Solar-Powered Rovers

Ages: 8 and upManufacturer: Thames & Kosmos

$19.95

The Solar Powered Rovers kit includes plastic snap-together parts similar to LEGO®, a small solar panel, electric motor, and gears. The young engineer makes light-powered cars that move along hard surfaces when placed in the sun or under a bright light. Instructions cover five models and several experiments, including gear ratios and shading the solar panel.

The solar power aspect is timely, the experiments are interesting, and importantly, the projects are not overly complex. We loved the experiments outlined in the instructions, particularly the one comparing gear ratios. The explanation provided is very good, but may generate questions for adults. Similarly, explanations of solar panels and electricity are good, but because they are necessarily short, some children may want to know more – which we wholeheartedly applaud.

We were at first a bit skeptical about the durability of the wooden pieces and the practicality of a lightweight toy for outside use. We were pleasantly surprised in both cases. The sticks used for axles and the solar car’s frame are remarkably strong. While the spring grass proved too thick, our test cars were able to move over patio stones and an outdoor table, providing sufficient play area.

We thought that the recommended age range, 8+ might be a bit low. Children with good fine motor stills will not have problems with assembly especially if they use the included lever tool. Very good reading skills will be needed to follow the scientific explanations.

Solar Rovers is an excellent value. For $20 you get a kit to assemble a solar car and conduct several prescribed experiments. Children who stick to the instruction manual may finish with the toy after several hours. However, for those who want to experiment and design their own models, the kit will offer many hours of play.

 

John Green ©2020 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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