Held last month at New York City’s Jacob Javits Center, the 115th International Toy Fair took another step toward ramping up the scope of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematic (STEM) toys available to children today.
The trend in toys reflects that of the engineering industry. There are cross disciplined toys that blur the lines between electronics and mechanics, and a focus on using tools to build and construct their own toys. The manual aspect of the toy trend is wonderful to see; as we struggle to find skilled engineers in the field, the toy industry continues to recognize the importance of exposing the next generation to STEM education.
Here are a few offerings of note from the show:
Botley Coding Bot
Botley is a new coding robot toy from Learning Resources. The kit comes with coding cards, detachable arms, interactive obstacles, coding games, and a 77-piece activity set. The robot offers a screen-free coding experience for teaching young children without the dependency of a display. The kids input the coding instructions in a wireless remote and the robot takes off, finding its way through obstacles and following paths based off of the kids’ inputs.
IQ Key Basic, Advanced, and Protech Kits
The design kits from IQ Key have been featured on our best STEM toys list from last year. New to the company’s toy lineup are three different design kits: basic, advanced, and protech. They have bundled their different series robot kits based on difficulty. The basic kit is for non-powered mechanical sets. The advance kit features remote electronics for battery-powered action. And the protech kit has solar panels and different motor pieces. These help young kids understand design engineering principles behind different industries. Each kit comes with four design guides for different configurations.
SICK SCIENCE! Kits
From creator Steve Spangler, founder of the popular YouTube channel Sick Science, these science kits offer quick and fun activities to do with kids. The kits vary in subject, ranging from physics to chemistry, and each can be accomplished with the simple items in the box and everyday objects found around the home.
The OFF Bits
A spin on the Erector sets of old, OFF Bits is an “open-source” construction toy system based on build-it-yourself kits made from proprietary connectors and standard hardware components. The kits include brightly-colored robot characters with inspiring backstories, custom-designed vehicles, extension packs, tools, and accessories. Kids can combine them for more building possibilities, and additional parts can be added from any home toolbox.
Mechanics is a construction kit line made by the Swiss company Geomag. It focuses on using magnetic and mechanical forces to construct different mechanical structures. The kits come with magnetic rods, steel spheres, rotating mechanisms, triggers, and different mechanical tools like levers. The 2018 release will include a Mechanics Gravity kit to combine the forces of gravity and magnetism.
KD Interactive’s Aura and My Loopy Bot
We first saw RoboLoco at the RoboUniverse Show in 2015. There the company introduced Marcel, a toy robot designed to help children learn simple robotic principles. This time, it’s partnered with KD Interactive to introduce new tech innovations for children. Aura is a drone kit that comes with a force and accelerometer sensing glove. The glove can control the flight path of the drone. My Loopy is a bot that introduces children to machine learning programming. The bot can interact with children based on their input. It has force sensors to detect when it is dropped or its eyes are covered, and provides feedback to the child.
Ubtech is known for its position-based programming robots, intended to teach children how to program and code. It has now have partnered with Disney to introduce the same technology in the form of a Stormtrooper. The First Order Stormtrooper Robot has facial recognition detection, built-in accelerometers and gyroscopes, infrared sensors, and camera function, plus it can interact via voice commands.
Robotis is a robot solution company founded in 1999. Its educational kits are designed to function as modular robot building sets for enhancing a step-by-step STEM curriculum. The kits featured above are the Robots Mini kit. They are 3D printed and can be programmed with the accompanied Robotis Mini app, R+ Task, and R+ Motion software. The kit comes with 16 dynamixel XL-320 smart servos, featuring a safety clutch and programmable LEDs.
Piper Computer Kit
Combining the electronics of a computer and the building skills of a mechanic is the Piper Computer Kit. The kit comes with pine wood pieces, a 7-in. LCD display; speakers; a Raspberry Pi computer (specs); HDMI, USB, and AV jacks; and a SD card with pre-installed games and software. Once built, the box uses a Stanford-endorsed curriculum to help the child fully understand the basics of electronics, programming, and computing. There is also downloadable content available to push their skillset even further.