Sensors Alive

Ages: 8 and upManufacturer: Thames & Kosmos

The Sensors Alive! science lab kit includes three sensors (temperature, sound, and light) and a Bluetooth sensor base. The base connects the sensors to an app with a highly compelling storyline that places the user in a space-bound bioengineering lab, traveling to barren worlds to create and nourish animals that will restore the life force. As the animals grow and flourish, they produce eggs that can then be used to populate other worlds. The game extends into multiple sectors of space, and kids can earn new species and custom colors for the creatures.

Players use the sensors to create animals by measuring specific values of light (in lumens), sound (in decibels), and temperature (Celsius or Fahrenheit), thus gradually gaining some intuition for the various ranges of values: fur for higher temperatures, but skin or scales if the measured temperature is low; creatures formed in a low-lumen area may have larger eyes than those where the lumens are high; animals may have larger ears if the decibels measure only a whisper, but tiny ears if the sensors record loud sounds. Through experimentation, we quickly learned that the temperature sensor needs time to adjust to the ambient temperature, and the light and sound sensors need a very steady input.

Although some kids may be familiar with sensors, this kit helps learners form a more quantitative understanding of the sensors’ measurements. It was great fun watching kids develop a tool set for achieving the game’s required values — should the sensor go into the freezer, or do we need the hair dryer to get it hot enough? How loud is 100 dB? Will the ambient light be bright enough, or do we need to take it into the sun?

Emily Crawford ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a Master’s in computer engineering from Georgia Tech. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, five cats, and thousands of LEGOs in Blacksburg, Virginia.

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