Tech toys steal the show at school, playtime

Educators showing children how to make the most of the Scribbling Machine at the opening of the PlayMaker Studio @ KidsSTOP on Jan 26.
Educators showing children how to make the most of the Scribbling Machine at the opening of the PlayMaker Studio @ KidsSTOP on Jan 26.PHOTO: SCIENCE CENTRE SINGAPORE
Children can learn sequencing and other key concepts as they tinker with Kibo kits. Bee-Bots (below) can also be used for a host of games while stimulating creativity and teaching important skill sets.
Children can learn sequencing and other key concepts as they tinker with Kibo kits. Bee-Bots can also be used for a host of games while stimulating creativity and teaching important skill sets.PHOTO: NUR SYAHIIDAH ZAINAL
Educators showing children how to make the most of the Scribbling Machine at the opening of the PlayMaker Studio @ KidsSTOP on Jan 26.
Children can learn sequencing and other key concepts as they tinker with Kibo kits. Bee-Bots (above) can also be used for a host of games while stimulating creativity and teaching important skill sets.PHOTO: NUR SYAHIIDAH ZAINAL

Kids have a ball as cool gadgets prime them for Smart Nation

Tech toys are all the rage now.

Not only are they being introduced and used widely in schools, but when Science Centre Singapore (SCS) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) unveiled the PlayMaker Studio @ KidsSTOP in January, the trendy toys took centre stage.

The collaboration aims to provide a community space where children can take part in hands-on activities to create things using an array of tech toys and tools.

The PlayMaker Studio combines playing and tinkering, allowing children to experiment with materials to understand what they can do and create new solutions. Children can pick up a host of skills and hone their logical thinking and reasoning, all while bonding with peers.

This is part of ongoing efforts by SCS to spark a lasting interest among young children in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem). Together with IMDA, SCS will curate and update the collection of tech toys at the space to sustain and deepen that interest.

SCS chief Lim Tit Meng hopes this "meaningful venture" will inspire the next generation of tinkerers.

Said Associate Professor Lim: "A tinkering and making mindset among young children can inspire them to inquire, investigate and innovate."

IMDA chief Tan Kiat How said the space will help prepare children to live, play and work in a Smart Nation.

"The workshops offered at PlayMaker Studio will help children develop logical thinking and sequencing at an early age, and prime them with the relevant skill sets to thrive in a digitally rich future," he added.

SCS and IMDA will conduct workshops and programmes, facilitated by KidsSTOP educators, for the community as well. Established makers might also be invited to the space, to share their passion and interest in tinkering and making.

The PlayMaker Studio aims to reach out to 3,500 children by the end of the year.

Check out these cool tech toys and how they teach young ones new skills.

BEE-BOT

•What is it? A cute, bee-shaped floor robot used to teach concepts such as sequencing (when one action leads to the next in a predetermined order), estimation and problem-solving.

•What you do: Colourful and easy to operate, the Bee-Bot is controlled by directional keys on its back - just press them to move it forward and backward or left and right. You can create your own activities and games, and use the Bee-Bot to reach various objectives.

For example, place it on a mat covered with pictures of different types of food, and use it to choose healthy options to "fill" a plate.

KIBO

•What is it? A robot kit - made up of various "body parts" and wooden blocks - that is designed for free play and teaches sequencing.

•What you do: Build your very own robot and decorate it using Kibo parts and/or other materials, such as coloured paper or straws, and then make it do what you want.

The robot's body has a scanner that lets you scan barcodes printed on colour-coded wooden blocks. Each block's barcode contains an instructional code (for making it sing or spin, for example). When they are put together, the string of instructions will provide a sequence of actions for your Kibo to perform.

SCRIBBLING MACHINE

•What is it? A vibrating, motorised contraption that moves in unusual ways and leaves a mark to trace its path. It teaches general concepts about electrical circuits, among other things.

The outcome from each machine might vary because users can change the variables (such as the length and weight of the motors, the drawing method or the speed of the motors).

•What you do: Each Scribbling Machine is unique, and usually consists of drawing tools and a motorised base.

Anyone can build and customise his own machine, using simple materials such as markers, masking tape and batteries.

Different machine designs produce different patterns, such as smooth or jagged lines, or circles in various sizes.

Varying the materials, which can include paint and paintbrushes, markers, chalk or colour pencils, for the machine's "legs" will result in varying patterns as well.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2017, with the headline 'Tech toys steal the show at school, playtime'. Print Edition | Subscribe