19 May 2019

Little 1 gets to grips with gears

When I was at school I loved science, I loved Biology but I really enjoyed Physics, learning about forces, how things work and all the science behind it. I studied the sciences right up to A level and still find it fascinating how things work the way they do. The Little Ones are just beginning to ask questions and take an interest in the way things work and the mechanics of things especially Little 1 who did a topic at school on flight last term.


We have been reviewing a new toy this week which has had Little 1 asking all sorts of questions and one that she has been particularly fascinated in. It is an engineering makespace STEM experiment kit from Thames and Kosmos which were new for 2019, the kits explore the forces of force, motion, energy and levers so children can learn as they play. We were sent the Geared Up Gadgets kit but there are four in the collection including Kinetic Machines, Alien Robots and Off Road Rovers as well as ours, which retail for either £16 or £24 depending on which kit you get.


The kits are designed for ages 8+ and each kit can make 5 different models from the parts supplied (or in the case of the Robots and Rovers Kits 10 different models). The Geared Up Gadgets kit we have contains 114 pieces and not only can you make the 5 different models from those pieces but the models actually work. 


In our kit you can make a helicopter with a rotator that spins using a rubber band powered motor, a spinning toy that you wind up to launch, a handmixer that demonstrates a gear train, a flying scooter centripetal force machine that spins to send it's arms flying outwards and a cool aircraft launcher that flings a model across a length of string.

With so many interesting gadgets to choose from it was hard to decide what to build first but the aircraft launcher got the most votes so Little 1 set to work.


Included in the kit is a colour 28 page instruction manual, it has a picture and checklist for parts before you start and clear numbered instructions for each model as well as a few interesting scientific facts on gears and movement inside the covers.


We found the instructions fairly easy to follow as they clearly show which piece is intended to go where but I would have liked slightly bigger pictures of the last few building stages as most of the pieces are black or red and a bigger picture would have been easier to see, having said that we didn't have any difficulty building the model at all though my thumbs were a bit tender from pushing in all the pieces.


The handheld launcher part has an elastic band attached that actually propels the model forwards a bit, the aircraft model sort of sits in the launcher held in by you, is then pulled back and released, the instructions suggest doing this along a piece of string like a runway so that the model doesn't fall and get broken but we didn't have any so risked it and fired it anyway. It was a bit hit and miss depending on the age of the operator! Little 1 and Daddy could hold it steady and let go, removing their hand quick enough for the craft to shoot a few feet across the tables however Little 1 tended to aim at the floor a lot so there were plenty of crash landings, the model held up to all the battering!


After the success of the Aircraft Launcher Little 1 wanted to try the flying scooter and set to work building it herself. There is a handy yellow tool in the kit to help you remove the little red and blue linking pieces which worked well and saved lots of difficulty taking the aircraft carrier apart. Once Little 1 had built the flying scooter we discussed the gears and the lever, how turning the leaver turned the gears which in turn rotated the arms, we then discussed centrifugal force and why the arms when up and out when the model was at speed which lead onto a conversation about the washing machine and how the the spin cycle worked.



We enjoyed building the two things that we did and Little 1 is keen to try the spinner next but doesn't want to dismantle the flying scooter just yet so we will save that for another day, it took around 20 minutes to build each model so Little 1 didn't lose interest and spent most of an afternoon with the kit and the two models that we did build.


I would recommend this kit for the stated age range of 8+ and personally liked the way the kit is engineered to have models with working gears in several different ways, it certainly encouraged us to have some scientific conversations over the weekend. We were gifted our kit for review.

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