Tech gear is fun and we all love the latest high tech stuff we can fiddle and putz with but there’s something to be said for low tech. We’ve recently started getting review requests for low tech children’s gadgets and since a few of us have kids, we thought it would be a great addition to the site. This time we’re taking a look at Geckobot, a LEGO style robot build with a slew of learning potential up its sleeve. Read on for the full review and see why Geckobot crawls away with a Techaeris Top Pick award for 2016.
Geckobot’s design, well, it can be a lot of things and that’s part of the beauty of this gadget. What I will say for sure about this design is that it will remind you a lot of LEGO bricks but there is a distinct difference too. The materials used for Geckobot are premium plastics and I feel they’ll stand up to much use from my kids and any kid really. This particular Thames & Kosmos toy comes with rubber hoses for the suction to work. I think the hoses may wear over time but that should be expected from this type of material. The other part of the Geckobot that seems like it could show wear over time are the pistons/plungers that are made of plastic. Overall it’s a great design with versatility and the included book gives you a nice array of building projects.
Ease of Use
The age bracket on the box says 8+ and that’s fairly accurate though I do think 10+ are better suited for this (unsupervised). We took on this project with our 8 year old and she needed some guidance in understanding how to put things together and she didn’t always have the strength to put some pieces together. There are 176 total pieces in this project and many of them are very small so care should be taken with younger children and not to lose pieces. Thames & Kosmos do provide an ultra detailed magazine style instruction manual with clear and concise direction on assembly and operation and that is a huge plus.
I will also add in the ease of use section, after putting Geckobot together it will take a good amount of tweaking and playing with the gadget to make it perform as advertised. We honestly haven’t gotten it to climb windows just yet because we haven’t hit the right tweaked settings to make it do so. There are plenty of factors to take into account for making it work properly: adjusting legs, cleaning suction cups, adjusting cams and pistons. All of which are great and excellent ways for kids to learn (AND ADULTS LOL). It took us a good 3-4 hours to put this together but the key was, she had fun doing it.
The Geckobot performs admirably and once you get the legs and gears synced up it is a hoot to play with. As I stated in the ease of use section, getting this thing to actually climb windows and surfaces will take some tweaking and we still haven’t hit that sweet spot. Thames & Kosmos are very clear on which surfaces Geckobot can climb vertically. This will not work on porous surfaces so don’t expect you’ll get this thing going up painted walls. Your best bet is a window or smooth metal surface of some kind. The kids are really bummed we haven’t gotten it to go vertical yet, but we will get there. It’s also very important to note that Geckobot has moving parts which could create a pinch hazard and long hair could get caught in the gears so please be very careful when operating this gadget.
I do wish the on/off button were in a better place than the top as it can be interesting trying to switch it off while it’s moving. Another thing to be aware of, take care when removing Geckobot from surfaces when it has suction in place, the legs can snap off when you pull too hard. Of course they’re easily put back on and nothing will break, it’s just a pain to have to put them back on and re-sync the leg movements again. You should also have your hands ready to catch Geckobot should it fall off the vertical surface you’re using it on, it would be a pain to have to reassemble it. The company also suggests you put pillows or something soft under the area of play just in case you don’t catch it.
The best advice I can give for getting the best out of this learning gadget is to read the manual. Yes it is extensive and yes it can take some time but being patient is key and you’ll get the most from this if you follow instructions to the letter. Overall the performance is great. There is an extensive learning curve but that’s what this gadget is for, to learn about physics, suction, and how to engineer something.
Geckobot runs off of 2 AAA batteries. I do wish it came with a rechargeable cell, that would have been very convenient. We did run the first set of batteries down fairly quickly as we were tweaking the gears, pistons, and cams. As the gadget is using suction it sticks to stuff and sometimes it sticks really well, the motor isn’t strong enough to lift the suction but the batteries are giving juice up quickly. So expect you’ll go through a few batteries the first few rounds until you get this thing tweaked right.
At just about $50USD on Amazon, I think this is an amazing learning gadget for kids and well worth the money.
Give your kids a break from smartphones and tablets, gadgets like the Geckobot foster both creativity and learning so this is totally a great buy!