We were very excited when the MEL Chemistry box arrived. We received the tin experiments box with our first kit, and there are plenty to browse online too if you’d like to get a feel for the range. I should start this review with the caveat that my son is younger than the advised age range for this box, (which is 9-14 years of age).
We definitely found that he was interested in it, but didn’t necessarily have the patience for some of the experiments. However if your child is a little younger but very passionate about science then they should have lots of fun – as long as they have lots of parental supervision. If they are keen on experiments and are 9-14 years old then they will love it! It is an investment as it costs more than most subscription boxes (at just shy of £30 a month), but if you can afford it then it’s worth it.
What’s in the box?
We received the starter kit as well as the tin experiments box. Inside the starter it you receive:
- Two pairs of protective goggles (one for adults one for children)
- Borosilicate glass beaker and flask (with a range of bottle stoppers)
- Virtual reality headset
- Macro lens for your camera phone or tablet
- Smartphone or tablet stand
- Experiment tray
- Mini solid fuel stove burner
- A selection of small plastic beakers.
The Tin Experiments box also had:
- Guidance booklets on how to make your tin hedgehog and tin dendrite
- Two sets of rubber gloves (for a child and for an adult)
- All the respective chemicals you need to make the experiments (more than once)
- Two petri dishes
- Battery pack and leads to help make the tin dendrite (batteries not included).
We actually didn’t need much from the starter kit for this experiment. Just the tray, phone stand, lens and the VR headset. The instructions were easy to follow. It was also great to have clear disposal advice too. We set up my camera phone and followed the guidance online then set up the experiment and waited!
Even with a limited attention span my son was able to take part and engage in the experiment. Being able to use the macro lens and stand really helped us to take some great photos. As my son is a little young he didn’t necessarily understand all of the science involved but he was impressed nonetheless. This was how our tin hedgehog came out. Very Game of Thrones!
It was really fascinating to learn and understand the science behind every experiment. To have this supported with online videos too was great. There are 80 online videos that link to the experiments; the ones relevant to the tin box focussed on atoms and how they behave in different materials and states. These can also be used in the classroom so might be something to discuss with your child’s school. The tin dendrite was incredible to watch. It was a tin tree growing in front of our eyes. My son couldn’t quite believe that it was the same material as tin foil.
What really gives this subscription box and added edge is the VR headset. You download an app to help guide you through the experiments. You can also use the booklets which give the same advice along with explanations. There is also an additional VR app and once you set it up it transports you to the MEL Science lab. It’s pretty sturdy for a cardboard headset and has a built in button that means you can navigate the lab easily.
Inside the lab there are various different demos you can dive into. Our favourite was to look inside a lead pencil and a diamond. The screenshot below doesn’t really do it justice but it’s quite an immersive experience. It taught me more about atoms and the similarities and differences of carbon and diamond than I learnt in school! You can watch the videos on the MEL Science website although again, without the VR it’s not quite as immersive.
Before trying this box all the VR films I’ve experienced have been fun (riding a rollercoaster, flying through space) or they’ve been immersive (swimming with sharks, surfing the waves). They haven’t been a combination of both along with learning too. This was quite a treat as I found myself shrieking as we went inside a diamond to the atomic level, or inside a helium balloon with all the atoms whizzing past.
The only complaint my son had was that you had to hold the VR headset, as opposed to having a headset you could wear hands free. This is a reasonably valid point, but one that you could easily remedy yourself with some elastic if you really felt you needed to.