Guess what I got for Christmas? A "robot" car that I can build myself!
Well that's the way I described it to my twin preschool grandsonsand they confirmed that it was definitely "cool." But aside from peaking their interest, now that they are "hooked," I can use it to give them an inkling that robots are more than just battling Transformer-type space aliens.
That awareness started when I was at the DARPA Urban Challenge in November and called them to describe what the "racing robots" were doing, complete with sounds in the background. To follow up on that "teachable moment," rather than pickup an R/C car that was ready to run out of the box, I looked for a kit that would allow them to see such technology is actually put together by people.
What we found under the tree was the RC Snap Rover from Elenco Electronics. In the box were 37 parts and modules to put together a radio controlled car. All the pieces are on plastic "carriers" with contacts that snap onto a mother board to form the circuits to drive and light the vehicleeliminating soldering and thus allowing young kids to safely construct the car. The manual provides detailed explanations for older children on how electricity, batteries, and various electronic components work. There's also a mechanics lesson the motor and gears.
The car is but one of 23 projects that can be built with the kit. Going beyond just making a working R/C vehicle, these tasks are used to teach electronic principles to older kids, so I'm looking forward to playingerr rather teaching with itwith my grandsons for some time.