What are robots? How are they being used in the world today? How can kids make their own working robots? Where can you find parts? All this and more is covered in a great new book by GeekMom’s very own Kathy Ceceri. The book, Robotics: Discover the Science and Technology of the Future, not only shares this information and more, it actually contains robotic projects that kids as young as 9 can build using recycled household materials like paper, cardboard, paper towel rolls, and straws.
Full disclosure: Kathy Ceceri is my GeekMom editor. I volunteered to review a complimentary copy of her new Robotics book. I also had a pre-publication sneak peek at a few of the projects in the book.
The book contains 20 projects and we tried most of them. Some are quick and simple demonstrations and others require a bit more time and materials. All of the projects demonstrate real robotic principles. Best of all, there’s plenty of room for improvisation and parts substitution. The Passive Dynamic Mini Walker was the most surprising project in this book — we really didn’t expect it to work because it was so simple to build. No electronics, sensors or sophisticated joints. But it rocked! Made using a thin wooden skewer, some beads, and cardboard, its gait was amazingly life-like. We laughed with delight as it strolled down a cardboard folder like a tiny shore bird at the beach, powered by gravity.
The Wobblebot was one of the most sophisticated projects in the book, challenging us a number of times before succeeding wildly. Cool to look at, hilarious to watch, and so much fun to build, Wobblebot was our most rewarding project in the book. After completing Wobblebot, our 10-year-old son had a great understanding of harnessing solar energy from the sun to power a small motor that moved this bot.
Our favorite project, the robotic arm, provided an amazingly simple demonstration of hydraulics and pneumatics. These important principles came to life in this simple project. Who knew duct tape, cardboard and water could be so powerful? In fact, when our son demonstrated the working robot arm to his video game-obsessed friends, they immediately wanted to build their own. As the computer sat quietly ignored, even the six-year-old in the group took a turn controlling the robotic arm. Questions like “How does it work?” came quickly – they had never seen anything like this. And my son proudly explained the principles of hydraulics he had leaned in the Effectors chapter. Pretty impressive.
Learning by Doing
What a refreshing take on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Using a radical departure from a school textbook, Robotics: Discover the Science and Technology of the Future is filled with fun facts, fun illustrations, and ingenious hands-on projects that can be completed in an hour or so. We had so much fun building these projects. We laughed when things went wrong, cheered when we succeeded, and improvised when we didn’t have the exact parts the projects recommended. In the end, we learned more about robotics than we could have imagined from this cool book. The best part about this book is that real robotic principles emerge from hands-on projects (learning by doing). By the end of the book, my son not only had a great understanding of basic robotic principles, he also gained a great new vocabulary filled with words like Theremin, actuator, degrees of freedom and non-Newtonian fluid. And for a few hours, video games took a back seat as robotics captured his imagination. What a fun way to learn. We hope Kathy creates more books like this!
Get the Book
- Order this book directly from Amazon, either print or Kindle version
- Apple fans, buy it through iBooks