Most often when you see a bug crawling up your wall, your first reaction may be to jump. But after constructing your own wall-crawling microbot, you’ll want to root it on instead.
Thames & Kosmos’ Gravity Bugs Free-Climbing MicroBot kit is a fun STEM activity for parents and kids to do together as they build a robot that walks on surfaces. Builders ages 8 and up can learn about engineering and physics while setting the gears and mechanisms into place.
This set includes 78 pieces and an assembly tool, and builders will also need their own small Phillips screwdriver and a single AAA battery. Kids can follow the eight-page instruction manual to guide them through assembly as they learn about how the robot uses suction cups to climb and walk on walls.
Putting the robot together requires careful attention: After removing the pieces from their plastic components, kids must smooth out any rough edges or bumps with the cutting tool. If the burrs are not removed cleanly, it will make the building process more difficult later on. When assembling the electric circuit and battery-powered motor, kids should double-check the positive and negative sides for all of the red and black wires for a successful transfer of power. This may be the hardest part of the project due to the wires and motor unit, so younger kids may need a big of assistance.
After building the robot and learning about the science behind its mechanics, kids can take the time to experiment and see which surfaces the Gravity Bug can walk on. Their best bet is to stick to smooth vertical surfaces, such as windows and glossy panels. Mirrors are also a fun surface to test the bot on because kids can watch the reflection of their Gravity Bug in action.
The microbot is more lightweight than it appears. When placing the wall-crawler on a new surface, apply a little pressure at first to make sure it really sticks. The microbot works best when placed on a diagonal path and it will fall quicker when walking straight or sideways.
If the Gravity Bug is not sticking well, try cleaning the surface it’s about to walk on. It might have trouble walking if there is dirt or debris sticking to the suction cups. Kids can also try switching the suction cup positions prior to play or rotating them to freshen them up. Believe it or not, applying a small amount of olive oil can help to maintain a stronger suction. Even if the Gravity Bug falls to the ground, have no fear as the plastic pieces are really durable. Even if a piece snaps off, it’s easy to reassemble and can even be part of the fun.
At the end of the experience, it’s a satisfying reward to see the Free-Climbing MicroBot succeed in crawling great lengths. It also makes a nice learning tool for parents to teach their kids about the science of air pressure. When kids complete the experiment and see it in action for the first time, they will be amazed to see it successfully crawling around their home.