Is anyone else having flashbacks of the Armatron from Radio Shack in the 80s?
The 1980s had a different Radio Shack than we have today. Back then, RS was known as a place where nerds could get parts to build projects, intellectual toys, and other nerdly stuff. It was a far cry from the lame cell-phone store they have become today.
Anyway, one of the things that Radio Shack had, which I spent many an hour lusting after in the printed catalog when I was a kid, was the Armatron robot. It was a plastic battery-powered robotic arm which was fully articulated similarly to a robotic arm you’d find building cars on a modern assembly line. The Armatron had what seemed to be hundreds of tiny gears inside it (as you quickly found out if you took it apart never to get it back together again) and ate C sized batteries like no tomorrow. However, it was VERY cool.
Today, if your kids are interested in robotics, finding something like the Armatron is going to be tough. However, there are many kits available which allow you to control the robot via a computer and the Lynx 5 programmable robot from Hobbytron is one of them.
The Lynx 5 features the usual mobility one expects from a robotic arm including elbow, shoulder and gripper movements. The movements are repeatable, which is of extreme importance if you’re trying to do anything more than play around, thanks to the computer control system. The control system is programmed using DOS (yeah, kinda ancient) and Quick Basic. This seems somewhat lame at first, but if you think about it, the use of Quick Basic allows young kids to successfully program the arm to do fun and interesting things, thus teaching them about electro-mechanics in addition to programming.
The Lynx 5 is priced at $269, which seems high, but if you can encourage a kid to learn about robotics, computer, electronics, and programming with one purchase, that seems pretty reasonable to me.