Understanding new technology easily – with the STEM Box from CircuitMess

Last summer, the Croatian company CircuitMess started a Kickstarter initiative to finance the STEM Box. The subscription box is a series of handicraft projects for the playful teaching of the basics of new technology. The assembly should be possible for children from the age of eleven (with a little support), but is also aimed at adults. Makers are probably already familiar with the retro game console Nibble (initially started as Makerbuino) and the DIY mobile phone Ringo.

The delivery of the first project was planned for November, but was delayed by the corona pandemic. Therefore, the first box was only in front of us shortly before Christmas – Spencer, a language assistant. Similar to Siri or Alexa, Spencer should enable voice-controlled information retrieval, but currently only in English. It is based on an ESP32 microcontroller and, in addition to a microphone and loudspeaker for speech functions, also has a 144-pixel LED matrix display.

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Spencer’s exterior consists of an acrylic glass housing, which is complemented by small plastic arms and legs. There is space on the top for a large red button to activate speech recognition. The items arrived well sorted and marked in a cardboard box. The address of the online manual and where further tips and information can be found in the enclosed information booklet.

At the start of the STEM-Box subscription, there is also a basic set of tools in addition to the Spencer-Box.

For the supporters of the Kickstarter campaign, the first STEM box comes with a tool set consisting of a soldering iron and holder, solder, desoldering pump, screwdriver, USB power supply for the soldering iron, flat-nose pliers and side cutters. Things that every maker has in their basic equipment, but provides newcomers with everything they need for assembly.

The Make editorial team tries out a lot more than fits in the bimonthly magazine. That is why we publish further test reports on our website in loose succession.

The quality of the tools is completely sufficient for the start, only the small soldering iron with 10-watt USB power supply struggled to get the soldered joints really warm. In particular, the two ground connections of the electrolytic capacitors could hardly be soldered with it. It’s good that Spencer only has to make 16 soldering points.

Four solder points on a red board.

Unfortunately, the soldering pads are of standard size. For a beginner project they would have liked to have been a little bigger.

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