Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering

Fall 2017 Toys
Ages: 7 & Up
Manufacturer: Thames & Kosmos
Price: $59.95

Thames & Kosmos's Mechanical Engineering Robotic Arms introduces kids to the world of mechanical engineering and pneumatics through modular design. The manual presents the concepts of pneumatic design through several real-world examples and provides parts and detailed instructions to build six different models: a pivoting robotic arm, a grabber, a claw, a hand, and exoskeleton arms and legs. The projects constructed all function simply, using a pump and a switch to redistribute air pressure, opening and closing the claws of each machine.

Models are ranked in difficulty from level 1 to 3—oddly, the easy models are at the back of the manual and the most difficult are up front; children as young as the age 7 minimum may need parental guidance and assistance in troubleshooting, even on the simplest models, but persistent older elementary students and middle schoolers should be able to build the increasingly elaborate designs. Through observation and intuition, older children will be able to describe how the air pump powers the robotics; parents can look forward to discussions about the physics (appropriately presented in the manual) and about how these designs are being used in modern technology.

Emily Crawford   ©2017 Parents' Choice
Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a Master's in computer engineering from Georgia Tech. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, five cats, and thousands of LEGOs in Blacksburg, Virginia.

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