.
Despite this, students said the mBot Neo was their favorite robot so far!
Was the MakeBot Website Friendly?
I found that makebot.com didn’t take me anywhere. The teacher and students working with the robot found the same thing. When we Googled mBot Neo, we found the website right away. It was informative for adding coding extensions and coding movement. However, it provided little input for using the various sensors.
Other Coding Robots for Kids
I belong to several STEM teacher groups. The topic of the best robots for kids to use in school often arises. Here is a list of robots that come up frequently. Dash and Ozobot seem to get the most favorable reviews from teachers.
This little robot seems to be one of the teachers’ favorites due to its flexibility. It has many content options and is durable. Many teachers use it in primary grades, but others use it through middle school.
Ozobots are another teacher favorite. Their website has a great bank of lessons tied to many standards.
Teachers with Sphero like them. However, they don’t get as many recommendations as Dash and Ozobots from teacher groups. Comments indicate that Spheros aren’t very durable. Some teachers found them hard to get set up.
Teachers like that Botley lends itself to offline coding activities. They are easy to code. One thing that frustrates teachers and students alike is that the remotes run off the same frequency, confusing the robots.
With all robots, students will learn valuable skills. They will see how real-world technologies work and get experience programming with code. Kids learn about problem-solving and use logical thinking skills. They must communicate and collaborate with others. Many programs also help students understand science concepts such as electricity, light, sound, forces, and more.
If you want your kids to be able to build a robot using screws, nuts, and bolts, then mBot has the advantage.
How Much is the mBot Neo, and Where Can I Purchase It?
You can purchase the mBot Neo directly from the Makeblock site. The mBot Neo is $139 both on their site and on Amazon. The mBot Neo also comes in pink, which some kids might like. mBot Neo comes with a rechargeable battery, which is a plus. There are a range of other robots on their site as well. Robots are made for students as young as three and as old as nineteen. Many extension packs can be purchased as students grow and learn.
So, Which Robot is Right for You?
Only you can decide which coding robot will meet your needs. We hope this article will help you in making your decision.
If you are in the market for a laser printer, Makeblock has a sister site xTool, a leading manufacturer of laser cutters and engravers. My husband used a laser engraver with his upper-elementary and middle school students. Students loved programming the laser and creating things. It certainly empowered students in hands-on learning.
And remember, it’s all science!