This $180 toy robot has virtually limitless activities that teach my kids STEM skills, and it's a lot of fun
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- Toy companies are trying to keep up with the consumer demand for products that are both fun and educational.
- With their Dot, Dash, and Cue robots, Wonder Workshop has positioned itself as one of the top names in STEM learning toys.
- I especially liked that the Cue Coding Robot has a vast array of activities that kids can keep coming back to as they develop their tech skills.
- Though the Wonder Workshop Cue Coding Robot is expensive for a toy (currently $179 on Amazon), it's durably built and has enough tasks and missions to keep your child engaged for countless hours.
Growing up, I remember spending long hours building houses with Lincoln Logs, Legos, and other building materials. I enjoyed the endless customization possibilities. Today, my kids still like their building blocks, but with the Information Age, screens are becoming a bigger draw. Fortunately, there are STEM learning toys that teach children to build in whole new ways that past generations could never dream of.
My sons, Jerome (15 years old) and Bucky (4 years old), love anything tech related. And both have experience with a variety of STEM learning tools. After seeing our review of the LittleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit, Wonder Workshop wanted us to test out its Cue Coding Robot for free. Below is our experience with it.
My first experiences with the Cue Coding Robot
As soon as Cue was out of the box, the boys started having fun with it. This device is designed for ages 10 to 15, and I think my boys are just outside of the right age range. Bucky isn't able to read so he needed help using the robot. And, Jerome enjoyed it for a little bit, but it couldn't compete with video games and girls.
There are several accessories you can get to go with Cue, including the Sketch Kit, which we got to test out. The kit allows your child to mount a dry erase marker to the Cue and use the app to draw free form or preprogrammed shapes. There are activity cards that challenge your young one to mimic patterns.
You don't need any of these accessories to get going, though. You just need to charge the robot and have a Bluetooth-enabled device that supports the Cue by Wonder Workshop app. Right now, it works with iOS, Android, Chromebook, and Windows 10 systems. We tried the robot on Android and Windows 10. We could download the app to our Kindle Fire, but it appears the app won't be functional until later this month.
How the Cue Coding Robot performed
Jerome played with Cue nonstop for about three hours after we unboxed it. Bucky was in tow the whole time begging for his chance to play with it. And, they did play together a little bit, but the functions Jerome was interested in were over his brother's head. Eventually, the battery needed to be charged, and Jerome never revisited the robot. However, Bucky was just getting started.
There are virtually limitless ways to enjoy Cue:
- Missions - Broken up into Alien Contact, Treasure Hunt, and Hack3r Hijack, there are nine games within each mission that test your child's logic, math, and language skills.
- Chat - In chat, your child can basically text with the robot, who says funny jokes, shares memes, and makes witty comments.
- Control - There are three intelligent auto modes: explore, avoid, and seek. You can also move Cue around using a virtual joystick, kind of like a remote-control car.
- Create - Cue has an accelerometer, gyro, encoders, proximity sensors, and more that can be used to create adventures.
There are also four avatars with distinct personalities to choose from.
With a background in STEM and robotics, Jerome knew exactly what to do with Cue. I needed a little more help. Fortunately, there are detailed step-by-step tutorials that helped me up the learning curve.
One of the things I look for in any toy is if it will keep my child entertained for hours without help from me. Cue could do that at times. Bucky really enjoyed recording his voice and getting Cue to say what he recorded. He also liked it when I worked with him on missions. The missions and coding were challenging.
I really like that as Bucky gets older, he'll continue to get more and more out of Cue. This is a toy that just keeps giving.
We've had Cue for over two months now, and Bucky still comes to me to ask if he can play with it at least once a week. We've had to limit his playing at times because he'd try to see if he could destroy the robot by sending it down our hardwood stairs. Cue has done an impressive job of not breaking down.
Some concerns about the robot
My biggest issue with Cue was trying to code on my Android phone. The screen only affords so much space, and it was hard to drag and drop items with limited room. This process was a lot easier using my PC, but the phone had a lot more functionality. Plus, it allowed me to be more mobile. If your child has access to an iPad or Bluetooth-enabled Chromebook, they may find the coding to be less tedious.
The Bluetooth range is relatively short. If you're in the same room as Cue, then you shouldn't have a problem. But, if you're trying to pull a prank on your kids from elsewhere in the house, you'll likely have issues because of the limited range.
Lastly, if you are trying to cut down on your child's screen time, Cue is not a good option since they must use a Bluetooth-enabled device in order to play with it. However, the screen time really is education, and it takes them away from video games or the crap on YouTube.
A great STEM toy will teach your child, is fun, and has a wealth of programs, missions, and other tasks that will keep them coming back for more. The Cue Coding Robot exhibits all of these features.
Though the recommended age range is 10 to 15 years old, I strongly believe it can serve as an excellent learning tool for kids under 10 as well. And, for the years of entertainment it will provide, the $179 price tag for the Wonder Workshop Cue Coding Robot is relatively affordable.
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