Creation Crate Review – We Build An Electronic Bluetooth Speaker From Scratch!

Creation Crate has been rolling out their line of Electronics 2.0 crates for some months now, and we here at Fractus Learning have been looking forward to having one of our “Fractus Friends” take it out for a test drive.  The company happened to reach out to us with a review copy that we were able to pass on to our review family.  A big thank you to Creation Crate for their help.

Electronics 2.0, also known as the Upgraded subscription boxes include more than the standard run-of-the-mill components in some other electronic project kits.  For example, I was amazed that they had a working Bluetooth module included in our review project.  Including such cutting-edge components can get a teenager realizing they can create with some pretty remarkable technology that goes beyond standard LED lights and buzzers. 

I guess that’s why these crates are ranked in the top 5% of all projects reviewed by STEM.org.  While that’s quite a high honor, we find our family reviewers have their own set of criteria.  Without further delay, let’s see what they thought of the value of the Creation Crate 2.0?

Who Would Love To Get A Creation Crate As A Gift?

The Creation Crate is a great gift for older kids.  I’d think the sweet spot would be teenagers with the desire to build some pretty cool electronic projects.  Creation Crate aims for a 12-and-up age market – our reviewer felt you might have to be a motivated middle-schooler if using this at 12 or 13 years of age.  Our reviewer was sixteen and felt comfortable with the instructions and steps needed to complete the monthly project.

The projects all involve electronics and some programming of the microcontroller. That said, I think any child that likes building something functional would enjoy the Creation Crate curriculum.  There’s no soldering required – and the programming can be as easy as copying some text from a webpage and uploading it to the Ardunio.  One can take it farther if they want, but this isn’t out of the reach of curious teens looking for an Arduino subscription box.

Who Wouldn't Enjoy This STEM Box And Should Look For Another Science Crate?

This crate is not for young children.  There are many small components, and there is some programming required.  I think this could challenge (in a good way!) a motivated middle school student but might frustrate one new to electronics.

This subscription box wouldn’t be our first choice for “artsy” children as well.  Luckily there are other cool subscription boxes available for almost every child’s passion.  You need to find the one that fits your child.

What Is The Creation Crate?

The Creation Crate subscription is mailed to you monthly.  Inside you’ll find nearly everything you’ll need to construct that month’s electronic-themed projects.  Our box came with everything we needed to get building immediately.  Instructions are provided through the Creation Crate website – they approach each project as a learning opportunity and provide videos and background information along with step-by-step instructions.

All of the required electrical components are provided in the crate.  This includes an Ardunio, wiring, breadboards, and a power source.  Also, our particular project provided a speaker, Bluetooth module, relay, and a switch.  The box was also an integral part of the design as well.  It’s a permanent mounting location for all the project parts – so teens can actually use the Bluetooth speaker they built.  How cool is that?

Ready To Make Your Own Robot?

Check out the list of projects - robots, speakers, games and more! Subscriptions and individual boxes available.

Our Hands-On Creation Crate Review

(Ed. Note: One of our contributors relayed their family’s experience with the Creation Crate. For background, their son is 16 years old and has an interest in programming. The opinions expressed in this section are solely hers.)

As my son settles into his summer schedule, it’s sometimes hard to get him motivated to learn.  Don’t get me wrong – he likes to read, but catching up on sleep and playing online games with friends seems to be the focus of his life for June. So when I had the opportunity to review the Creation Crate with him, I decided to say yes first – and hopefully not ask forgiveness later!

While he was a little reluctant at first, it quickly became apparent that he enjoyed the project.  We received the Bluetooth Boombox project – and I think it helped that he could use the completed speaker along with his smartphone.  What teenager doesn’t love their cellphone?  :)

Overall the subscription box was well put together.  All of the parts were available.  The online instructions were laid out in logical order and explained any potential “gotchas” that might be present.  One example was to make sure not too much raw force was used connecting wires to the button.   Without that warning it’s likely force rather than technique would have ruled the day, and possibly have damaged the part. 

We were both a little surprised that the instructions didn’t seem to match the project entirely.  My son didn’t seem to mind – he was able to improvise and didn’t have a problem wiring up the breadboard.  As a relative “newbie”, I would have had trouble with a few steps where the illustrations didn’t match what the components looked like.  There did seem to be an easy way to ask Creation Crate for help with any questions you would have, but as I said my son figured it out quickly so we didn’t use that system.

It was fun to watch him troubleshoot his wiring the first time around.  It ended up being a loose wiring jumper, but he had to use logic to figure out where the problem could be in the circuit.  I could tell he was a little proud of himself when he successfully solved his wiring issue.

The programming wasn’t difficult.  You can copy/paste the code from the instructions.  My son used the code as a base and modified it to make different text come up on the LCD display.   I think that’s one of the strengths of this product – you can jump off to extend any of the electronic projects by adding additional components or code. 

What Did We Like The Best?

When I asked my son this question, he said he likes that the thing we created with the project was practical and usable.   He’s done some electronic projects in the past that you quickly take apart after wiring because there’s nothing left to do with them once you are done creating.  That’s not the case with this crate.

He also said he liked that this project wasn’t “super-easy.”  There was some challenge involved in making the speaker, and when it didn’t immediately boot up the way it was supposed to, he had to work out the bugs on his own.  He thought it wouldn’t be too difficult for any high school student.

I liked that it kept him engaged for a few hours, and he could move at his own pace.  We only did part one of the project – I believe subscribers would build on the speaker to make an FM radio receiver as well.   I think this would occupy a high school student for an hour a day for a week plus/minus a few days – which is great to get them away from consuming and into creating.

(Ed. Note: Creation Crate 2.0 subscriptions have projects that build off of previous work.  The Boom Box will be built up into a Visual Boom Box and a Boom Box Radio in future months)

What Would We Like To See Improved?

As mentioned earlier, there were some issues with the instructions.  I think we both would have forgiven this more if the instructions were printed on paper – but they weren’t. We were confused why any component changes weren’t in the instructions since they can be added to by Creation Crate at any time.  This might have been related to us using a review crate that might have had “leftover” parts.  Regardless, information and authority are two of the three pieces any subscription box provides.  Inaccurate directions reduce the perception of both of those factors.

This issue wouldn’t stop me (or my son) from recommending trying Creation Crate to high-school-aged friends.  It was fun to build and “kinda cool to have your own homebuilt BT speaker.”  It just might make it harder to complete for a brand-new maker that hasn’t built electronic projects before.

Our Conclusion

The Creation Crate is a great choice for teenagers interested in electronics, programming or engineering.  You get a lot of components for the price, and the end creation is worth building.  It’s not recommended for younger children – they will likely struggle with both the size of the parts and complexity these projects demand.   Creation Crate will entertain and educate your child – perfect to keep your high-schooler out of trouble this school year and beyond!

We want you to know...

We here at Fractus Learning wish to be as transparent as possible. We were provided one sample Creation Crate box in order to facilitate the review. Our parental reviewer kept the Creation Crate. Fractus Learning did not receive any other inducement to write the review. The opinions expressed in the article are that of our writers and editor involved in producing it. Fractus Learning will receive a small commission (at no cost to you) for purchases of Creation Crates by users following our links.

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