MEL Chemistry Subscription Starter Kit Review – September 2019
MEL Chemistry is a subscription box for kids ages 9-14 that sends all of the materials you need to complete 2-3 chemistry experiments every month. This is perfect for kids who are interested in science or for homeschool students!
This box was sent to us at no cost for review. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)
About MEL Chemistry
The Subscription Box: MEL Chemistry
The Cost: $34.90 per month
COUPON: Use code MSA25 to save 25% off your first box + receive a free Starter Kit and VR Headset ($50 value).
The Products: Everything you need to conduct 2-3 chemistry experiments each month safely in your own home!
Ships to: The U.S. and UK for free. International shipping to select countries is also available, although there may be additional shipping charges depending on location.
MEL Chemistry Starter Kit + Chemistry of Monsters Review September 2019
Your first shipment will include a free starter kit (valued at $50) in addition to your first set of experiments. This starter kit includes all of the equipment you’ll need to conduct your experiments each month and even includes some accessories for your tablet or smartphone to help you access all of the information they provide in their apps. Let’s check out each of the items inside!
Starter Kit Manual
The first item in our kit was this comprehensive manual that was divided into several helpful sections about safety, our subscription, and even what happens next after you’ve completed your experiments. I thoroughly enjoyed the safety guidelines and the “before you start” sections because I think the information they provided is so important. The “before you start” section had some great information and reminders about how and where experiments should be conducted. This made it feel very professional and is information that would be covered in a classroom setting.
This is to conduct your experiments on which helps protect your tabletops.
They sent us two sets which is great for the adult helper!
This little stand is adjustable so you can use either your phone or a tablet and have access to their apps as you conduct your experiments. Very handy!
Solid Fuel Stove (Burner)
This little stove provides the necessary safety for experiments that involve an open flame. I love that it folds closed for easy storage!
Cork Hot Pot Stand and Flame Diffuser
They provided a cork hot pot stand and a metal flame diffuser to use when working with heated materials.
They provided us with two funnels, one medium and one small.
We received three rubber stoppers. One solid, one with one hole and one with two holes.
Glass Beaker and Glass Flask
These two glass items made our kit feel very official since these can both be heated. The beaker holds 150 ml while the flask holds 100 ml.
Plastic Beaker and Cups
This plastic beaker (not for heating) holds 250 ml and they also provided us with 50 disposable plastic cups.
Clip-On Macro Lens
This little macro lens can be clipped onto your smartphone to use for taking up-close photos of your experiments. I thought this was a really cool inclusion!
We have not had the pleasure of testing out any virtual reality equipment in our home before so to receive this headset was quite a treat! Its design was inspired by Google Cardboard and it is really such a simple set up that you unfold and fold back up to create your viewer. There is a little silver button at the top that you can press which in turn pushes that silver piece between the eyes to touch your phone and create the interactive experience.
I slipped my phone into the slot and then the family and I had some fun checking out their free MEL VR app! The app opens up in a lab where we have the opportunity to learn about different molecules and atoms and explore them closely. This is so great for gaining a deeper understanding of what happens throughout our experiments. Plus we can probably find some other fun uses for this headset!
I was impressed with everything that we received in our starter kit and I was very pleased with the quality! Now that we’ve checked out everything in the Starter Kit, let’s move on to our first set of experiments!
Chemistry of Monsters
Our experiments came packaged neatly in a separate box with a table of contents on the back. They provided everything we needed except for some water and matches.
Inside our box was an instruction sheet for the parents including some safety warnings, advice and general first aid information. The directions for the projects are pretty thorough and can be found in this booklet, on the individual experiment cards or in the app. Having this separate sheet for the parents is great so kids can work independently, but parents can also follow along for supervising.
First, we followed the directions on the box and stuck our thermostickers on all the pieces that can be heated in preparation for the experiments.
Experiment 1: Carbon Snake
Our first experiment was to create a carbon snake. They provided this card that contained all of the necessary information such as safety, disposal and the directions complete with colored illustrations. The front gave a brief descriptor of what to expect and also provided a scale to rate the difficulty and danger of the activity as well as the duration. On the back was a little box we could scan with our app which allowed us to open directly to the experiment on our phone. Of course, this is optional since you have everything you need on the experiment card, but I liked the interactiveness of the app instructions.
I set the phone in our stand and we clicked the start experiment button to begin. They provided information on safety, troubleshooting and even a scientific description of what happens during the experiment.
