Ryan Thomason

Geek Dad Report: We Build a (very basic) Robot Dinosaur!

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Ok, maybe it was only a couple of parts that had to get screwed on or pressed into holes, but for the first time, we made something together where my son got to see the electric guts, ask questions and then put it together himself.

Really this is something that I could have put together in a couple of minutes by myself, but, that’s not the point. It’s about the process and discovery. Plus, I always wanted to build robots when I was a kid. Seriously, who didn’t want to build a robot when you were a kid? This kit (On Clearance at Target, SCORE) has your basic tool (small magnetized screwdriver for the kid) the legs, tail, spikes, and some pieces you have to put inside to hold stuff together. It’s all very, very basic and Lincoln couldn’t wait to put it together. I don’t know what his expectations were of what would happen when it was done, but let’s not jump too far ahead.
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A thing I learned about myself

First and foremost, I want to apologize to my Dad, a general contractor/flooring installation guy (Need work done in the Seattle area, email me). I was/am terrible in this field. I know that, I was his “assistant” when I needed money for games/comics or to kill time in the summer as a kid (mostly so I could sit in the car and he can use the carpool lane) I remember making bad cut after cut on tile, taking forever to hammer in a nail and just being generally a terrible protege in his field of work.

I can’t tell you guys how many times I just wanted to take the little screwdriver from my son and screw one of the legs on myself. He would drop the screw before getting it in (then we’d spend a minute trying to find it) or try to turn the screw holding the screwdriver at various wrong angles getting nothing achieved. At least he understood “Righty, Tighty / Lefty, Loosy” right off the bat. Trying to stay collective as I watched him keep trying to work the screws was painful a couple of times. He was making progress while he was doing it, just, not the right way. Letting your kids learn things on their terms, when you know so many shortcuts or can just do it faster/better yourself is frustrating.

When he got the first leg figured out and screwed on, he was so damn proud of himself, beaming at me as I did a final “Daddy Tightening” to make sure the screw was secured when he was done. Easily enough, he got the hang of it by the time we were done.

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SCIENCE!

Look! Electrical guts! Circuit boards! LED Lights! A whole bunch of basic moving parts on the inside! I think we spent the first five minutes just looking at everything. I tried explaining with my very limited knowledge of circuits and general how things move/work to my boy as he asked questions. Nearly all of the assembly he was able to do with me explaining where to put stuff and how to do it. I had to do the LED Lights (dino eyes) because the part had to be pressed pretty hard into the mold holding the circuit boards. Something that I really loved about this was just his general curiosity of how things work and just watching him digest what I tell him.

WE DESIRE MORE

Putting the whole thing together didn’t take more than 15 minutes. Once I got 2 AA batteries (not included) we were able to turn on his creation. I crossed my fingers really hard honestly. I so, so wanted it to just work right and hope that we didn’t do anything wrong. First, it roared, to which he looked up at me with a giant smile on his face. The eyes blinked a couple of times, and then the moment of truth. The stubby legs started moving, all of them. our Robotic Dinosaur slowly crawled a couple of feet to repeat the basic set. We built it, and more importantly it worked, more, more importantly we did it together, and it was money well spent ($5). Right afterwards, he looked on the box that it came in, and pointed out there were more things you can make, stuff like a car, dog, ship, even a damn RADIO.

He wants to build them all. How can I say no to that? I will say though, that trying to buy these online, the pricing is looking $20 (Overstock.com) to $55 (Amazon.com) I suggest looking at retailers like Ross or TargetTJ Maxx [Update Source: My Wife] that are clearing these out with prices you won’t find online.

Crossing off, Build Robot Dinosaur from my bucket list, I hope you’re happy 6 year old me.

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