Review: #45025 DUPLO Coding Express (LEGO Education)
Want to teach simple coding concepts to young kids using DUPLO? Coding Express includes everything you need—we’ll explore whether it’s a good fit for your classroom or home.
January 15, 2022: Six weeks ago, I discovered that the download link for the Coding Express app for Android was no longer working. I reached out to a contact at The LEGO Group who assured me that the appropriate team is working on a fix, but the Android app remains unavailable. This is the second time this has happened since posting my initial review, so I have updated my rating to 1/5 stars (Not Recommended).
You can still install the app from a 3rd party Android Appstore, but you should do so at your own risk, since there is no guarantee that the app package has not been tampered with.
#45025 Coding Express is $209.95 (249.99€ / £222.99 / 269.99 CAD), 234 pieces, ages 2-5. With so many pieces, this set comes to $0.90 per piece in the USA. That’s a very high price-per-part even though DUPLO parts are more expensive than LEGO and the set includes a battery-powered programmable DUPLO Push & Go Motor (part 28743) which is worth about 25$ on BrickLink. (Maybe the high price is justified by the curriculum materials and software experiences.)
The set was released in 2018, but only made available to the general public in 2020 when The LEGO Group decided to sell LEGO Education products at the LEGO.com website. (While not explicitly stated, this was likely influenced by school lockdowns as the COVID-19 pandemic grew out of control.)
This article is actually two reviews in one:
- A review of the DUPLO Train system (Duplo Tracks, Push-and-go Motor, and programmable bricks), and their associated App Experiences.
- A review of the #45025 Coding Express set specifically.
The reason that I’ve decided to cover both topics in a single article is simple: you can download all of the educator resources that come with the set for free!
You can unlock all of the experiences described in the review using the less expensive consumer-facing DUPLO train sets described below…
I was really excited to learn that LEGO Education products were available for the first time to the general public. This not only opened up access to this set, but also to #45026 Tubes (link to review), and #45678 LEGO Education Spike Prime set (review coming soon).
I was especially eager to try this set with our son who turned two this fall. As a Computer Engineer by degree and by trade, I was eager to see if really young kids could really learn basic programming concepts with a battery powered train!
I did not realize at the time I placed my order that the consumer-facing #10874 Steam Train ($59.99) or #10875 Cargo Train (119.99) sets use the same DUPLO Train Push & Go motor (part 28743) and Action Bricks.
For a similar building experience to this set, you can supplement these smaller consumer-facing sets with #10882 DUPLO Train Tracks or #10872 DUPLO Train Bridge & Tracks, DUPLO bricks that you already own, or any other DUPLO sets that sound like fun!
About the DUPLO Train System
Whether you buy the #45025 Coding Express set highlighted in this article, #10874 Steam Train or #10875 Cargo Train sets, they all use the same battery-powered push-and-pull train car and the same system of track.
The core components of the current DUPLO Train system are:
- DUPLO Train Push & Go motor (part 28743).
- DUPLO Train Base 4 x 8 with Rounded Corners (part 28759).
- DUPLO Train Action Brick (part 35962) in 5 different colors.
- DUPLO Train Track Straight (part 6377).
- DUPLO Train Track Curved (part 6378).
- DUPLO Train Track Switch (part 51943).
- DUPLO Train Track Crossing (part 6391).
- DUPLO Train Track Straight w/ 4×8 Plate (part 6391).
- DUPLO Train Track Ramp (part 35966).
- DUPLO Train Track Bridge, End Section (part 6392).
- DUPLO Train Track Bridge, Middle Section (part 6393).
- DUPLO Train Track Buffer Stop (part 35967).
To be clear, no single set contains all of these parts. You may also encounter two compatible Train Track Crossover (part 6376) which was produced in 1995-2008, but only in dark gray color.
While the DUPLO Push & Go motor and compatible Action Bricks were just introduced in 2018, it is compatible with the original DUPLO track which came out in 1983. In fact, while this is the first Bluetooth compatible DUPLO train, a previous Intelli-Train system was released in 2002, which also used Action Bricks that lay on the tracks.
