Lego fever continues in the Chu household with Lego Boost and the building of Vernie, a surprisingly endearing robot that can be easily programmed with a few swipes on the iPad. So of course we’ve made a little video of the unboxing and build process!
I have to say – I thought it would take the girls (currently age 6 and 8) a couple of days or so to build Vernie. I mean – this isn’t a Friends Treehouse set. It’s a working robot. Surely that’s a fiddly, pretty complicated kind of thing. “Don’t worry if you only just get part of it done today, we can always continue tomorrow,” I said casually as they eagerly tipped the 847 Lego pieces onto a clear table.
Miss Chu has dabbled with Lego WeDo before, and found the assembly and programming a little frustrating at times. I announced that I would be on standby to help if they needed me, and then left them to it.
After about three hours of building, the girls had completed a fully-functioning Vernie – with minimal intervention from me. I was pretty shocked. Firstly – that they managed to build it correctly, and secondly, that it worked straightaway. All instructions were provided via the Lego Boost app, a wordless graphic interface which they navigated easily. “But where’s the menu?” I asked peering over Miss Chu’s shoulder. “What menu? You just click on the different parts of the picture to find what you need,” came the impatient reply.
All credit to Lego – with Boost they’ve designed something that kids understand. It’s not only straightforward to make – it actually surprisingly robust and can take stress and strain of being manhandled by kids without falling apart.
Although Miss Chu was overseeing the building process, even Little Miss was able to follow the instructions and build many of the components herself. I’d say she could probably have managed 80-90% of the build on her own. It works quite well as a project for two kids, because Vernie is perfectly symmetrical so they could sort of simultaneously work on one side each. Amazingly the girls worked really well together on the build, with unusually low levels of bickering.
The construction is broken up into manageable chunks and is cleverly sequenced to motivate kids to keep going. For example, the head goes on quite quickly, at which point the robot makes the jump from a bunch of bricks to “Vernie”. He takes on a persona and all of a sudden the kids are talking to it. They can also start to programme the robot without having even made the arms and legs, so he comes to life quite early on!
Not only was the build very achievable for kids – the programming is very child-friendly too. It uses a pictorial drag-and-drop block programming interface where each block has a little icon to describe its action. Some blocks can be modified: for example, you can define distances moved or sounds made. And there are enough interesting, humorous and customisable actions to keep the kids entertained with the programming. My two also loved building the little accessories for Vernie and decked him out with sunglasses, a bow tie and a microphone! So far they’ve managed to make him talk, dance, shoot an arrow and move round an obstacle course.
The girls have really taken to Vernie and are enjoying discovering what this little robot can do; I can foresee that it’s going to be hard to convince them to dismantle him to try the other Boost projects!
My only gripe is that Vernie is eating his way through my supply of AAA batteries rather quickly….😅.
Wishing all our friends and readers a Happy New Year, hope you will continue to join us on EveryChusDay in 2018!