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    Joined: Jan 2011
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    beak Offline OP
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    DS5 has just had a lot of fun with a complicated >1000 piece lego set (with adult help), and also with keva contraptions set (planks, balls and building guidelines come with kit). He's very gentle and can play with fragile things (as intricate lego items can be!) and repair them when needed.

    Any suggestions on other building kits that he might enjoy alone or with an adult? Maybe something with some electronics? And preferably something that could be built upon and have components that can be used in other ways rather than a stand alone item?

    Beak

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    Lego Mindstorms?

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    No electronics (though I think there is a motor component that we haven't got) but DS7 loves Georello gears (interlocking cogs which can be wheels among other things, and various bits to let you build things with them). He was given a very simple set around age 2 which got a lot of mileage, and recently spent a long time's worth of pocket money to buy a more advanced set to go with it - there's a fair range. The big advantage is that at no stage has he needed adult help with it - the adults in our house have limited patience with lego!


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    beak Offline OP
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    Thanks! I just looked at the mindstorm nxt 2.0 (is that the only product available currently, with other pieces that can be purchased to supplement it?), and I think DS might be too young for that. Although if it has the very detailed visual directions like the complex lego creator type sets do, He may be able to follow on his own, with help as needed. If the directions are minimal, we should probably wait on that and work with some intermediate building set first. Any advice on the mindstorm directions?

    the Georello gears looks pretty interesting-i think he might enjoy that!

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    Zometools or snap circuits?


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    For the electronics, we went out and bought aligator clips, and a few components like speakers etc, and let him make freeform circuits. Whenever we throw out electronics, DH helps DS4 take them apart for any salvagable stuff. If needed, DH will solder on thick wire connectors so that the aligator clips will attach. This has been a cheap and easy way for DS to get into it and have a lot of fun!

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    Wow, I had no idea that Georello had expanded the product line so much. Pretty cool! I also second Snap Circuits.

    Regarding Mindstorms, NXT 2.0 is the latest version. There are other pieces and sets available, but you can do a lot with the base set. It's expensive, but so are 1,000 piece Lego sets. smile

    The instructions really hold your hand. The kit comes preconfigured as an instruction-bot that upon hearing your voice clambers out of the box, explains how to use Mindstorms in a tinny voice, and physically assists you as you reconfigure it into new robot shapes.

    That would be neat, and the reality isn't far off. A big glossy insert gets you up and running with minimal trouble. After installing the software that comes with it, you will see extremely thorough step-by-step assembly manuals for the hardware of several robots. Each sub-assembly is dealt with in a separate subsection; for instance, the head of the gator-bot is built separately. Hooking up each motor or sensor to the CPU is also quite simple, with an RJ-45 (phone) cable that goes to a numbered or lettered port.

    In comparison to the more complicated regular (non-Technics) Lego sets, I would say that the pre-designed Mindstorms bots are only slightly more difficult to put together precisely to spec, and that only because the Technics pieces tend to offer fewer up-down cues when you're looking at the directions. It's really not bad, and the directions are very easy to follow.

    Regarding the software, it's really not complicated to get started either. I know it might sound complicated, but the Lego designers did a very good job of making it accessible. Mindstorms 2.0 comes with a visual drag-and-drop programming environment. You can, for instance, drag and drop a loop (something which repeats instructions inside itself), drag it bigger, and plop blocks inside of it, each block representing some action. It's hard to explain quickly, but really not hard, even for a child to understand. And all of the pre-designed bots come with their programs pre-written. You can pull up the program and examine and change it at will.

    I don't think it is crazy to buy Mindstorms for a five-year-old who likes building a lot. It would probably hold your son's interest for some time to come. I can't answer whether he's ready for it, but perhaps you could find some way to let him play around with a set locally.


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    beak Offline OP
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    Thanks for the great intro to the Mindstorms! although the instruction-bot would be nice... it sounds like the actual directions are very reasonable. And if this is beyond DS ability to work on his own now, I think it would be great shared activity for him and DH.

    You've already shared 4 things that I wasn't familiar with, so I'm so glad I asked!



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    Hi beak
    I third or fourth smile the snap circuits, DS5 LOVES them, he needs help with them but he did correct his retired engineer grandpa's faulty circuit, so he is learning! We do Lego but I have held off on mindstorm although he did play with a demo at a festival and LOVED it. We were thinking 6 or 7 or so, more for our convenience then his ability to do them! Going a different direction, have you seen Bloco, they are foam construction pieces to make predesigned animals or your own weird concoctions. DS loves them, cause you can make such crazy animals,I like them because they tapped a different interest.
    Bloco


    DeHe

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    beak Offline OP
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    I've been looking at the snap circuits and I can see their appeal! I think we might try those out next. The bloco sets also look interesting
    Thanks for all these great ideas.

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