The Alpha Kit by SAM Labs is an introduction to their fantastic collection of manipulatives that not only introduce kids to the fun of building; it also teaches practical life skills of circuitry and coding. By making often abstract concepts directly applicable through either guided projects or their imagination, kids soon discover how things work in everyday life. All of their sets are versatile, and plans can be created across curricula to reinforce the integration of logical reasoning with hands-on exploration of finding solutions to real-time problems. Projects or challenges can be tailored to any skill level and the website contains projects to get teachers started. Once teachers and students have integrated the basics, the ability to create something unique for the classroom is endless and only limited by the depth of your imagination
The app is compatible with MAC, iOS, Android, Windows or Chromebook, and has been thoroughly tested and refined to simulate the inner workings of physical systems. The Alpha Kit comes with four wireless interactive “SAM” blocks that power up the electronics via Bluetooth. The beauty of the app is that there are a host of conditional variations that can alter the function of the finished product immensely. Once the conditionals or software components are applied, its effect can be viewed through the physical project immediately. This feedback gives rise to the ability to tinker or adjust the project as needed in real time. And that is what makes this play so relevant. Kids not only see what happens but also begin to imagine or anticipate the possibilities of what may happen “if.” It is indeed a privilege to witness the inception of the creative process in kids interacting with the SAM blocks.
So, what’s it got in it?
There are many kits available with a variety of SAM blocks. SAM Blocks can also be purchased separately to build a more extensive library of functions. Some blocks are inputs and control other blocks, and some are outputs that are activated into action. The review kit I received was the entry level kit and contained:
- One input block (Light Sensor)
- Three output Blocks (2 - DC Motors and an RGB LED Light)
- A roller ball for turns and balance of the finished project
- Wheels, Bases, and holders that are Lego® compatible
How Does it Work?
First, charge up your SAM blocks with the accompanying charger. Charging takes about an hour. Then download the SAM Space App. Once the blocks are charged, pair the blocks with the software. The paired blocks will appear on the connected device and can then be dragged onto the workspace. This is where active experimentation can begin whether it’s from adding Behaviors, Logic, or Timing to the mix. Be sure to view the videos on the website https://www.samlabs.com/ for the Glossary that teaches you the basics and tips and tricks for details on how to make your project work. The site contains tons of lesson plans and student guides to get your feet wet. A downloadable teacher's guide will give educators the ins and outs for combining blocks for projects. In addition to using Lego® blocks, SAM blocks can also be combined with Makey Makey®, Minecraft®, and IFTTT® products to test your creative mettle. I would love to see more structured tasks presented for the Alpha Kit as this is the set where most teachers or parents will start on their journey with SAM Labs. To make most of the projects on the site, you will need more SAM blocks than what is issued with the Alpha Kit.
SAM Labs has a host of supports to help you troubleshoot any problems or obstacles you encounter. From easy-peezy quick guides and lesson plans to one on one training sessions and live chat support, this is one company that wants your class to succeed. Be fearless and jump in! And see what the power of doing has on learning. SAM Labs has the support and know how to get things started – Check them out and begin an adventure!
“SAM Labs is an edtech company that empowers teachers with the most engaging STEAM solutions including lesson plans, apps, and electronics. Its goal is to inspire every student to discover the fun in coding and creating. With a focus on building products that capture every student’s imagination, SAM Labs is democratizing the tech industry. By combining highly engaging software with intuitive, user-friendly hardware, SAM Labs teaches coding and engineering to children of all skill sets and interests. Offering projects across a variety of subjects — from biology, to probability, to music — SAM Labs builds edtech products for the athlete and the artist.
SAM Labs offers a solution for educators who are teaching computer science by providing in-classroom support around the STEAM Kit for both the early adopter and the tech-hesitant teacher by offering fully integrated and curriculum-based lesson plans and hands-on educator support. With partners like Intel Education and Microsoft Education, SAM Labs aims to bring coding to every classroom.
Founded in 2014, the company is headquartered in East London. For more information, please visit https://www.samlabs.com/