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Science Museum Tin Can Robot
Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

We had such high hopes. It was the oldest’s birthday last week and the lucky boy was given scores of presents. One of them he was hugely excited about. It was a kit to make a robot out of an old tin can. As it was endorsed by the Science Museum I had fairly high hopes about it and put the kit to one side for a rainy Easter day. Alas, we’ve now had a few of those and the tin can robot made its first wobbly steps over the weekend.

A broken reinvention of the wheel

Alas, a vital cog was already broken before we’d opened the packaging. I superglued it together and hoped for the best. Some of the other components, including the arms, were different versions of the ones illustrated, but we managed to put it all together. Apart from the battery plate which didn’t fit, and we also ended up with two extra screws. I hope they haven’t fallen out of anyone else’s set, leaving them with a mission impossible to put it together.

We ended up with a wonky looking ‘robot’ which could just about shuffle along the floor. But if the Science Museum are going to put their name to toys posing as environmental experiments they should try harder. This is a definition I discovered for a robot:

A robot is a mechanical or virtual intelligent agent that can perform tasks automatically or with guidance, typically by remote control. In practice a robot is usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by computer and electronic programming. Robots can be autonomous, semi-autonomous or remotely controlled. The word robot first appeared in the play Rossum’s Universal Robots by the Czech writer Karel ÄŒapek in 1920.

Does being able to move across the floor count as a ‘task’? And no intelligence was displayed, virtual or otherwise. And surely the least you can expect of an expensive kit is for it to arrive in one piece with no missing or broken parts. In short, the used tin can wasn’t the only thing that could be described as rubbish.

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