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11 July 2013

REVIEW: 14 in 1 Solar Robot Kit

Your very own ro-bro.

We love robots here at The Test Pit. In fact, we love them so much that we're actually looking forward to the Terminator Judgement Day when the robots finally take over. Yes they'd wipe out human life, but golly it'll be cool.

Our first ever review was of the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, but since then we've be hungry for another robotic pal to play with. Fortunately, thanks to Red 5, that's exactly what we got in the 14 in 1 Solar Robot Kit.

Of course when we say robot we don't mean an artificially intelligent machine like Data from Star Trek or a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica - we actually mean a neat little construction set complete with solar panel. So no Judgement Day quite yet.

The 14 in 1 Solar Robot Kit contains a wealth of plastic mechanical parts and cogs that can be assembled together in 14 different combinations to create 14 different little machines that, drawing energy from the solar panel, can walk, crawl, drive and swim. And so with the July sun blazing down we got with the making.

As we mentioned the kit is filled with lots of little parts that at first put us in mind of a LEGO Technic set. The main component, and the part that stays pretty much the same in all versions of the solar robot, is the head which contains the solar panel itself and the batteries. There is also a central body unit that contains the motor; the polarity of which can be altered to drive the other parts in the desired direction. Apart from that, its a bit of a free-for-all.

There are two levels of building difficulty, each with differing complexities of robots. We damned the torpedoes and went full speed ahead into a seemingly tricky build, the Row-Bot, which as the name suggests is designed for water.

The instructions are very clear and force the builder to consider how the motor's drive will influence whatever structure is built around the head and central body. The kit is marketed as an educational toy for older children, and its easy to why; even our adult (albeit extremely simple) minds were pushed to consider how things are correctly put together and our imaginations were fired into thinking about our own creations and what else we could build.

But once the Row-Bot was completed (in about 30 minutes of fun building) we headed out to the to test the craft's seaworthiness in the paddling pool we had previously chucked the CAT B15 Phone into. Avoiding stray grass and dead insects we placed the robot on the surface of the water and set it going.

It was a very sunny day and obviously the little solar panels had plenty energy to draw upon, because the Row-Bot started immediately to do just that; row. We were surprised at how quickly the motor kicked in and how powerful the output was. Needless to say the boat crossed the pool in no time at all.

Back inside and with the robot dried off, we disassembled the boat and set to building something with wheels, the Quadru-Bot. Another enjoyable making session followed, this time producing something more like a car than a boat. Instead of taking our new toy back outside we decided to see how the panels faired indoors, and therefore how the 14 in 1 Solar Robot Kit held up as a winter toy as well.

Although we were pretty sure there must still have been charge in the batteries from being outside previously, the Quadru-Bot still managed to get rolling along happily on the carpet inside. Bags of fun.

So yes, the kit will make you 14 different robots... in name only, but still this is a great educational set that we think could lead a few wee little tykes into future engineering and design careers. For that we salute it.

£17.95

Available from www.red5.co.uk
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