What do you think of when you hear the word Robot? Perhaps you envision something frightening with Robots turning against humanity like in Terminator, I Robot, or The Matrix. Or maybe you think of something more friendly like Rosie from The Jetsons or Wall-E. You might even think of robots with a more human–like appearance, like Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation or Racheal from Blade Runner.
The future is still undecided and the world is a growing place and you can’t get away from the fact Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (the STEM disciplines) are at the heart of it all. The world needs more STEM-minded children to enhance our future. In 2019 only 27% of those who worked in the STEM fields were female. The world needs more STEM-focused girls. As of now, 19% of the Robotics workers are female. The future is heading more and more towards robotic trends.
It is important to foster any child’s interest in Robotics, but especially any curiosities seen in girls. I understand it may pose a challenge to find ways to stimulate the mind of a STEM-inclined child, but that is where we are here to help.
A Brief History of Robots
The first recognizable robot blueprints were drafted in 1495 by Leonardo DaVinci. It was made up of a knight’s armor with the abilities to sit and raise its visor. Before DeVinci’s mechanical knight the world had a long-standing fascination with automatons, the evolutionary ancestor of robots. Both are machines designed to perform a function, but for a machine to be a robot it has to be able to have decision-making capacity.
In the 1840s, Ada Lovelace was a mathematician, and the woman who first invented the analytical engine all robots need to function. The first marketable robots had single arm-like designs; they were invented in 1954, and first brought into use in car manufacturing in the 1960s. By the 1980s robotic arms were being used in the surgical fields. As recently as 2015, Sophia was the first robot with developed intellect.
The evolution of the modern robot started in the 1920s. The Czech playwright, Karel Čapek created the word Robot in 1927. However, in 1942 it was Isaac Asimov, author of I, Robot, who would cast Robotics into the public eye. Popular media still continues to shape our views on robots and our relationship with them. What movies, books, or T.V. shows have added to your view on what a robot is?
Robotics has become a quick-growing field of study throughout the 20th century and into the 21st. Today Robots are working in factories, being developed for the military, and even being designed to be our friends. Amazon’s Alexa is even a simple kind of A.I. because she can learn the behaviors of her family and hold conversations. With all that being said, Robotics is a fast-growing field and a wonderful way to capture your child’s imagination. All the toys listed below are a wonderful way for STEM-focused children to sharpen their understanding of both the technology and mechanics of Robotics.
Toys to Aid Your Child’s Future in Robotics
Robot Engineer Kit
Thames and Kosmos have educational toys for a wide age range. The first from this company I’d like to highlight is the Robot Engineer Kit for children ages 3 and up. It comes neatly packaged with 53 pieces plus a colorful and fun storybook. The characters Ty and Karlie use their imaginations to build different robots to aid in their adventure. The Robot Engineer Kit is the perfect first fit for preschool children to start their journey through the thrilling and fun world of robotics.
Why this?: At this stage of brain development, it is still really easy to learn new concepts and information. Your child will have a head start by giving them skills to build upon. This toy also helps with the critical development of creativity and problem-solving.
Recommended Age: 3 and Up
Price: $49.95 at Walmart
Robotic Smart Machines
The second robotics toy by Thames and Kosmos is the Robotic Smart Machines. This wacky robot kit is designed for advanced elementary children or middle school-aged kids. It comes with 230 pieces that can build 8 different robots. It comes with a clearly written instruction manual and is sure to prove fun building all the different variations. The only downside to this is the Robotic Smart machines require a smartphone or tablet to run their coding app. However, if you have a device to run the app on this robot will provide hours of engineering and coding fun.
Why this?: Along with developing skills in Robotics this toy will also help with problem-solving and introduce your child to the coding side of Robotics. With so many different robots to build and program it has a reusability feature that will keep your child’s skills advancing.
Recommended Age: 8 – 14
Price: $99.99 at Target
My Robotic Pet: Tumbling Hedgehog
Thames and Kosmos have one last entry on this list: My Robotic Pet. This robotic toy comes in form of an adorable hedgehog your child gets to put together themselves. The kit comes with 172 pieces, a fun comic book style guide, and once it is built the hedgehog has 3 different interactive modes. It can roll in different directions and is sure to bring a smile to your youngster’s face.
Why this?: This is a good project to work on with your kids so that you can bond over their new love of Robots. It is cute and whimsical and can be a good alternative to real pets for kids with allergies.
Recommended Age: 10 and up (or 8 and up with help)
Price: 35.99 at Khol’s
JIMU Robt Mystical Series: Unicornbot and Firebot
UBTech has the perfect mixture of Robotics and fantasy with its JIMU Robot Mythical Series. This series gives you the choice of two different robotic kits to pick up and build: Firebot the Dragon or Unicornbot. Both of these magical creations provide the experience of building a robot, can be coded, and provide tons of interactive fun. Firebot also includes moveable wings, a touch sensor, and a dragon fire LED light in its mouth. Unicornbot, on the other hand, has an LED horn and a color sensor with 8 different programmable lights. Firebot’s kit contains 606 pieces while Unicornbot’s kit comes with 440.
Why this?: These two were what inspired me to write this blog. It has the fun of the magical world on top of the development of robotics skills, creativity, and problem-solving. Having a Robot Unicorn or Dragon is just plain awesome.
Recommended for ages: 8+
Robomaker by Coding Lab provides the ideal pastime for a child who wants to increase their skills in Robotics. With Robomaker you receive a guide to building five different Robots of increasing difficulty to keep their skills growing and sharp. The child not only tests their ability to construct the mechanics of these robots but also program them to do different tasks. Infrared sensors can detect the area around the bot and it has a touch sensor to allow it to interact with its environment.
Why this?: This versatility of this robot along with the way it can interact with its surroundings makes it a good start for kids who have the basics the other toys offer but are ready to play with something a little more complicated.
Recommended age: 10+
In recent times we have brought robots into our homes, our hearts, and our imaginations. They can clean for us, control our lights, talk to us, and play games with us. The field of robotics is rapidly growing to develop Robots to aid and protect us. The future is wide open and your child could be the next great mind to expand upon this ever-growing horizon. After your child learns the basics of robotics engineering and sharpens their skills in programing these mechanical companions they will be on the road to the fascinating world of robotics.
Keep an eye open for my article on Coding and please like and share if you enjoyed this blog.