My six-year-old son is really into robots these days. He’s especially fascinated with the Zane character in the Lego Ninjago universe.
(Technically, Zane is a ‘Nindroid’… but let’s not get tripped up over details…)
Last week, my boy declared he wanted to build his own Zane.
I suggested using cardboard, paper and paint. My response was clearly way too simple and old fashioned for him…
He declared he wanted to build his Zane out of metal.
Well, I didn’t happen to have any scrap metal lying around…
(And I typically don’t ‘work’ with metal… I tend to just buy gear made out of metal!)
Nevertheless, I decided to embark on a daddy/son mission, (admittedly half baked) and I took my young Frankenstein to Home Depot to get some small metal mending plates and nuts and bolts. I figured that might do the trick.
Note to other parents out there:
Don’t try this!
You’ll encounter sticker shock at the checkout register and end up becoming the proud new owner of lots of scrap metal. Sure, my boy had some fun screwing sharp metal parts together, but he didn’t create anything close to a robot.
The Influence of the Lego Universe
However, he did create a Ninjago ‘Shurikan’ by bolting together three pieces of metal into a large triangular ‘tool.’
(He actually made two.)
But as grand as this spontaneous creation was, it’s a little too real. Much like Shurikans in the mystical Ninjago story that were so powerful and originally banished, our newly created 3-D Shurikans will need to be dismantled and made into something else.
(The parts redistributed for less ‘impactful’ purpose)
And there’s another problem… Remember, we didn’t build a robot. Perhaps if I were an AI genius, I might have had greater success, but it was time to look for help with this quest elsewhere…
Time to buy a toy robot that some other AI genius built.
Welcome to the Commercial Lab of Creation
There are a variety of aspiring toy robots out there for kids, but I quickly focused on an established solution… one of the robot toys made by a company called ‘WowWee.’
WowWee’s designers have come up with a variety of tech toys since 2004, including their WowWee MiP Robot.
The MiP is a cute little balancing guy on segway-like wheels with ‘GestureSense’ technology that allows you to control its actions with your hands. Plus you can use an app on your smartphone to control it.
There’s also a newer WowWee Coder MiP Robot, which is translucent, sports a rechargeable battery pack and comes with a cool plastic ramp to play with.
This ‘Coder’ version has every capability of the original MiP, but you can now also ‘code’ actions and sounds with the app based on how you interact with your MiP.
(It’s not really coding… it’s simply selecting your “when/then” choices.)
Whether my six year old is ready for even this basic kind of coding is questionable, but I figure the functionality will still be there for him in a year or two to explore.
(Assuming the Coder MiP is still a functioning member of the Lester family.)
Amazon has the Coder MiP for $44.90.
(MSRP is $99.99.)
That’s actually way less than my metal mission to Home Depot set me back.
(Let’s speak no more of that.)
Fueling the Mad Scientist
Okay. So I’ve checked the robot box.
But again I still haven’t solved the building need.
WowWee also makes mini versions of their robots, called RC Minis.
And they make sub versions of the mini robots called “Build-Up” editions.
(They come in pieces.)
These “Build-Ups” are much simpler than their cousins, and you control forward and turning motion using an included remote.
But you do actually build them…
For my six year old, he may need some help getting it all together. So it’s probably going to be a family activity… but that’s just fine with me.
(That said, I don’t want to sell him short. He’s already a pro at building Lego Bionicles on his own.)
The WowWee Robosapien RC Mini Build-Up edition goes for $29.96 on Amazon.
Not a bad deal…
…If it gets the job done.
The bottom line is there’s now a young tech builder in the family. So these two WowWee bots are just the beginning.
Any other ideas out there on technology-based building projects I can line up for my son? I’m thinking that this is where things can really start to get interesting…