First, we checked out the safety section and prepared by putting on our gloves and our protective eyewear. They sent a pair of small gloves and a pair of large gloves so that an adult assistant can help.
The app provided thorough instructions about what materials we would need from our starter kit and what we would need from our set.
I gathered everything we needed, all of which they provided except for matches and a small bowl of water to keep nearby for emergency purposes since we would be working with fire.
All of our chemicals were clearly labeled and included information about any hazards. They provided enough materials for us to complete this experiment three times! The coolest part of the labels was that when I scanned the little squares using the forward-facing camera on my phone, it would open up in the app and provide information about the chemicals. We could view it in 3D or even open up the virtual reality app and view it with our headset.
The app instructions were very clear and even animated! First I dumped the bottle of solid fuel into the bottle of sodium hydrogen carbonate using one of the wooden sticks to help ensure it all came out. Then I handed it to my daughter to shake up while I added a piece of foil to our flame diffuser which I had placed on our tray.
Then I scooped a spoonful of the mixture, using the scoop they provided, into a mound in the center of the foil and placed a calcium gluconate tablet in the center.
Then I lit the mound on fire and we observed.
Our first attempt was kind of a dud (and smelled terrible according to my son! Ha!). While the kids liked watching it, we definitely didn’t achieve the results we expected after viewing the video and photos of what should happen during the experiment. I am not sure if I didn’t get the flame underneath it enough or if my daughter didn’t mix it quite thoroughly enough when she shook it.
Luckily, we had plenty of supplies and we were able to repeat the experiment and this time our results were much better!
Here it is growing!
This time our snake grew and grew which was really fun to watch!
Once our snake stopped burning, we inspected the ash that was left behind. You can see the thermosticker turned yellow to let us know when the surface is still hot.
The app told us what to do with the waste, what to keep in order to repeat the experiment and even asked us to tell them if it worked and rate the experiment. So thorough! As well as incredibly easy to follow along with.
Experiment 2: Foam Eruption
Our next experiment was a foam eruption. From our starter kit we needed our flask and two plastic cups, and from home, we needed a bowl. They provided a syringe and two packets of liquid soap for us to use.
Once again, we were able to check our labels from the chemical bottles and scan them to find out more information.
I set one of the plastic cups on our tray and added a scoop of the dye from the bottle. Then I filled the other plastic cup with water and used the syringe to add the amount needed. I then stirred it up with one of the sticks.
I added the chemicals from the remaining two bottles into our flask and then gave them a gentle stir.
I placed the flask inside a bowl and then added one packet of liquid soap. Then I poured our dye mixture in and we waited for the reaction.
Here is our beautiful foam eruption!
The colors were so pretty and it was fun to watch!
I experimented with the macro lens a bit and while my photos aren’t that great, it was really cool looking as a video!
The macro lens provided such a close-up view of the reaction!
Here are all of the materials we have leftover! Even after conducting the carbon snake experiment twice, we still have enough for one more try and we have enough for another foam eruption as well!
There were two items in our box that were listed in the contents but that we didn’t use which are a piece of rubber tubing and a small tube. I assume that maybe they are for future experiments, but I’m not quite sure! Since the instructions were so thorough and in three separate places, I don’t think I missed anything about when to use them.
Verdict: This starter kit and first set of experiments from MEL Chemistry were so impressive! Everything felt very official and scientific and the apps to support our learning are pretty amazing! I love that they provide enough supplies so that you can repeat the experiments and the VR headset is such a cool tool that feels like a bonus. This would make for such an incredible homeschool science lab and I think the experiments could be done pretty independently with minimal adult supervision (depending on the age). The amount of educational information you can access through the various apps could easily help extend the activities for a very thorough and complete chemistry lesson. The materials were of high quality, the number of items we needed from home was very minimal, and the experiments were great starters for our kit. The only thing I could think of adding to this kit (and this is just me being incredibly nitpicky) would be a lab notebook for us to keep track of our experiments, and record hypotheses and observations, but that is something that would be easy to provide on your own. For $34.90 + free shipping, I was more than happy with the value we received!
To Wrap Up:
Can you still get this box if you sign up today? Yes, although I’m not sure how long the free starter kit deal will last! You should receive your first order within one month.
COUPON: Use code MSA25 to save 25% off your first box + receive a free Starter Kit and VR Headset ($50 value).
Check out our list of the best subscription boxes for kids, as recommended by MSA readers!
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