Our cubelets finally arrived and I had a couple of kids (4 and 5) give them a go. The bottom-line is that the toy got them fully absorbed for 2h straight, and this could have gone on.
At first, both kids started to construct simple structures without caring about the functionality of the modules. They soon discovered, however, the on/off switch, which usually lead to an immediate reaction of the motors as most designs contained one or the other sensor. The kids then soon figure out how to take advantage of the wheels, mostly to create fantasy crafts resembling cars, steam engines or space craft.
The simple-craft phase is followed by the discovery of the “knob” cubelet, which in most random constructions has an immediate impact of the wheels. From then on, the knob appeared on every construction, allowing the kids to control the speed of the mostly linear motions. During play, it was important to the kids to integrate brought-along toys into the activity.
The next discovery was that re-arranging wheels can lead to circular motions. Changing the distance of the wheel to the pivot point of a structure leads to large radii, whereas keeping the wheels close together, lets the craft turn on the spot – an observation soon made by the kids themselves.
Eventually, the “bar-graph” and “light” actuators caught their interest as their intensity was often proportional to knob-actions and motor speed. What led to frustration was that this mapping was not always obvious: sometimes the motor turn with the knob, sometimes they don’t turn at all. Technical reasons for this were the green “blocker” block or sensors and logic blocks that canceled each other out. Here, it might be important to with-held such “screw-up” blocks at first and introduce them only after the kids have a basic understanding of sensors.
The concept of sensors is made surprisingly accessible by the bar-graph block. For example blocking the temperature sensor with your finger or blowing at it has immediate impact on the bar graph. That what affects the bar graph could also affect the wheels is the next step…