Technology

Botzees Robotics Kit Review: A Great Coding Tool For Young Kids

Rating:
7/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $100

Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

For only $100, you can make your child the happiest person alive and write it off as being educational. Botzees Robotics Kit lets your kid build robots that can move around, and then create unique coding commands that the robot responds to. How cool is that?

Botzees Robotics Kit has 130 building pieces, as well as two motors and one sensor. Yes, the kit is expensive, but you’re essentially paying for the robotic pieces and a learning experience for your kid, as long as they’re at least four years old. You can buy a LEGO set with 1500 pieces for the same price and for ages four and up, but these building blocks aren’t capable of producing robots that can move, make noise, and respond to their external environment. (LEGO does have their own robotics kits—they’re pretty pricey though.)

A STEM or coding toy, like Botzees Robotics Kit, is a brain-enriching toy masquerading as simple fun to a kid. To them, it’s just another toy, but they’re actually learning how to think critically and use logic to work through problems. Even though I’m older now, I still had fun playing with this robotics kit—and I definitely would have loved it as a kid.

Here’s What We Like

  • Great intro to coding for young kids
  • Durable pieces
  • Multiple builds and coding possibilities

And What We Don’t

  • The companion apps could use some work
  • Botzee is the only fleshed out robot build
  • Have to get a tablet or smartphone to work with it

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Size & Durability of the Pieces

Botzees robotics kit building pieces sitting in open box
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

Right off the bat, the first thing I noticed about the pieces was how large they are. These bigger pieces with rounded edges are specially designed for tiny hands, making it easy to push pieces together and pull them apart. If you’ve ever taken apart traditional LEGO bricks with your hands, you know how difficult it is to separate them sometimes (unless you’ve got the handy dandy piece separator). Your kid definitely won’t have that issue with these blocks.

Aside from being easier to handle, the blocks in this kit also feel incredibly sturdy. Because they’re larger, the plastic is able to be a bit thicker and hopefully less prone to breaking or cracking over time. There are many uniquely shaped pieces that give you a lot to work with when creating a custom build, and the eight available builds do a good job of utilizing all the pieces in the set at least once.

Since all the pieces are plastic—besides the robotic parts—it’s easy to keep germs at bay when needed by sanitizing them. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but just in case, you should definitely not submerge the robotic motors or sensor in any liquid and take extreme caution if you choose to sanitize these pieces.

I’ll go into more detail about the robotic pieces later, but here’s a brief overview of what’s included in this kit. There are three robotic pieces: a Light ‘n Motion Sensor, a Spin ‘n Move Motor, and a Smart Hub. The Smart Hub is what powers everything, and its battery charges via an included micro-USB to USB-A cable.

The Light ‘n Motion Sensor has lights inside and is able to detect motion from a range you can set within the mobile app. Then, the Spin ‘n Move Motor is responsible for your robot build spinning its head or receiving commands to move around the room on its wheels.

Available Builds

Didi the crocodile build of Botzees robotics kit
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

With this kit alone, there are eight available robots you can build, all of which use the smart hub. You can also buy add-on sets with more unique builds—like the Dinosaur Kit or the Unicorn Kit—but these are the eight possible builds with the main Botzees Kit:

  • Botzee: This is the main robot your kid will likely play with in this kit. Botzee uses all three robotic components together, which means there’s a lot he can do. He can roll forwards and backward on the floor, and with the motor component, he can turn left and right while he’s moving or standing still. I even made a three-point turn with Botzee flawlessly. He makes sounds, lights up, and has actions that can be triggered via the sensors with external sound or motion.
  • Didi: The alligator robot, named Didi, uses the motor to open and close her jaw. Then, she uses the motion sensor to play games with you, one of which involves you trying to move your hand away before she closes her mouth on it. The motion sensor looks a bit awkward in this build because it’s not incorporated well; it just sits next to her mouth.
  • Tyton: With this owl build, there’s not a whole lot you can do. He doesn’t have wheels, so he can’t move around, and he doesn’t have the motion sensor or motor attached. The only thing Tyton does is spin his head and body around to dance. There were a few times I thought he was going to fall over while doing this, but he never did.
  • Rex: Another rolling build, Rex is a dog that can use all three robotic pieces, or you can leave off the light and motion sensor. When this sensor is placed on top, it kind of looks like Botzee is walking Rex. In addition to rolling, Rex can also wiggle his back end similar to how a real dog would.
  • Selix: This might be one of my favorite builds simply because of how cute he is. Selix resembles a seal, and he moves around just as you’d expect. There are these yellow “flipper” pieces attached where the wheels would usually go, and he uses those to move forward or in a circle. Like Botzee, Selix’s build also uses all three robotic components.
  • Turbo: A classic work truck driven by Botzee, Turbo primarily uses the smart hub and wheels for its power, but the light and motion sensor with “eyes” sits on top to make it look like Botzee is driving the truck. Turbo has two sets of wheels, and because of a space in between each set of wheels, he has a super easy time making turns. Overall, this build was fun to play around with.
  • Ryngo: I wanted to like this build, but it fell flat for me. Ryngo is a drumming monkey that just looks really cool. He uses all three robotic components, and I felt like he had a ton of potential, but while drumming, his arms and ears kept coming off. His arms would sometimes swing too far back, get stuck behind his ears, and then the pieces would loosen when his arm forced its way forward again to hit the drum.
  • Audia: This is another stationary build, like Didi or Tyton, though it does use all three robotic pieces. Audia resembles a radio, with two purple circular discs on top that can spin and what I imagine to be two yellow “knobs” that move up and down to mimic a radio’s controls.
Build selection in Botzees robotics kit app
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

The Building Process

If you’ve ever put together a LEGO set or even just a regular old puzzle, the building process for Botzee and all the other robots is just as simple. In order to see the instructions for any of the builds, you have to download one of the two available apps: Botzees EDU (Android/iOS) or Botzees AR (Android/iOS). I’ll dive into the differences between the two apps later, but for now, just know that you can complete builds with either app.