Because this set unlocks several different learning modes, we will explore each of them separately. (This includes a brief summary of the DUPLO Connected Train app, which is intended for the consumer-facing DUPLO train product but compatible with this set.)
Built-in DUPLO Train experience
The good news is that it’s easy to get started! Just install the batteries, press the green power button, place the train on the track, and give it a nudge to get started. As the train encounters the color-coded action bricks, the train will respond accordingly.
Action Brick behaviors
- 24Bright YellowYellow – Warning horn/sound.
- 1White – Beeps and toggles light on/off.
- 23Bright BlueBlue – Pauses the train with engine sounds.
- 28Dark GreenGreen – Reverse train direction.
- 21Bright RedRed – Stops the train
The action bricks are placed directly on the track, covering the train ties. One quirk of the system is that the color sensor on the bottom of the train is not centered on the bottom of the train. When the train is driving forward, it triggers when the programming brick is almost directly underneath the car, but when it is going backwards it triggers after driving nearly over the action brick.
LEGO Education ‘Coding Express’ app
The learning modules are organized as follows:
- There are three brick-built train creatures which respond to action bricks through exaggerated emotions/expressions.
- These modules show a first-person view driving on the train track to encounter figures, street signs and their associated obstacles, and seasons.
- My favorite module plays different sounds for each colored brick. This includes our favorite module that plays animal sounds, and another option that plays musical instruments.
- The last option doesn’t use the Action bricks at all. Instead, you can dial in a number from 0-10, and the train will drive that many units of distance and beep the same number of times.
These learning modules significantly increase the variety programming scenarios that are possible with the DUPLO Train. (If you use the Coding Express app with the consumer sets, you will need to create the creatures in the first module using different parts, and the street signs module will be hard to use without the same set of signs.)
Building Inspiration Cards
In addition to the core train-based experiences, #45025 Coding Express includes lots of extra pieces which can be used to build a diverse range of small scenes. According to the Getting Started guide, “The activities are designed to familiarize children with the unique elements of the set, which include a train engine and action bricks.” This makes a lot of sense since this set is intended for kids ages 2+ in a classroom environment; the extra parts and building ideas help educators introduce kids to DUPLO before building the train.
In addition to inspiring fluency with the DUPLO bricks, they also allow for simple storytelling and creative play. For example, one of the cards shows a tree that’s attached to a hinge which falls onto the train tracks. Kids can decide what the family picnicking nearby will do when the tree falls down?
Even though the idea cards are simple, toddlers will need help finding the parts they need and building the models as pictured. This could be challenging in busy classrooms where one-on-one attention can be a challenge.
Even if you don’t buy the Coding Express set, you can download and print the inspiration cards, but improvise using the parts that you have!
‘DUPLO Connected Train’ app
Because it’s designed for the consumer market, the DUPLO Connected Train app is focused on fun. The main function of the app is as a remote control for the train, and you can see the train driving in a forested or urban scene. The train conductor matches the figure included in the Steam or Cargo train sets.
The app also includes some mini-games which you play completely on the phone screen. They are pretty simple games, like dragging parts on screen to build a bridge or clean a dirty train engine. The challenge is that these mini-games take you away from building and programming the Train.
The best thing about #45025 Coding Express is that it contains everything in one box: the DUPLO train system, a boat and plane, and enough bricks and figures to learn how DUPLO works and enable a variety of storytelling scnearios. (While purchasing additional track allows for a larger train layout, it doesn’t really enhance the learning potential of the core set.)
The downside is that it is a LEGO Education set, and they are slightly overpriced in North America, and wildly overpriced in other markets. Based on today’s exchange rate, here’s how much the set costs in US Dollars: USA: $210, CAN: $211, EUR: $304 UK: $302. (It’s not available at all in Australia.)
That’s why my recommendations below are based on North America pricing; if you live in Europe or elsewhere, you may be even more motivated to go the DIY route described below…
Educators who want to get everything they need to teach DUPLO constructions kills and basic programmign skills will be well served by #45025 Coding Express. The fact that it is all in one set may make it easier to acquire in a classroom setting, because you do not need to apply for funding for multiple different products and hope that they arrive at the same time.
The Coding Express app really does extend the experience, with multiple learning modules that require kids to interact with the physical DUPLO bricks and the Tablet at the same time. This is a nice alternative to learning apps which draw attention away from the classroom environment.
I did want to mention that this is a pretty large box containing a lot of DUPLO. Two medium-sized plastic tubs will probably be sufficient to store it when not in use, with one bin dedicated to train pieces, and the other for everything else. This has the added benefit of allowing kids to build with basic DUPLO bricks without the additional hands-on support that the train requires.
If you want to get everything you need for a great building experience in a single box, #45025 Coding Express is a good option for parents, especially in North America where the pricing is more reasonable. The set includes 29 sections of track, a plane, a boat, a bunch of DUPLO bricks and six DUPLO figures.
That said, between the higher cost of this set and the fact that the consumer-facing sets may be easier to find, the $119.99 #10875 Cargo Train is the best option for most families because it includes 24 sections of track, plus a boat and an awesome crane. For about half the price, you can get #10874 Steam Train which includes just 16 sections of track and a small train station.
The good news is that you can easily supplement either of those sets with additional train track, DUPLO figures or bricks to match (or exceed) the selection of bricks in the #45025 Coding Express set. The most obvious addition to either set is to purchase additional train track, but you can also find additional city-themed sets for more storytelling opportunities. I’ve highlighted a few of the best options to supplement these sets below.
Extending your DUPLO Train set:
- #10882 DUPLO Train Tracks ($19.99) – 10 curved pieces, two switches, one train crossing, and one straight piece.
- #10872 DUPLO Train Bridge & Tracks ($24.99) – One 4-piece bridge, bridge supports, 8 straight pieces, and a construction worker.
- #10871 DUPLO Town Airport ($24.99) – One plane, an brick-built airport, and three figures.
This is the easiest way to add a third mode of transportation if you already have the #10875 Cargo Train.
With this DIY Approach, you do not get the printed Lesson Plans, Teacher Guide, and Getting Started/Building Inspiration Cards, although you can freely download an print them from education.lego.com. (You may need to expand the “downloads” section on the left of the page to find all of the resources.)
I have really enjoyed building DUPLO projects with our son, and the DUPLO train offers a great way to add variety to our building experiences. We decided to keep the DUPLO train and accessories in a separate box from the rest of his DUPLO because it does require more parental support to create a complete loop of track and correctly align the train on the tracks. This makes it a perfect rainy-day activity, so we can do something fun on days when we don’t want to do a longer outdoor activity.
The Coding Express app takes the experience to the next level, adding a new set of behaviors using the same programming/action bricks. He loves the mode which makes five different animal sounds, and I am eager to explore all of the modes with him in the future. It’s rare that a single LEGO or DUPLO set can offer so many engaging activities in one set, but I’m glad that this is something we won’t grow bored of as quickly.
January 15, 2022: Due to the prolonged inability to download the Android app required to fully utilize this set as an educational resource, I have updated my rating to 1/5 stars (Not Recommended) until further notice. From my perspective, the Android app should be considered abandonware, and there is no evidence that it will be supported in the future.
For educators who want to teach simple programming concepts using DUPLO, #45025 Coding Express is “Recommended” (4/5 Stars) because it includes everything you need in one box (except an iOS or Android Tablet). The high (and inconsistent) price, challenges downloading the Android version of the Coding Express app, lack of support for phones, and inability to re-program the train to continue running alternate applications without teacher support keep it from earning top marks. (Creating a custom set based on the consumer sets would also earn a 4/5 rating, and may be cheaper in some cases.) For parents who probably already have other DUPLO sets, #45025 Coding Express is a tougher sell and earns the lower “Good” (3/5 Star Rating). That’s because #10874 Steam Train ($59.99) or #10875 Cargo Train (119.99) are a better value and more readily available than LEGO Education products. Supplementing either of those consumer-facing sets with additional track and other parts from your collection would earn the higher ‘Recommended’ (4/5 star) rating for most of the same reasons mentioned earlier.
If you are eager and able to get one of the these DUPLO Train products, and willing to get down on the floor to build and learn with your child or in a classroom setting, you really should give it a try… I hope you have as much fun as we’re having!