My daughter is getting interested in robotics. I figured this out when she kept looking at the robot kits at our local toy store with the same expression I usually reserve for expensive dark chocolate.
So this week we sat down to build her first robot. It’s a cute little 2-legged walker shaped like an ostrich made by Tamiya. The kit is obviously made for beginners because instead of using solder, all the wires get squished onto their contacts with tiny rubber loops. I was grateful for that. It’s not that I’m afraid of soldering irons -- I’ve built my share of Wheatstone bridges and attached wires to innumerable strain gauges over the years. But I really didn’t want the Girl’s first electronics experience to include burned fingers and cursing.
The robot was really pretty simple – little more than a switch, a motor, a gearbox, and legs with a neck stuck on to make it look more like an animal. And it was easy to put together, once you got used to the pictographic instructions and exploded diagrams. But what I found remarkable, and disappointing, was the complete absence of any explanation of the science that makes the robot work. You would think that a toy that bills itself as “educational” could stick a couple of sentences into the instructions explaining why the wires have to run in a complete circuit, or how the gear box transfers forces from the motor to the legs. Maybe it’s the language barrier.
Capsule Review: A fun project, but not an enlightening one.
• Fun -------------- 4
• Scientific Rigor-- 1