Disclosure: HEXBUG provided me with a VEX Robotics Ant for review purposes. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.
If you have been reading about the diapered knights for a while, you probably have realized that my oldest loves science and math. So much so that we briefly considered moving a mile or two down the road to make him eligible for the local STEM school. However, we ultimately decided to stay put in our good enough house on our perfect-for-us property.
What is STEM?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The educational community has been using the term to direct attention to these subjects, as it is important that we develop well-rounded students who have an understanding of the advanced sciences and technologies that will be required to maintain a productive future society.
Why Should I Care About STEM?
STEM skills aren’t just for geeks or boys, these skills are important for everyone! One of the most exciting things about our local STEM school is that students are given the chance to explore and learn about technology in an exciting and relevant way. Robotics classes, for example, allow students to choose to build whatever they want (hovercraft, anyone?) while learning the skills they will need to complete the project as they go. The school has partnered with local vendors and welders so that the students have the opportunity to work with professionals to complete their tasks. A child completing this project will likely learn skills like engineering of a good design, programming, electrical work, building, mathematics, and other important skills.
STEM skills allow your fashion-conscious child to go out in the world and not only work for a fashion house, but to engineer new designs and code her own website for an online shop. Your athletic child might decide to explore the science of sport, understanding sports at a mathematical level, and calculating the best ways to score a goal, for example.
STEM skills put your child in control. I want my boys to have the skills to do whatever they want to do without being forced to rely on others for help with tasks they could have done themselves, but they had not been empowered with the knowledge. I want my boys to be movers and shakers…look at the people who are really making a difference in the world…so many of them are people with strong STEM skills themselves.
How Can I Help My Child Develop STEM Skills From an Early Age?
Luckily for us, many familiar companies have made a commitment to developing toys that promote students to develop science, technology, engineering, and math skills. Over the summer I saw a prototype of a product that HEXBUG was putting out which enabled kids to use VEX Robotics technology to build their own giant, programmable HEXBUG robot. The VEX technology is the same technology used at the VEX IQ challenge, a robotics challenge held all over the country for elementary and middle school students.
My five year old was so excited about building the HEXBUG VEX Robotics Ant kit that he lobbied to skip Kindergarten the day after it arrived in order to build (and he LOVES kindergarten). Don’t worry, he went to school.
Building the HEXBUG VEX Robotics ant turned into a father-son activity, because although at 5, Buddy was able to assemble many, if not most, of the parts, he needed his dad’s help with some of the trickier, electronic components. The set is rated for ages 8+, and I imagine many 8 year olds could build this set with no adult help.
So they built.
The 150+ piece set was a fairly quick and easy build, perfect for beginning and aspiring robotics engineers. But the best part of the build was that while the build is fun, the end product is really interactive!
Buddy enjoyed using the remote to drive his ant manually and also programming the ant’s moments to run it autonomously. It scurried around our playroom, backed up when sensing an obstacle and even crawled over some low level obstacles! My son was fascinated to explore how his ant’s “brain” worked and how it would respond to various things in its environment.
I can guarantee the HEXBUG VEX Robotics kits are going to be a huge hit this year for the holidays, and I’d bet that they are going to become hard to find as the holidays near and parents realize these items are on every young builder and scientists list. Which do you think your child would like, the ant, spider, scarab, or strandbeast? I think we will try the scarab next…because of course my other sons now feel left out since, even at almost 4, my middle one certainly has the dexterity to manually control the ant. I particularly like that the parts for the VEX Robotics Giant HEXBUGs work together so that kids are encouraged to use what they learn in their builds to create a whole new bug! If I were a classroom teacher right now, I’d need the 4-in-1 kit just for that purpose.
Note: I linked to Amazon so you could see the product, but I have found the HEXBUG VEX Robotics for much less in store at Toys R Us and on the HEXBUG website (free shipping!).