July 10, 2012 at 2:28 PM ET
Got kids who are into arts and crafts but robots not so much? A kit that helps your kiddos turn their artistic creations into moving, sensing robots might help. No technical expertise required.
Turn that cardboard dragon, for example, into one that gnashes its teeth at anyone who passes by. Or a static horse made of foam core into one that dances.
The idea behind the $199 Hummingbird kit is to hook young kids, especially middle school girls, on robotics at a time when they are known to express interest in them.
If girls are hooked at a young age, more may pursue careers in robotics as adults, the thinking goes.
Studies indicate that robo curiousness plummets among girls by the time they enter high school, according to Carnegie Mellon University’s Illah Nourbakhsh, whose lab developed the kit.
The kits are sold through CMU spinoff company BirdBrain Technologies.
Hummingbird differs from robotic kits available at toy stores where the focus is on building a specific robot; rather it comes with a control board along with lights, sensors, and motors that you use to roboticize your art project.
This incorporation step is thought to make robotics more meaningful and useful to the user.
While the “unboxing video” below is probably a turn-off for young technophobes, it does give parents plenty of detail on what they get for their money.
Programming is done with a “free, easy-to-learn, drag-and-drop environment that requires no prior experience,” according to Carnegie Mellon University.
For an example of a finished result, check out the dragon in the video below.
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.