Creation Crate is a subscription box for teens and adults ages 12 and up who want to learn how to build and program electronics. Each month you will receive the necessary electronic components and access to a thorough online curriculum to create your tech projects. These projects build on skills learned and increase in difficulty. You'll need access to a computer, the internet, and a USB port, but everything else you need is included in the box!
FYI - COVID-19 Update:
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 Creation Crate
The Subscription Box: Creation Crate
The Cost: $29.99 per month. Save with longer subscriptions.
The Products: All of the required components to complete the month's project along with access to an online classroom with tutorials, exercises, and instructions on how to write your code.
Ships to: The U.S. for $4.99, Canada and worldwide for $8.99
Creation Crate Project 9: "Lock Box" Review
Bonus Gifts: Component Case XL, Soldering Kit, and Digital Multimeter
When you subscribe to a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual plan, you will receive a few bonus gifts depending on which subscription option you choose. Creation Crate was kind enough to send me a few items to share with you! To read more about the component case and soldering kit, check out my first review here! To learn more about the multimeter, check out the details in this review! While these are great to have on hand, they are not necessary for your projects each month.
The project for this month is to turn our box into a lock box. This sheet provides instructions on how to access the online course. While the projects do build upon one another in skill each month, I did not need any other items besides what is in this month's box and my computer.
All of our supplies were packaged neatly and protected by a piece of bubble wrap.
We received this sticker which is perfect for our new lock box.
Breadboard and UNO R3
Two of the main components I needed were a breadboard and this UNO R3 they provided.
USB Cable, 9V Batteries, and 9V Cable
They also provided this cable with a USB port at one end to hook our project up to our computer for programming along with some batteries and a cable as our power source.
Jumper Wires, Potentiometer, and LDR
We also received several jumper wires with both male and female ends, a potentiometer, and an LDR.
Matrix Keypad, LCD Screen, and Adhesive Squares
The main pieces for our lock box were this matrix keypad and an LCD screen along with some adhesive squares to place them with.
Resistors and Buzzer
I received two different resistors and a buzzer as well.
Logging into the Course
Logging into your course can be a little tricky the first time, so I've included some screenshots of the steps. After navigating to the classroom, you'll select "All Courses" and scroll down to find the "Original Courses" button. Then you select the course you want and hit the "Buy" button. From here you'll be prompted to create a new account or log in if you already have an account. There will be a section to enter your access code which can be found on the Parts List in your box and it will bring your total to $0.00 and allow you access to the course.
Once you begin your project, you'll notice a little sidebar that provides your progress throughout the course. While the components may be different each time, the course will be divided into many subsections that follow a logical order making it easy to follow along with since it is so well organized. There are even some troubleshooting sections.
One thing I think is so great about Creation Crate is they provide access to a "Getting Started Course" for those who are beginners. I was thoroughly impressed with this course. They went into all of the details about currents, amps, power, and voltage. They provided visual demonstrations of how things work and explained each of the components that we would be working with such as breadboards, jumper wires, and LEDs. I thought they had a great way of explaining and making real-life comparisons to help us gain an understanding of the concepts. This felt like a true educational course and was on par with something you might take in college!
Now let's get to this month's project! First, they introduced our project and displayed a parts list. They also provided a PDF version of the instructions for us to download. There is a sidebar that also tracks your progress and breaks everything down into steps.
This month there was some new information to cover. They explained how our keypad worked, gave a refresher on libraries, and then went into some detail about how to tell resistors apart. This was very helpful when placing our components!
Part 1: Assembling the Hardware
These are the instructions for placing the components on our breadboard and for wiring it up. Since they gave us two different types of resistors, I had to use the information they provided to determine which was which before placing them on my breadboard. Fortunately, their instructions were so detailed that this challenge was easily solved! What I did find to be tricky this month was that in addition to connecting the wires between the breadboard and UNO R3, I also had to add wires connecting these to the keypad and the LCD screen. Wires everywhere!
Then I had to add the battery and I placed the breadboard and UNO R3 inside of my box and affixed the keypad and LCD screen on the outside using the adhesive squares. Then it was time to work on the code.
Part 2: Write the Program
Now it was time to write the program using Arduino. With our first project, they provided directions for how to download Arduino's free software along with a coding video that explained the basics to us. While entering code is essentially just typing in what they give you word for word, it can be quite tedious and it's easy to make a mistake. Luckily, they include a section on common errors to help us troubleshoot. They break down the coding into sections and use notations to help us understand what each section is for.
Once there were no errors in my code, I expected my lock box to work, however, there was absolutely nothing on the LCD screen. I played around with it for a little while, double-checking all of my connections, but I was pretty burnt out so I decided to just set it aside and come back to it the next day.
When I came back to it, I checked my connections again and everything looked correct, so because my LCD screen wasn't lighting up at all, I began to suspect that maybe there was an issue with my breadboard. I painstakingly took out all of the wires and pieces from my breadboard and transferred them to one I had from a previous project. Alas, I got my LCD screen to light up, but it still didn't look quite right.
I looked carefully and discovered that I had missed a wire (so easy to do when there are SO many!).
I ran my code and the "Locked" screen came up. Yay! Then I entered in the passcode and was able to get the "unlocked" status.
Then it was time to work on the monthly challenge. I played around with the code a bit getting it to change what was on the LCD screen.
Wow! What a challenging month this was! My project was working as it was supposed to, but I had quite a difficult time with the challenges this month and honestly, the only thing I've been able to get done so far is to get the buzzer to beep when a button is pressed! My husband was helping me with the first one, trying to get the screen to turn off after a certain amount of time, but both of us are still working on solving it. As for challenge 3 and the bonus exercise, I am so close to getting this one and I'm revisiting previous projects in hopes that it will provide some insight into what I'm missing. I'm surprised at how much this is really taking me outside of my comfort zone as I try to make sense of this new material!
If we did have any major issues, they have a classroom discussion that we can use to ask questions. It looks like Creation Crate responds very quickly to any concerns, although I have yet to reach out to customer service myself.
It was easy to see once we had completed everything in the course thanks to the side menu. The last section is where they encourage you to share your work in exchange for some cool rewards.
Verdict: Now that I am into my ninth box from Creation Crate, I can say with confidence that the projects do get more and more challenging! So much so that it is becoming quite a time-consuming project for me each month. I think this would be such a great way to challenge a student who is interested in technology and coding. With some consistent time dedicated to it each day (or week), they would probably be more successful than I was at the exercises. There is such a wealth of information within each of the projects and since they build upon one another, it really does help to develop your skills and confidence in coding! While I do think they provide a great amount of information, I find myself wishing that I had someone to check over my work with to help gently guide me in the right direction. This box may actually be a great partner activity as well since two heads are better than one!
To Wrap Up:
Creation Crate projects are a combination of building hardware and programming software with a focus on helping you understand how it works. Each month, you'll be given a new project that's slightly harder than the last.
Keep Track of Your Subscriptions: Add this box to your subscription list or wishlist!
What do you think of Creation Crate?