the IT city, the I.T. Baby


Sphero Mini STEM activity kit vs 5 & 7yo – day 1 review

Sphero Mini

The Sphero Mini activity kit is an app-connected little remote controlled ball that can change colors, move around, and basically 8yo me would have been playing with it non-stop, making it interact in a highly orchestrated dance with my Big Trak. I put it against my two children, ages 5 & 7, and watched as they descended into some sort of Lord of the Flies spiral, refusing to give up control of the phone, pouncing on the thing like a cat, and otherwise opening wide the maw of madness (which got louder when they discovered a mode called Scream Drive.) They also had a lot of fun.

At this point all we’ve done are play games and use the remote control as the kids are not interested in programming it to do certain actions when they can accomplish these via the remote. I can’t say I blame them, it’s also a lot more fun to run the thing at full speed around the house.

The Sphero Mini has an accelerometer, gyroscope, color changing LED, and can be used as a game controller for some of the games in the Sphero Play app. It tops out at about 2.2 miles per hour, weighs next to nothing, and as just a remote control toy is fun.

The Mini held my kids attention for about 18 minutes before I declared a cessation of fighting over the controls and took control to play with some of the other options as my kids wanted to do nothing but play cat and mouse with it… like sure kiddos, you can learn to program, you could use it as a controller, but yeah my 5yo is a cat and my 7yo is driving the “mouse.”

We’ve discovered it’s surprisingly easy to disorient the Mini when a “cat” gets it, but it’s also not particularly consistent on orientation. Not entirely sure what is going on with that but doing the orientation as it asks – point the blue light toward you, er, ok, but it always wants to point up, and half the time the controls will be reversed. Maybe I’m missing something on that. When it works, it stays working until cat attack.

Using the ball as a controller doesn’t feel right. I always felt like it was a little off on where it was going. Need some sort of either training for me, or training for it to recognize how my hand moved. The games were also not particularly something that needed that type of control.

Overall interesting, it’s priced a lot higher than I’d pay for just a remote control ball, but we haven’t really cracked the programming yet. Hoping to get into that this weekend and see if there’s any chance I can get them to stop using it as an RC car.

The Sphero Mini Activity Kit appears to be on sale today. Not sure if it’s a Black Friday promotion or just in general but it’s 35% off.

Paul King

Paul King lives in Nashville Tennessee with his wife, two daughters and cats. He writes for Pocketables, theITBaby, and is an IT consultant along with doing tech support for a film production company.