Microduino, a leader in easy-to-use STEM products, has expanded its STEM product line to include the code programmable toy (CPT), Itty Bitty Buggy. Microduino sent us an Itty Bitty Buggy to review and it has been like opening Pandora’s box. To put it simply, the Itty Bitty Buggy is a build-your-own robot kit that can be used to make 4 pre-programmed projects or to create a custom build and programming project. An Android or iOS device is connected via Bluetooth and you use the Itty Bitty Buggy app to operate. Adventure parents and children have all been enjoying this easy-to-use CPT.
The base Buggy can be used alone or as the base to build a Sloth, a Ladybug, a Dodo-bird and an Alien. Itty Bitty Buggy connects to any Android or iOS device via Bluetooth. The Itty Bitty Buggy app walks you through visual instructions on how to construct these four configurations (as well as the 3 projects in the upcoming expansion kit). Once you build an Itty Bitty Buggy project, select play mode on the app to begin. The remote control allows you to move the Buggy in any direction using two control toggles. There are also modes that allow the Buggy to follow a line, follow voice commands, and recognize colors as musical notes. You can take the STEAM fun one step further by creating custom code. This takes more experience and requires the use of Scratch, Python or Arduino (C++) programming. Itty Bitty Buggy helps cultivate interest and logical thinking of programming, and provides more opportunity for kids to learn and practice programming. The base buggy is also LEGO-compatible allowing for custom builds.
When we first opened the box we couldn’t wait to see it in action so we set up the Buggy and started playing. My 5-year-old was able to use the remote control with no problem. The Buggy steering alignment was off, but there is a setting to manually adjust the speed and calibration so it can go straight when you direct it forward. The Line Tracing and Music mode were a big hit in our house! Your Buggy will follow a line map which you can draw. It will make its journey along the lines. Change the lines and your Buggy changes its direction, too! Included with the Buggy is a Line Tracing map as well as a large map PDF you can download from the Microduino website. The Line Tracing function requires a line that is 4cm wide which can be cumbersome to draw accurately for young children. We were able to make a couple custom paths using markers and paper, but we found using the computer to print out a custom path was faster. The Voice Commands were not super successful when the kids said the commands. Between the laughing, speech impediments, and excitement, the commands were not easily recognized. The Adventure Parents were more successful in saying commands so they were recognized.
Your Buggy will recognize colors too! With Musical Color Recognition every color represents a musical note, so you can also create a beautiful musical world. The Music mode is very interesting because it introduces the do re mi music notes allowing kids to compose their own songs or try to recreate known songs using the 7 notes. The Buggy plays notes based on color and the included map has a small keyboard, but we found it awkward to use for creating music. The buggy produces loud notes which made practicing in Music mode a very noisy experience. The large map PDF also has a keyboard and includes a song. We made our own compositions on the computer to print out because it was easier than trying to draw the colors on paper.
Once we had exhausted the play modes for the Buggy we started building the other projects: Sloth, Ladybug, Dodo-bird & Alien. The Sloth was everyone’s favorite even though it has the fewest play modes. The Sloth is a slow climber that can move across objects resembling limbs. The claws occasionally get stuck or miss the target causing an arm to slip off and the sloth cannot move until it is adjusted. The novelty of a climbing robot was worth the occasional hang up. We tried letting our Sloth climb on everything in the house, but the kids favorite was when it climbed up and down their arms! The Ladybug crawls around, can follow lines, use voice commands, and play music. With 6 legs, the movement is more cumbersome than agile. We laughed out loud the first time we saw the little legs start moving. The Dodo Bird flaps its wings as it crawls around in cruise mode, following a line, using voice commands and playing music. The kids loved the flapping wings and asked a lot of questions about real Dodo birds. The Alien is a different play experience because it doesn’t move. The Voice Commands can ‘wake up’ the alien with a “Hello” and then ‘shake hands’. The Alien is more interactive without the app than the others and the kids loved playing with it. Overall the open-ended play opportunities and extensive STEAM value outweigh the aspects we didn’t love about the Itty Bitty Buggy.
- Recommended for kids 8 and up.
- Great STEAM value (engineering, programming, physics, technology, music composition and design)
- Start base Buggy expansion pack and mCookie compatibility allow for very complex STEAM projects.
- Supports & teaches Scratch, Python and Arduino (C++) programming although no coding is required.
- Fair price: currently $59.99 on www.microduino.com.
- Great online resources for inspiration and assistance.
- Easy to use with in app picture build directions and play information.