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Lego is totally awesome, but Tenka Labs wants to make it smarter

Why it matters to you

Tenka Labs want to make Legos -- and your kids -- even smarter, while still keeping them fun.

Tenka Labs has a new product that make Legos even more awesome.  The company launched toy kits that feature its Circuit Cubes: easy-to-use, Lego-compatible electronic building blocks that add sound, light, movement, and sensors to kids’ creations.

The three essential Circuit Cubes are the Motor Cube, Battery Cube, and LED Cube, all of which are featured in three introductory kits now available for pre-order: Whacky Wheels, Bright Lights, and Smart Art. Each of the three themed kits retails for $60 and comes with wires, Lego-style bricks, wheels, hubs, and markers, as well as the three Circuit Cubes.

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The Power Cube is the “engine” of the toy kits, providing the power to rotate gears, light up LEDs, spin propellers, and other actions. The Motor Cube drives everything from trucks to spaceships. The LED Cube is similarly used for a variety of functions, including headlights and flashlights.

While the Circuit Cubes are specifically designed to augment Lego projects — one of the company’s primary marketing messages is “Fits Your Bricks” — the inventors note that the Circuit Cubs can also be made to work with ordinary household items, from milk cartons to old toys that could use a new spark. The Cubes’ innovative design allows them to stack in any direction, while their transparency allows kids see the connections being made when they light an LED or power a motor.

If this all sounds like a sneaky way to slip some education into playtime, that’s absolutely right. Co-founders Nate MacDonald and John Schuster are longtime robotics educators who are convinced that toys designed to teach can be fun to play with as well. They’ve spent years developing STEM-inspired lessons that inspire creative problem solving, and the Circuit Cubes are the next step.

“Our goal is to show kids exactly how a geared motor works or the difference between a serial and parallel connection without taking the fun out of it,” says John Schuster.

At CES 2017, Lego announced Lego Boost, its own $160 kit that adds smarts to the toy and teaches kids to code. If we have to construct a playroom to see how these two kits will fit together, we’re more than willing to do so.