Mech-5

Ages: 10 and upManufacturer: Elenco Electronics, Inc.

$39.95

Mech-5 is two toys in one: a robot assembly and programming activities. Assembly involves many steps and manipulation of small parts and is therefore best suited for children with patience and good fine motor skills. Although we found progress slow, the instructions break up tasks into modules, which gives a sense of accomplishment as each is finished. The kit is well engineered, and the parts fit together perfectly. Adult involvement is necessary during the build phase.

The Mech 5 programming does not involve computer code, but rather physical coding pins (or buttons) akin to a lamp timer. Lines of code are replaced with simple on-off switches. This “language” is easy to learn, and feedback is immediate.

Unfortunately, we encountered two concerns in our assembly: First, after trial and error with several standard Phillips screwdrivers, we learned that the provided screws are best turned with a Japanese Industry Standard (JIS) screwdriver. Second, we had trouble removing the plastic burrs left when we removed the parts from the injection molding. The instructions say that burrs need to be removed on moving parts, but they are not clear on how. We tried several tools, and finally the adult team member used a sharp knife for the job.

For the right child, the Mech-5 robot is a must have toy. The young engineer needs to have patience and excellent fine motor skills to build the robot and a demonstrated interest in the rudiments of programming.

John Green ©2019 Parents’ Choice

John Green is an economist in Washington DC and father of three. He has a PhD in economics from the University of Pennsylvania.

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