A Tale of Two Subscription Boxes

I’m reviewing two different subscriptions kits today: Maker Box and Stem Box. Please note that I was sent these for review and these are past, not current, versions of the boxes. Please also note, this is no smackdown as the products are not equals. The Maker Box is for teens on up and Stem Box is designed for tween girls. Still, if I had to pick a winner, it would be The Maker Box, so let’s start there.

Maker Box

Maker Box  is a quarterly subscription box that provides three different kits, enough to keep a person busy for a quarter of the year. Though I suppose ambitious makers could rip through the projects in an afternoon. It’s all about the pacing.

Pricing, in addition to pacing, is another thing to keep in mind with Maker Box. It’s $100 per box, which might sound like a lot, but let’s break down my box, which, in addition to the three project kits also included a welcome letter and a riddle-type puzzle that I either didn’t understand or was missing a component.

  1. Thirsty Plant Kit (solar powered moisture sensor): $35
  2. Makey Makey (see it in action here): $49.95
  3. Farm Curious Fermenting Kit: $26 (was $29.95)

So, even though there without a lot of value added extras, it’s a good deal financially. Plus, the Makey Makey and fermentation kit allow for years of creative making.

Their first Maker Box, the one I received, was curated by well-known Maker Mark Freuenfelder. The second box (May 2016) is curated by another Maker Dad, Bob Clagett. They’re not advertising the contents of the because that’s part of the fun of the boxes. Well, fun for some. I like to know what I’m getting for my money, but I know several subscription services that work along these lines and attempt to surprise and delight their customers.

They do promise the the Maker Box items will be related to Science, Stories and Culture and will include a note highlighting the theme and meaning behind the included items.

Maker Box provided mix of interesting items and a decent value. I’m not comfortable calling mystery packages a must-buy, but Maker Box is definitely something to keep on your radar.

Stem Box

You know I’m big on products that encourage girls to get involved in STEM, so I was excited when I first heard about STEM Box. Only once I found out it’s officially named “Stem Box,” I got all twitchy. STEM is an acronym. STEM.

But when they offered me a kit, I figured it would be a perfect review item for Rachel and her daughter. After all they did a great job testing out the Yellow Scope science kit for girls. After the Stem Box arrived at my house, I couldn’t resist taking a peek before I passed it along.

I loved the cute STEM-themed paper covering the box’s contents.

The contents themselves, though, failed to impress. The Stem Box featured owl pellet dissection. Owl pellets are not poop, rather they are undigestible material, like claws and teeth, owls regurgitate. Hmm, that doesn’t sound much better, but the pellets in the kit have been heat sterilized. And the pellets present an interesting way to learn about an owl’s lifestyle and diet.

Owl Pellet dissection kit: less than $5.00  and may include owl pellets, dissection guide, plastic tweezers, magnifying lens, and bone chart

Value-added items include nitrile gloves, kid-sized safety goggles, petri dish, piece of black paper, an owl pin/button, an owl stuffed animal of the quality one might expect from a school fun fair or Oriental Trading Company. They also provide supplementary materials on their website in the form of videos and links.

One month subscription is $36, but the per-month cost drops to around $29/month when you subscribe for multiple months. Pricing is in line with industry, but I didn’t feel that there was enough value added.

Given that the STEM Box, err, Stem Box, contained a one-time activity that can be purchased inexpensively online, I don’t feel that it provides enough value to justify the price. At least the one I tried didn’t. Kits are great way to get introduced to different topics and make it easy to get started. That convenience comes at a cost, though. Kits are pricier than DIY options. Ultimately, there’s a balance.  Get a glimpse of past and future Stem boxes and decide for yourself.

The Maker Mom reviews The Maker Box.

1 thought on “A Tale of Two Subscription Boxes”

  1. Thank your for your honest reviews! In the past we have enjoyed Steve Spangler subscription, we continue to really enjoy Tinker Box subscription, we LOVED the Yellow Scope box!, and we really want to get our hands on either the MelScience box or the new EMEE box!

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