If you think you know Meccano think again. The all-new dancing (seriously), singing Meccano MAX Robotic Interactive Toy with Artificial Intelligence and customisable programming has taken one of the worlds favourite construction toys to a new level.
As some of my readers may know already I’m a big fan of Meccano and we’ve reviewed a few kits. It’s a great all-round S.T.E.M toy. Not only does it build on science, technology, engineering and maths skills it teaches how to follow instruction, patience, teamwork and problem-solving.
Meccano MAX Summary
MAX is a perfect S.T.E.M educational toy, designed to engage kids in intellectually creative play, that draws on their knowledge of science, technology, engineering and maths. It comes with built-in infrared sensors, enabling it to move with agility, sense obstacles and navigate surfaces as it rolls around on sturdy smart wheels.
The first stage of MAX is your classic Meccano build, following straightforward step by step instructions… once built MAX measures 12-inches in height.
Next, you download Meccano MAX software.
And Finally with software installed and uploaded on to MAX he (we think of MAX as a girl at the moment) can be controlled using voice commands, buttons on the body torso, or the free Mecanno MAX app! The more interaction he gets the more he learns and develops his IA personality. You know what MAX is feeling/thinking by the abundant facial graphics he displays
Meccano MA.X Includes: 332 parts, 1 ac/dc wall mount charger (10.4w), 1 rechargeable ni-mh battery 1800 mah, 2 hand tools, 1 sticker sheet, 1 instruction sheet for 1 model, 1 m. A. X brain module, 1 ir sensor module, 2 smart motor modules, 1 LED module, 1x 3 kgs servo, 1x 1.9 kgs micro servo, 1 USB cable.
What Did We Think Of Meccano MAX Engineering & Robotics?
The build itself was one of the easiest Meccano kit builds we’ve had so far. I think part of it is Ro & Ra are used to the format and because the M.A.X Robot is a solid square kind of build. There’s no manipulation/bending of the parts. In fact, the majority of the parts are plastic.
We built slowly over about three days snatching an hour here and there.
There are a couple of places where two pairs of hands make it easier than one but on the whole as long as you read the instructions properly the MAX comes together very nicely.
The battery needing 6 hours to charge caught us out. I so which they’d put that shizzle at the front of instruction manuals!
Finding the software to download was a bit tricky. The manual only tells you to go to the Meccano website. So for anyone struggling to find it … here’s the link. We had trouble to start with because the USB port in the laptop was wobbly so kept disconnecting (our problem, nothing to do with MAX) but a change of USB port sorted that and the software was downloaded and then uploaded to MAX in minutes.
Then you just switch him on (small round button on the control panel) and he starts to come alive. Initially, he asks you questions and then does some checks on his system and working parts. These don’t take long but you have to go through them to rise up through the IA levels. Once the checks are done you can continue to get to know him by asking him some key questions (listed towards the back of the manual). He’ll dance with you, tell you a joke, even bust some DJ moves.
You can program him using the control panel on his body or by downloading the Meccano App to your phone or tablet. We had a go with both. The control panel gets a bit of getting used to just so you can gauge how much he moves with each push of a direction button. You can also control his pincer hand and head movement. Once you’ve reviewed your sequence of moves you save which allows for lots of mischief depending on what you program him to do!
The app is a little more refined. There is an interface to control MAX’s movement and again you can save the sequence.
You can also program MAX using coding blocks. It’s very similar in style to programming programs like ‘Snatch”. You drag and stack up blocks of code to make mini programs that control MAX. You can make them as large or as small as you want, save them and then use your saved programs as a bank of code to assign to MAX.
There is another option to remove the front ‘face’ of MAX and insert you phone which will display a more animated graphic face. We didn’t get round to testing this out … mainly because Ro & Ra don’t have phones (they have tablets).
The final thing to say is that you can choose to build your own robot using the pieces if you get bored of MAX.
Top Tips For Building Meccano MAX
– Don’t worry about time constraints but do set expectations. It will take a good 4-10 hours depending on age and experience. It’s easy to stop and start as each section is numbered.
– DO CHARGE THE BATTERY AS YOU BUILD. A rooky mistake for us and massive disappointment as we got to the end of the build phase only to discover the battery needed to be charged for 6 hours!
– Don’t panic if the battery doesn’t appear to fit. Just carefully place the battery housing lid and squeeze shut. It’s a tight fit but with some careful manipulation it will get in.
– Take time to sort the components (especially the screws, nuts, washers etc) it makes it much easier to build if you’re not searching for the right size screw.
– Sometimes two pairs of hands are better than one. It’s all very well trying to build it on your own but sometimes you need that extra pair of hands to help get a screw in a tight corner.
– Talk in a soft/quietish voice. MAX doesn’t understand if you shout or raise your voice
MAX is a big hit in this house. Ro and Ra have spent quite a few hours working out how to program MAX and expand his IA mind. It’s definitely taken their Meccano building to a new level.
It is an expensive toy but has so much value as an educational tool, that I think it’s well worth the money and is perfect for introducing programming to kids. Meccano has found the right balance between the skills and time needed to build MAX and the time needed to nurture and develop it’s IA functionality. As a family, we’re looking forward to continuing to push little M.A.X to his limits and discover just how clever it is.
Meccano MAX is aimed at 10+ and is a level 3 Meccano kit. It’s priced at £149.99 but if you shop around you’ll find it cheaper.
Disclaimer – We were sent the Meccano MAX FOC for the purpose of this review.