Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy!
Hydraulic Robot Arm Review
“The Skynet Funding Bill is passed. The system goes on-line August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.”
“Skynet fights back”
(Quote: Terminator Movie)
And to think it all started on a rainy Sunday afternoon before a business trip! Well, ok it didn’t, it’s probably a stretch to think that the robotic arm Logan and I built was the started of a self aware AI system, particularly as (strictly speaking) not robotic but hydraulic, but it’s a fun thought. I like to do these little projects with Logan as it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon with something constructive to focus on. We’ve had a lot of fun building Lego Technic together, but now even the complex computer programmable Lego is something he’s quite happy to do on his own. He’d been given a hydraulic arm kit for a birthday present some time ago and so we decided to while away a few hours building it up.
The problem, when you’re used to Lego, is that other construction kits can often fall short, given how practised they are. They really are they Ikea of kids building toys. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this kit had nice, well thought out instructions, which is a bonus (take note Transformers). The steps were not quite as simply laid out as Lego but were perfectly adequate and easy to follow. The kit comprised a weighted base, an articulated arm and a number of piston assemblies on the actuation side which were controlled by levers.
The sequence of building was also good. I mention this because if the kit is too opaque then kids lose interest. It was clear that Logan liked being able to relate wnat he was building at the time to the main assembly. On more compex Lego I have seen his interest wane a bit if he can’t relate what he is building to the overall model (admittedly some time ago).
The build itself was logical and straightforward. Removing the sprue marks from the components required a sharp knife and so I did that for Logan but the rest he did for himself. Assembly was simple as well. There were parts where he had to concentrate pretty hard but that’s no bad thing.
I did like the fact that the kit demonstrated the principles involved with hydraulics pretty well. I had built a Lego technics model Aria in the summer that had pneumatics and, while fun, I felt that it had so many fancy bits and bobs (switches, a compressor) that it did not really show off the principles involved very well. This model, possibly because it was a little simpler, demonstrated how the hydraulics were working really well. It was good to see that Logan immediately made the connection between this system and the brakes on my motorcycle while we were bleeding the tubes. If I’m honest what he said was ‘I can see why you get so angry when yu bleed the brakes on your motorbikes’ but it was good that he could see how the model related to real life.
One criticism I have is that some of the parts were a bit flimsy. One plunger for piston assembly broke coming off the sprue. I was able to glue this and move on but it was odd as the stem was a lot thinner than all the others. If the repair hadn’t taken it would have trashed the kit. Ok, it was due to lack of care but this is a kit for kids. That’s a small moan though.
Overall we had 2 pretty intense Sunday afternoons building our hydraulic arm (which he named Skynet) and I’d say it was a lot of fun. The kit retails at £25 on Amazon and I would say it’s well worth it (though ours was a birthday present). If you have a kid who likes STEM subjects and a good build and you’re prepared to help them shave mould marks off the components then I would fully recommend this kit.