Toy Thursday - Revisiting OWI's 14-in-1 Solar Robot
We’ve looked at the OWI-MSK615 14-in-1 Solar Robot in a previous blog, it was worth revisiting because I’ve actually taken a look at one and put it together. Of course, this was a project with my 6 year old daughter, so really I was only just helping. I decided to give it a shot as I had heard recently that there were some kids, in the 8-12 year old range who had some issues putting the thing together. Given that we sold out of these during Christmas last year and no one else had complained, I found that to be a little hard to believe. The age on the box is listed as “10+” so really this toy should be relatively easy to build.
Upon opening the box, my eyes were greeted by the familiar frames of plastic parts common to most model kits. The frames each have a letter and each type of part is numbered, so the instructions would call for “A-13,” for example and then you would use that part. The box also included a sheet of stickers, labels actually, for the baggies that were included. Everything was well organized.
The instructions were a little intimidating at first, they are in black and white and they are a lot of details in each picture, however when reviewed carefully the instructions were quite clear where to put each specific piece.
Of course, my focus was on organizing the pieces, and my daughter’s was on getting the robot built. We looked at the pieces and the instructions then carefully started assembling the gear box. The gears are colored to make them easy to identify and they are labelled with the color in the manual. With a little direction she put the gears together in the robots body. A double-check by dad, and the gear box could be sealed up. She then put the stickers on the pieces for the head, to give “WALL-E,” as she called the robot, some personality. The head was easy to put together for her being only a few unique pieces. We hooked up the leads from the gearbox to the solar panel and the robot didn’t work!
This then became a great opportunity to troubleshoot what went wrong. She held the robot up to the light in the kitchen, nope. The wan sunlight outside also failed to move the robot. The bright lamp in the bedroom? That did the trick! As soon as the robot started turning its gears my daughter’s face lit up! In less than an hour we’d separated the key pieces from the frame and got the main part of the robot together and working.
The next day we continued on to build the boat model. I folded the heavy duty paper or card stock boats and freed the pieces from their frames while she did all the stickers. With only very slight direction from me, she was able to build the bulk of the boat model by herself. While we did get the paddles to move on the robot with light, we weren’t able to catch enough sunlight yet to try it floating in water, but in less than 2 hours total and teeny bit of adult help, a 6 year old was able to build one of the models in this kit. She had a blast doing it, she was learning about solar energy, following directions, working with her hands and troubleshooting. Most important, she had fun!
As for some suggestions to make this robot kit a successful teaching experience, I would recommend the following activities for the teacher and students. As a class, take a look at the first few pages of the manual and the pieces. Next, put the labels on all the bags, get the pieces freed, cleaned up and decorated with stickers. As a class, with the teacher leading, construct the gear box and head unit. The teacher should go around and check the progress of the students and when everyone is done, test out the robot, troubleshooting as needed. From there, since the parts would all be labeled at this point, students should maybe work in pairs to build a kit of their choosing, then demonstrate to the class what they’ve made and how it works.
All in all, this was a really fun kit to work on, it is tricky, so for real young kids adult help is probably needed, but it’s a great activity to do together. For older kids, with an adult supervising and having kids work in pairs or paying extra attention to the directions, this would be a great STEM activity in a science class.