Build really cool Lego robots, and then control them with your tablet? Yes, please. Lego Boost ($160 on Amazon) is aimed at kids ages 7 to 12, so I was a little worried that it would be too hard to enjoy with my son—he’s 5 (and a half!) and just started kindergarten. But while I had to direct the complicated builds, controlling the finished robots and vehicles with the iPad app was well within his grasp—and so much fun for both of us.
Lego Boost teaches kids in two ways: The builds themselves are a lesson in mechanics, showing how the motor, gears, and pieces fit together to make a moving robot. Plus, the tablet app is full of programming challenges to direct the robot to do what you want him to do.
How Lego Boost works
One Lego Boost kit lets you make five robots, one at a time. That’s because the “brains” of each robot is the Move Hub, a little box covered in Lego bricks. It contains the batteries (you’ll need 6 AAAs), the Bluetooth chip that communicates with your tablet (iPad, Android, or Fire), and a friendly green power button.
The Move Hub also has a couple of ports, where you connect wires from two other special Lego pieces. One is a motor, and can turn wheels, control arms and legs, and so on. The other is a sensor that can be used for input—you can program the robot to react when he sees or hears something.
First you’ll build Vernie the Robot, following step-by-step with instructions in the app. The first phase, building the robot’s body and head, took me about 40 minutes. Then you get to use the iPad to turn him on and have him say hi before you plunge into next phase, building his wheels. I like how the app breaks things up a little like this, because the complex builds took me a while, even working alone and moving quickly.
Once Vernie’s body, wheels, and arms were finished, my son and his buddies loved using the iPad to have him move around. Everything he can do is represented as a little puzzle piece in a toolbar along the bottom. Kids can drag pieces into the programming area, string them together, and then press Play to have the robot act out each step.
Programming the Lego Boost robots
Lego Boost also comes with a play mat you can use to help you design your programs. The mat is divided into a grid, so when you program a movable robot to go forward once, it moves one space on the grid. That way, kids can decide where they want the robot to go, and then count how many times it needs to go forward and where it should turn.