Tag Archives: robot

Building and Coding and STEM, Oh, My!

What happens when you combine building and coding and STEM? Easy: Endless amounts of educational, family-friendly fun.

Code Programming Game Series (ThinkFun)

code programming gameThe games in this series are designed to teach core coding concepts through hands-on, screen-free, unplugged play—and they do a wonderful job. Each one consists of a map and 40 levelled challenges (beginner, intermediate, and advanced). In On the Brink, the player takes a challenge card and will use logic and problem-solving skills to move his or her robot along colored pathways from start to finish. Rover Control is similar, but the pathways are colorless, so the player has to figure out not only how to program the robot to get from A to B, but also how to color the pathway, since the robots can’t move without the colors. Robot Repair takes thing up another notch. Instead of moving the robot, the player needs to repair the robot. Each of the challenge cards presents a problem and gives a series of clues for how to fix it. The player uses logic and deductive reasoning to solve the problem and re-activate the robot. $14.99 each at many online and brick-and-mortar retailers. For one player, age 8+. http://www.thinkfun.com
Continue reading

Parents@Play Gift Guide #5: WowWee! Robots, Coding, and More

These toys are so great they need no introduction!

CHiP (WowWee)

wowwee chipIn a word, CHiP is amazing. He’s a smart, trainable, affectionate robot puppy that’s always ready to play. Tell him to fetch, and he’ll bolt after his Bluetooth-enabled ball. Give him a kiss, and he’ll give you a slobber-free one right back. Tell him to do yoga, and he’ll do a perfect downward-facing dog (no cat-cow for this little guy). If you wear the SmartBand, he’ll follow you around the house. But if you ignore him for more than a few minutes, he’ll bark to attract your attention. The voice-recognition is great and so is the hardware, which enables CHiP to avoid obstacles and respond to a variety of touches and gestures. The wheels are especially cool and allow CHiP to move in any direction—even sideways—and on almost any surface. You can play with CHiP for hours on a single charge, and when his energy level drops, his eyes change color and he automatically makes his way back to his SmartBed to nap. Ages 8+. Around $180. http://wowwee.com

Continue reading

Look, It’s Moving by Itself!

Most kids (and plenty of parents) like to build—forts, castles, towers, model airplanes, and more—which explains why there are so many products out there designed to help us do just that. They range from simple wooden blocks and kits that show us how to construct all sorts of cool things using objects that we have around the house, to the most complex building sets. There’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment that one gets from stepping back and looking at a completed project. Most of the time, though, that’s about all you can do with it. But there’s a special thrill that comes from seeing whatever you’ve built come to life: electrical projects that turn lights on and off, radio kits that receive real broadcasts, and, of course, anything that moves. This week we’re taking a look at two very different construction sets that will provide hours of parent-child entertainment, both during the actual assembly process and afterwards, when it starts to move.

Runners (Laser Pegs)
laser pegs robot parents@playLaser Pegs has a variety of products that take Lego-type building to a whole new level by adding lights that flash, blink, and generally make what you’ve build look very cool. But in their Runners line, they’ve added motion. Runners come with fewer than 30 pieces, including the battery-operated base that powers the lights and the wheels. Besides making cleanup a little easier, that also makes construction quicker—15-20 minutes after opening the box, you’ll have a colorfully lighted tank running around your floors. The step-by-step instructions are easy enough to follow that even young builders will be able to take charge. The kit we tested lets you build six different moveable vehicles. But the possibilities are truly endless. There are plenty of additional suggestions on the company’s website, and Runners are also compatible with other building sets, making them infinitely expandable. The package says that Runners are “for boys and girls ages 5 and up”—a very smart move and we hope will encourage a lot more girls to see building as not being only for boys. Retails for $14.99 and is perfect for ages 5 and up. http://www.laserpegs.com/

14 in 1 Educational Solar Robot Kit (OWI Robotics)
OWI robotIf you’re looking for a more challenging construction experience, this is it. The 14 in 1 Educational Solar Robot Kit is exactly what it claims to be. You can build 14 different robots, the intricate moveable parts make it plenty educational, and it is powered by the sun, so no batteries required. It’s also incredibly fun. But you’ll need to be patient. Very patient. Each of the molded plastic pieces (I lost count at about 200) has to be clipped out of a plastic frame. And you’ll need to look very closely at the illustrated instructions to make sure all the components are facing the right direction before putting them together (if you get something wrong—and you probably will—not to worry: you aren’t using glue and the pieces snap together and unsnap pretty easily).

OWI robot assembly parents@playThe 80+ page manual has instructions on how to build each of the robots, including a dog that wags its tail, a running beetle, a walking crab, a zombie chaser, a turtle, and even a boat that actually operates in the water. The 14 robots come in two levels of difficulty, though the entry level projects are still challenging enough that it took a highly skilled 10-year old builder and her dad more than an hour to put one together. Ages 10 and up. Retails for $31.95. http://owirobot.com/