You’ve probably had subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, or even Netflix. Fairly recently the subscription box has emerged like Loot Crate, filled with Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Comic book themed T-shirts, mugs, minifigures and such. Now there’s a subscription box chemistry set from MEL Science.

“We have reinvented educational chemistry sets for kids,” says Vassili Philippov, CEO of Mel Science. “It includes chemical reagents for real experiments, a mobile app, and a virtual reality headset to let you visualize molecules in 3D.”

A kit that teaches science to kids should keep them engaged in learning and explain the science behind the experiment. Many existing chemistry sets have experiments that are fun and interesting but don’t explain the science very well.

Traditionally you’d buy the complete chemistry set, take out the manual, browse past the boring looking experiments to the experiments that look like they might be fun, and try them. Then, when you’re done with the fun experiments, the chemistry set is put away to gather dust until you move out of your parent’s house. That is, unless you’re the eldest sibling. The chemistry set might be taken out and played with when your younger brother or sister reaches chemistry set age and the cycle begins again: browse past boring experiments, try the fun experiments, and the set gets put away to gather dust again.

The MEL Science chemistry set is different from any chemistry set that I’m familiar with. It works like a subscription box (Birchbox, Loot Crate). When you subscribe you’ll receive the starter kit with two experiment boxes (“Tin” and “Chemistry of Monsters”), and the first month’s set of three subscription boxes. Then you’ll get three experiment boxes every month for a year. One advantage of the subscription chemistry set is when you’re done with the first five subscription boxes it won’t sit on a shelf gathering dust. Next month, you’ll use the parts from the starter kit to complete the experiments that come with the next month’s subscription boxes.

The following is a set of “unboxing” pictures of the starter kit:

Assemble the Google Cardboard virtual reality headset. Please note: the iPod Touch screen is too small to work with the Google goggles--I used my iPod to demonstrate where your iPhone or Android smartphone would go.

Assemble the dry fuel stove:

Macro lens / fisheye lens (clips on smartphone/tablet over the camera lens):

All the stuff that’s in the Starter Kit box:

The following are the experiment boxes that came with my reviewer’s sample of the startup kit (“Tin” and “Chemistry of Monsters” as well as the three boxes for November “Colorful chemistry,” “Chemical eraser,” and “Zinc-carbon battery”):

Here’s an example of what the “Chemistry of Monsters” box will look like (comes with the Starter Kit):

The “Chemistry of Monsters” box has two experiments: “Sugar Snake” and “burning sugar.” Click here for the details and instruction video for the sugar snake experiment, and click here for the details and instruction video for the burning sugar experiment.

The app that you install on your Android or IOS smartphones and tablets has the information and videos for each experiment as seen on the above web pages. The app also has 3D models of atoms and chemical formulas of the experiments that can be viewed in virtual reality mode using the Google Cardboard VR goggles that comes with the starter kit. Do keep in mind that the screen size on my iPod Touch is too narrow to use the app for 3D/VR mode. I tested my iPod screen with an old-timey stereograph and I was unable to view the 3D effect.

Some of the kits come with quite a few parts but it’s easy to follow the diagrams on the instruction sheets to complete the experiments. Here’s an example of the contents of “Zinc Carbon Battery” box (comes with the November boxes):

I decided to try the Magic Liquid experiment from the Colorful Chemistry kit.

Parts needed

Stirrer (from Colorful Chemistry box)
Sodium Carbonate (from Colorful Chemistry box)
Sodium Chloride (from Colorful Chemistry box)
Citric Acid (from Colorful Chemistry box)
Sodium Hydrogen Sulfate (from Colorful Chemistry box)
Thymol Blue (from Colorful Chemistry box)
Surgical gloves (from Colorful Chemistry box)
Six plastic cups (from Starter Kit)
Safety Glasses (from Starter Kit)
Tray (from Starter Kit)

Fill one of the cups with water and add 10 drops of Thymol Blue and stir.

Add 5 drops of Sodium Hydrogen Sulfate to one of the cups.

Then add Citric acid to second cup, Citric acid and Sodium Carbonate to the third cup, Sodium Chloride to the fourth cup, and Sodium Carbonate to the fifth cup

Next add the Thymol Blue to the cups.

Watch the Thymol Blue change colors as you add it to each of the cups.

As of this writing, the cost of the Starter Kit is $73.80 and the monthly subscription boxes are $11.95 each. You can explore the Mel Science website for more information at: