Earlier this year we took a look at littleBits’ Droid Inventor Kit which paired learning to code with assembling a delightful programmable astromech droid. Now armed with another Disney partnership under its belt, the company is back with another STEAM-focused kit. Still setting out to make coding more accessible, this time around instead of traveling to a galaxy far, far away for inspiration, littleBits is turning to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with its Avengers Hero Inventor Kit.
Luckily we were able to get our hands on the upcoming release earlier this week. And after putting the superhero-themed programming kit to the test, it’s easy to recommend the littleBits Avengers Hero Kit to just about anyone looking to hone their coding skills. So if you or someone in your life loves Marvel and are just getting familiar with the world of code, this kit is a fun and intuitive way to go from programming zero to hero. Head below for our full hands-on look.
The latest STEAM coding kit from littleBits takes the form of a superhero armor-styled gauntlet which you’ll assemble and program with the aid of a few different notable Marvel heroes like Iron Man, Shuri, Ant-Man and Black Panther. Through tackling both of these tasks, you’ll work your way through a series of challenges that littleBits hopes will familiarize you with programming techniques.
In total there’s 26 different activities to work through, ten of which primarily focus around building with the littleBits blocks. That leaves 16 different programming sessions that let you toy around with everything from light sensitivity to motion input and more. So the kit encourages a really good mix of hardware and software experimentation.
New tech, same intuitive experience |
As per usual, build quality is rock solid across the board. The littleBits blocks are as fun as ever and if you’ve ever gotten a chance to play around with another kit in the past, you’ll find the same level of intuitiveness here.
Rather than relying on the typical grid system for piecing together your creations, littleBits is employing a new interlocking rail technique. This not only better fits the gauntlet’s form-factor, but also ensures that nothing goes flying when playing. The gauntlet itself is about as comfortable as it can be to wear thanks to some well-placed cushioned pads and elastic bands.
As far as the electronics go, the Avengers Hero Inventor Kit is comprised of seven different littleBits blocks along with two wire pieces. There’s the power supply, speaker and button block that we’ve seen before, but the kit also includes a new light sensor and accelerometer. Most notably though, is the circular full-color LED matrix. The combination of included components really opens the door to a variety of new ways to experiment with the coding kit.
Just about all of the guides center around altering, controlling and programming the LED Matrix. This changes things up from the previous littleBits kit, which leveraged the remote-controlled droid to walk you through learning to code.
A superb app design |
Normally with smartphone-enabled devices and kits like this, the companion app is one of the weaker aspects. littleBits has gone a long ways to break the mold on the matter and absolutely blows it out of the water with the Avengers Inventor Kit’s app.
Themed like a comic book, it perfectly captures aesthetic to offer a unique and fun guide for the kit’s builds and challenges. Sections are broken down based on different superheroes, with Iron Man starting things out for basic assembly of the gauntlet all the way through to Shuri giving you a deep dive into full-blown coding.
Other heroes like the Hulk as well as Ant-Man and others play a big role in the app, with the different lessons tailored to the power of each hero.
littleBits’ latest release culminates with you being able to design your very own superhero identity. This really emphasizes the ‘arts’ in STEAM and is one of the more lighthearted and fun aspects of the build. The app recommends different ways to customize your gauntlet with things you have around your home.
Once you’ve completed your new superhero identity, you’ll be guided through some more intensive programming sessions. These are more free-range coding challenges which let you show off all the skills you’ve picked up along the way. They aren’t overly difficult, but offer more of a challenge compared to the prior coding tasks.
Final thoughts |
The new Avengers Hero Inventor Kit focuses on a different style of teaching compared to past releases from the company like Droid Inventor Kit, but ultimately conveys the same kickstart to learning how to code. If you’ve tried your hand at other kits in the past and didn’t find the lessons as intuitive and enjoyable, littleBits’ latest mixes things up to offer a one-of-a-kind experience.
The LED light matrix paired with all of the different sensors makes for very clever way to experience coding and is more out of the ordinary than many of the other LED light-based kits available on the market. And with the Marvel tie-in, all of the actual content is a blast to work through, even for an older Avengers fan who’s done their fair share of coding in the past like myself.
All-in-all, there aren’t many downsides to the Avengers Hero Inventor Kit. While littleBits does market this towards a younger demographic of soon-to-be programmers, the sessions are interesting and informative enough to offer a compelling experience to just about anyone. Things like designing your own hero and customizing the gauntlet may not be enjoyable for older individuals, but even so, anyone feeling creative will find these to be charming aspects of littleBits’ latest release.
It’s still perfect for introducing first-time coders to foundational programming concepts and is definitely an exciting way to get the ball rolling in the STEAM space. At $149.99, the kit is on the more expensive side compared to past releases from the company. Regardless, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something equally as informative and just plain fun as the littleBits Avengers Kit.