Snap Circuits: Discover Coding
Snap Circuits: Discover Coding by Elenco is a circuitry kit that is intended for ages eight and up. The set comes with a project manual, two speakers, the SC Controller piece, circuit connector pieces, a fan, and other assorted parts.
The Snap Circuits App (available for free on the Apple App Store (iOS 12.4+) and Google Play Store (Android 5.0+)) is required to use this kit. The user must also provide four AA batteries, which will power the circuits. There are two different types of coding available for use in the app: BOTCode and BLOCKLY. BOTCode is a visual language specifically tied to the specific ports on the SC Connector piece. For example, if the user chooses to code for a light that is connected to the port D1 then they will add the D1 statement to the overall program to be run. Then the user can decide how long they want the program to run, whether they want to loop the program until a stop command is given, and if they want the port to run at a high or low voltage (that is, on or off). BOTCode is meant as more of an introduction into coding for younger users and, as they progress through the projects and understand them more, they can switch to BLOCKLY for a more challenging and fleshed-out (still visual) language.
The project manual comes with 18 projects of varying difficulty to ease the user into it. The projects first have the user set up the circuitry, which will then be programmed through the app. Once they have correctly configured the code into the app, the user will run the program and see if they achieved the desired result. The back of the manual also contains a space for users to create their own challenges once they feel like they understand how coding works.
This toy is an excellent gateway that exposes younger children to coding and how it works. It helps cultivate spatial reasoning, computational, creative, and critical thinking, and programming/coding skills. If the desired reaction from the circuit is not obtained, the user will have to reassess and determine if the problem was in their code or circuitry connections. There is a learning curve for using the app and making sure that the code is exactly how the user intended it to be, so adult aid is highly recommended for younger users. Once the user is proficient in using the code and setting up the circuits, they will be able to use their creativity to create their own programs and arrangements, employing iterative design until the desired result is produced.
Overall, Snap Circuits: Discover Coding is a great toy for children to strengthen their skills in spatial reasoning, computational and creative thinking, and programming/coding.
Engineering Design Process
Apply Science, Engineering, Mathematics Knowledge
Moore, T.J., Glancy, A.W., Tank, K.M., Kersten, J.A., Smith, K.A., & Stohlmann, M.S. (2014). A framework for quality K-12 engineering education: Research and development. Journal of Precollege Engineering Education Research, 4(1), 1-13.