SBrick Plus: Programmable Interlocking Bricks You Want

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Image: Vengit Ltd/SBrick
Image: Vengit Ltd/SBrick

With only a few days left in its Kickstarter campaign, SBrick Plus is fully funded and will be available to ship worldwide in December 2016. Similar to the Mindstorm LEGO kits in that it is a programmable interlocking block product, SBrick distinguishes itself from the international product by working with various coding platforms instead of just the LEGO programming language. However, with this in mind, it is still compatible with the brand name toys.

Despite not having product available for physical review at this time (although stay tuned for one in December after worldwide release), the SBrick made my kid’s eyes pop in delight.

The Fireplane kit comes with directions for 12 different models that have have adorable names like “Yokozu The Sumo Bot” and “Bailey The Friendly Dog.” Taking a quick spin through the app, it is intuitive in a way that even my technologically inept self can figure out.

Despite being able to create a general account, use a Facebook or other social media account, I decided to create a account and login in that way. After creating the social account, I poked around on the app and the social network forums for a little bit. The albums area of the social site have pictures of various creations done by people using the SBricks. Clicking around, I came across a TARDIS LEGO MOC that used the SBrick to create the trademark vworpvworpvworp sound. This sort of creativity is exactly the reason I people love LEGO and getting to see a new way to use them and engage kids in programming made me a little sad that I don’t have my own SBrick set yet! I mean, made me sad that my son doesn’t have his own SBrick set yet… yes… my son…

As a parent and teacher, one of the things that I love about talking (or emailing in this particular case) with the SBrick Plus team is that they based their whole approach to their product on teacher feedback.

When I asked about their inspiration, the team’s response was, “Many teachers told us that they and their schools had invested 1000s of dollar in buying LEGO WeDo 1.0 kits, but that now WeDo 2.0 has been released, their investment suddenly had no value; the two are incompatible with each other. Some were visibly angry. All seemed to have lost faith in LEGO.”

Watching a product respond specifically to educator frustration instead of only parental interest strikes a deep chord for me. Moreover, one of the things that many teachers wanted was “continuity in the classroom.”  To provide this, “SBrick Plus works with Apple Swift Playgrounds, Scratch, and Javascript. Rather than being tied down to LEGO’s rather basic programming language, teachers can start learning programming in Scratch (basic, drag-and-drop, for beginners).  Or they can start teaching with Apple Swift Playgrounds (just released).  And later they can move on to Javascript, the language of the web.”

In essence, SBrick Plus created a product that allows for a continuum of programming such that kids can level up their skills by moving from one programming language to another.

With the original SBrick kits ranging in price on Amazon from $52-$189, the current Kickstarter prices that range from $59-159 are a steal for the additional programming advantages available.

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