Toy Review: E-Blox STEM Building Blocks

We all know and love LEGO as the preeminent building block brand, but there’s certainly room in the building block game for alternatives. E-Blox is one such alternative, specializing in STEM and STEAM learning activities to inspire and stimulate young minds, as well as offering expanded cross-brand integration that LEGO architects can use to enhance their builds.

Aimed at builders age 8 and up, E-Blox kits are available in two categories. Whereas the Circuit Builder series is more guided, instructional, and activity oriented around STEM subjects (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics), the pARTS line broadens into the STEAM arena, the added ‘A’ representing Arts, emphasizing greater creative freedom with less guided construction.

Available in three kits of increasing size and complexity, the Circuit Builder line features a plastic base grid to function as a circuit board, accompanied by a battery block (three “AA” batteries are needed for power; not included), wired blocks to help transport electricity, and a variety of switches and other components, such as LED lamps, motors, fans, alarms, and fiber optic trees. Components are numbered, color coded, and labeled to help identify how pieces should be oriented to complete a successful circuit. The blocks themselves are slightly oversized compared to a traditional LEGO brick. While the pegs are larger, the bases can be stacked onto other brick sets, including the pARTS line.

A detailed instruction manual provides a beginner’s lesson plan about electricity, current, and voltage, as well as a detailed parts list of everything included in the box, and diagramed instructions for completing a series of projects, from a simple LED switch to a magnet, switch, and press switch-controlled alarm and motor connection circuit. The booklet also includes a list of Dos and Don’ts for when you’re ready to ditch the instructions and experiment creating your own circuits, with warning examples of short circuit causes to avoid.

The smallest kit, which is what I tested, features blocks and instructions to assemble 59 projects, though many of them repeat the same steps just with different component blocks swapped out for others. The other kits feature enough parts for 115 and 120 projects, respectively.

Unique to the E-Blox pARTS series is patented technology that utilizes tin-plated blocks, the size of regular LEGOs, that connect to the positive and negative terminals of a battery block (9V battery required; not included) to create electric circuits capable of powering included RGB LED light blocks without wires.

With the pARTS kits, you get a one page front and back manual that sets you up with basic information on how the blocks need to connect to create functional circuits. The back of the box shows a few sample builds to get started with, but after that you’re left to your own devices to create custom-lit builds.

The Circuit Builder sets include tin blocks that can be used to integrate with pARTS blocks. pARTS blocks are also cross-compatible with other brands. For example, here’s an LED runway of sorts I built as a stand for an Assassin’s Creed Mega Bloks set I have:

I also pimped out Gandalf’s wagon from the LEGO Lord of the Rings series:

These were some simple builds I was able to construct with the pARTS starter kit, which contained barely enough pieces to complete the mods. Larger kits are available should you have larger builds to mod. Integrating the LEDs and tin parts with the regular LEGO bricks while maintaining power flow from the battery pack can require some creative problem solving and trial and error, but that’s all part of the fun, and makes the satisfaction of constructing an operational lighting setup all the sweeter.

The chromatic finish of the tin-plated blocks doesn’t exactly mesh stylistically with other bricks, but the only purpose is to add lights, and when viewed in the dark the clashing aesthetic isn’t so noticeable. And if you know what you’re doing and have the necessary parts, you can always figure out ways to hide the E-Blox components under the hood.

In addition to offering fun LEGO-like buildability, E-Blox are great training tools for kids to begin learning about the STEM and STEAM subjects. The Circuit Builder sets provide a bunch of scripted projects to dig into right out of the box, while the pARTS kits are more for sparking the imagination and creativity through freeform building. Even serious LEGO builders can find valuable utility by using E-Blox pARTS to mod their designs with flashy LED effects. In terms of value, E-Blox are more expensive compared to other building block sets of comparable piece counts, but given their added functionality that is to be expected. If you would like to graduate from preset kits or you’re already an experienced builder with specific needs in mind, E-Blox are also sold as single pieces so you can buy exactly what you need/want.

Buy From: Amazon or myeblox.com

Disclosure: pARTS Starter Kit and Circuit Builder 59 samples were provided to VGBlogger.com for review purposes by E-Blox.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!