Walking up walls or windows sounds like something from a fairy tale, but kids can build a robot that does exactly that — thanks to the magic of science — with the Air-Walker kit, from Thames & Kosmos. Designed for kids ages 8 and up, this STEM toy features all of the components kids need to build their own gravity-defying bot.
The kit also comes with a very detailed experiment manual, which explains all of the steps for building the Air-Walker. There is also a graphic novel-style design and narrative to the manual, which makes the process unique and engaging. Kids meet Tom and Izzy, two young explorers-slash-inventors who find themselves stranded on an unfamiliar planet, unable to climb up walls made of crystal. That’s where kids can help save the day by constructing Nexo, the air-walker robot, in real life. Nexo uses suction cups and airflow to stick to and climb up flat, smooth surfaces. Tom and Izzy appear throughout the step-by-step instructions, too, sharing tips for how to assemble the robot correctly. (Note: You’ll need scissors and batteries from home.)
The bot hits a sweet spot in terms of complexity: Kids need to read carefully and correctly assemble a few dozen pieces, but the project takes just 12 steps to complete. Once the robot is ready, the manual suggests trying Nexo on a horizontal surface, such as a tabletop, first to make sure it is working correctly. Then, kids can graduate to walls, windows, and other vertical surfaces. In order for Nexo to function, the surface needs to be fully flat and free of dust. Any dust on his suction cups will prevent Nexo from climbing, so try wiping the suction cups with a damp paper towel if they aren’t sticking properly. For additional helpful hints, check out the YouTube video below.
Once kids have built and mastered Nexo’s main form, they can continue their robotics education by rebuilding Nexo in four additional configurations — using the same pieces. Step-by-step instructions for these models are included in the manual, along with a few pages full of facts about robots.
Overall, the Air-Walker is a fun, engaging intro to the world of robots and the amazing feats that bots can perform.