Camp Mama: Robotics

Cross-posted from Cherry Blossoms The Blog.


This week could have alternately been called “I have Pinterest so I think I can do anything.” Unfortunately, instead of learning my lesson I learned that with the power of the internet I can really do almost anything. Delusions of grandeur beware. This week was a success, but a tricky one, because these boys think they can just build a robot in an instant and seem to be willfully oblivious to the fact that there are so many steps between where they are and where they want to be. My goal this week was to give them time to play with pre-made robots, opportunity to build with a kit, and a taste of what real building is like. We will definitely pick this up again next summer with more sophisticated stuff, as we tinker around between now and then. (And I’m going to need an adult to guide is because this piano teacher is in over her pinterest-loving head!)

Monday: Field Trip

The remote controlled robots at the Perot Museum are always very popular so get there early or you'll be waiting!
The remote controlled robots at the Perot Museum are always very popular.


To start off right (and because our friends would be out of town on Friday) we went to the Perot Museum on Monday and spent the bulk of our time in the robotics lab. My kids could spend all day there if I let them, and I try to let them as much as possible! This museum is a must-do for anyone with kids who lives or is travelling through Dallas. (If you live elsewhere and have a museum membership it’s likely you will have reciprocity with this one, be sure to check!)

Tuesday: Building with a Kit
Our friends have had a Meccano kit in their closet since Christmas, intimidated by the commitment required to build a four-foot robot, so on Tuesday both families set out to tackle it. Naturally we didn’t get it finished in one afternoon, but even that was a good thing because our children are so accustomed to success that they tend to give up too easily. The kids worked on it, got overwhelmed and moved to other things, returned to it, and so on. The pace of the day was so wonderful and self-directed.

Wednesday: Baby Steps Building

foil tape, button cell batteries, and a bulb — simple!

Activity 1. We started by making robotic hands with cardboard. When we completed the project the kids were able to identify how and why such a thing could be useful. But it wasn’t motorized, electric, or fancy in any way. So as cool as it was, they wanted more.

Activity 2. From our cardboard hands we went next to paper circuits. This was a little more interesting and we were successful with one of our two circuits. Not bad for a bunch of technopeasants!

Activity 3. Those who were still engaged after all of this got started on the mini robots. We didn’t do well with unbalancing our motor but had fun tinkering away. This project my oldest was unwilling to give up on even after our friends left, choosing to continue to tinker through the next day. This little project of his changed shape so many times and I never got a photo.

Activity 4. A couple of us tried this no magnet motor but got stuck at the step that required us to strip three sides of the wire. Not only was that basically impossible, but we couldn’t understand why. No matter, we had had enough success that day and it was getting close to suppertime.

Thursday: Build Day and Play Day
Activity 1. We made Artbots and these were a lot of fun. Really easy to get the materials and just as easy to put it all together. The kids loved drilling holes in the CDs and using the glue gun. (Yes, all kids in the group aged 5 and up were using the drill and the glue gun.)
Activity 2. As soon as the mail arrived with my order of neodymium magnets we tried our hands at harnessing homopolar motors. It was tricky but we all squealed when our twisted copper wire spun on the battery. This was very neat.

Activity 3. Concurrent with the artbot build we played with the various robots owned by our family and a teenaged friend who came over to play. It was good to have so many so all the children were engaged and entertained. We played with Cubelets, Moss, Darkside Ollie, and Sphero. (There was also a hamster in a ball and my baby crawling around. It was loud and crazy but it was great fun!)

Friday: Quiet Day with Ozobot

So much fun with Ozobot!

The Ozobot is a new robot to our family so we devoted an entire afternoon just to unlocking some of its mysteries.

Hard at working planning new paths and performance points.

On Friday we didn’t leave the house and no one came over, it was just our little family and an even smaller little bot.

More than any of the other robots we have, Ozobot teaches programming and early coding skills to children and it’s as easy as using markers on paper. Ozobot is only an inch, so slipping this little robot into your purse can help you keep the kids entertained on the go.

Unlocking the secrets of code.

I will certainly bring Ozobot along with us to appointments and road trips.

Since ours is the Ozobot Bit, we can also go online (that’s right, no app required — the boys were happy to have no delay in downloading the app!) to use OzoBlockly for paper-free programming, a free online editor. My oldest spent all afternoon playing around with both ways to program Ozo and its code. There is an Ozobot app as well for even more fun!

Fresh out of the box Ozobot comes with cards to show off some of Ozo’s tricks and inspire the young programmers to go bigger and better.

Now that we have Ozobot figured out, we can’t wait to share it with our friends. Races, mazes, trick competitions — the opportunities for fun are unlimited.

In addition to their online store, Ozobot can be found at major retailers including Barnes and Noble, Toys”R”Us,  Amazon, and at select Target stores nationwide!


IMG_2175 imgo copy









Previous Camp Mama themes: Greek WeekFranceJunior ChefEconomics, and Japan.

I received the Ozobot free of charge for the purpose of my review.
This has in no way affected my opinion.
The opinions presented in this post are mine and have been written in my own words.

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