Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Robotics: Smart Machines

Robotics: Smart Machines

Spring 2016 Toys
Ages: 8 & Up
Manufacturer: Thames & Kosmos
Price: $129.95

The Robotics: Smart Machines Engineering Kit, a 230-piece kit for children aged eight through fourteen years, is a captivating and challenging way to introduce children to robotics and basic programming. There are components and instructions for eight pre-designed, programmable, remote-controlled (via smart device) robots: a bipedal droid, a spy bot, a beetle, a crocodile, a tiltrotor aircraft, a robo dog, a robotosaurus (my son's favorite, by the way), and a catapult. Users can also design, build, and play with robots of their own creation. The kit also includes a detailed, fully-illustrated, 64-page instruction manual, a hallmark of the Thames and Kosmos science kits.

The instructions are accurate and easy-to-follow; and, each set of instructions is rated easy, medium, or hard to ensure that children are challenged, but not overwhelmed by the activities. The manual also includes a variety of helpful tips and tricks for assembling (and disassembling) the various models. Additionally, the manual defines and explains a variety of scientific concepts and terminology including, but not limited to, sonar, echolocation, and radar. Each model also comes with sample programs as well as space to plan and diagram new programs (e.g., teaching the bipedal droid to sing).

Although children at the older end of the age range may be able to complete the projects independently (depending on previous programming knowledge and experience), younger children will most likely require adult assistance with most aspects of the activity. It should also be noted that these not the sort of projects that can be completed in five or ten minutes; these models take time and patience to complete and program. All of which leads to discovery and playful learning.

Sharon Heuscher   ©2016 Parents' Choice
Sharon holds B.A.s in English Literature and Ancient Studies as well as a B.S. in Psychology. She is currently a masters-level trainee in Clinical Psychology specializing in neurodegenerative diseases. For the past thirteen years, Sharon has focused primarily on raising, educating, and nurturing her five children who range in age from three to thirteen.

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