Botzee coding robot sitting up on table
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

If you want to experiment with all eight robot builds, I’d recommend starting with the Botzees EDU app. Each character has their own page with their build info and instructions, as well as a few unique puzzles to complete. When you’re ready to build one of the robots, you can see an overview of all the pieces you’ll need and then animated steps that show you how to complete the build. These 3D animations make the building process easier to follow, letting you turn and move around the build to see what’s happening if you get confused.

With the Botzees AR app, you can only view six available builds (Tyton’s and Audia’s builds are missing). In the AR app, you can’t see a list of the pieces you’ll need for the build. Instead, there are only the animated steps to follow, which just means you have to look a bit closer to find the piece you need.

The only flaw I ran into during the building process was with Selix. The smart hub has a power button you have to turn on in order for anything to work. With Selix, the power button was hidden behind his tail joint, so I had to remove a piece to turn it on. It’d be nice if there was a way to remotely turn it on via the app.

Executing Robotic Functions

Botzees robotics kit open box
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

Within the Botzees EDU app, each build has its own screen with a variety of levels to complete. These levels certainly don’t outline everything you can do with the build, but they are a great introduction to how the programming process works. After you complete the levels on a character’s page, you’re able to create your own custom code.

For the most part, the levels are simple, instructing your robot to move forwards or backwards, detect external sound, make a certain noise, create a looping pattern, and so on. That said, I think a true beginner might struggle with how massive the coding command library is within the Botzees EDU app. Every time you tap on a button to drag it to the coding field, it says what it does, but I still think it might be confusing for a four-year-old because of how many commands there are and how much you can customize each command.

Botzees robotics kit electronics parts
Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

The Botzees AR app seems to be better for someone who’s just starting out with a STEM toy. Similar to the EDU app, the AR app has levels, but each level teaches you coding concepts slowly and then builds on it with the next level.

The App Experience

When you first open the Botzees box, there’s an instructional card that tells you about the two available apps you can download. My first thought: Why are there two apps?

Well, the main app is Botzees EDU, and Botzees AR is branded as a bonus AR app for devices that support Google AR Core or the iOS AR Kit. These apps are small enough that they could probably be merged and have an AR bonus feature instead of an entirely separate app. However, I assume it was easier to develop the apps separately than to merge them.

Although the Botzees EDU app has instructions for all eight builds, it’s a subpar app compared to the Botzees AR. As I mentioned before, each character has its own screen with unique coding levels. On this screen, the character is showcased on a platform, and it’s clear that there’s some sort of graphical glitch that makes the character look like it’s missing pieces.

Each character has a catchphrase that’s repeated every single time you go to a character’s screen, whether that’s when you first open it or when you return to the screen after completing a level or exiting the build screen. For example, Selix says, “Hi, I’m a walrus named Selix. Let’s dance a waltz.” All of these catchphrases sound like they were recorded with a poor-quality microphone.

Parts of the app are voiced by the aforementioned person with a bad mic, while other parts are voiced by an AI that sounds crisp. There’s a huge noticeable variation in the audio quality because of this. What makes this worse is that you can’t turn the volume down or off, for the music or any sounds within the app.

I’m not a parent, but I can imagine how annoying this would get if your kid kept replaying a level over and over again, constantly hearing a character’s catchphrase repeated. I even had my husband take a look at the app just to make sure I wasn’t missing something, and he couldn’t find any way to turn down the app’s volume. Of course, you can turn your device’s volume down; this just means you can’t listen to any music in the background or that you have to turn it down when using the Botzees EDU app and then up again when you need it for another app.

It’s a shame that there isn’t more attention being given to the Botzees EDU app because 1) it could really use it, and 2) it has the potential to be fantastic. The Botzees AR app released over a year before the Botzees EDU app, and it provides a much better user experience.

Fortunately, most modern devices are equipped with AR technology. If you want your child to play with the Botzees AR app, I’d recommend using a tablet over a smartphone, if possible. I used my smartphone, and while the experience was still better than with the Botzees EDU app, the AR experience would’ve been better on a tablet because they have larger screens.

In the Botzees AR app, there’s a more developed story to follow. You have to help Botzee find parts of his ship to rebuild it, and you do so by completing levels where you create custom code and move Botzee around the virtual world. With this app, there’s more motivation to keep playing with Botzee—and, therefore, keep learning. The sound quality in the AR app is loads better, and you have the ability to turn off sounds and/or music if you want to. Both apps are official apps, but they come from different developers, and it shows.

Verdict: The Apps Aren’t the Best, But Botzee Is Pretty Cool

Overall, I think this is a great purchase for young kids. Even if they don’t go on to become programmers or anything related to that, toys like these teach kids critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and the rewards—and often necessity—of the trial and error process.

Though I enjoyed some of the other builds, Botzee is truly the only build that’s worth playing with long-term. Exploring new levels and coding commands with him is more fun because the apps seem to cater more to him. (I mean, his name is the one on the box!) But with there being so many pieces and ideas for builds, I think this is an exciting toy for young kids to put their logic and creativity to use.

Here’s What We Like

  • Great intro to coding for young kids
  • Durable pieces
  • Multiple builds and coding possibilities

And What We Don’t

  • The companion apps could use some work
  • Botzee is the only fleshed out robot build
  • Have to get a tablet or smartphone to work with it



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