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As the saying goes, “Our children are the future.” And if anything is certain about the future, it is that renewable energy sources, green technologies, and robotics will play a major role in our children’s lives. Everything from using wind or solar power generated on site in their homes, to driving alternative fuel vehicles, or embarking on a career in one of America’s future “STEM” jobs.

With STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) playing such a pivotal role in schools and society, there is no better time than now to start children on the path to learning real-world applications behind these fields of education. Fortunately, a host of educational – and yes, fun – age-appropriate toys are available to parents and educators designed to teach children about STEM concepts.

Simply sitting a child down and teaching them about energy conversion will not necessarily ignite their enthusiasm or interest in the topic. Nor will having them read about it as a sole strategy, not when so many children are reluctant, struggling readers, or kinesthetic learners.

Although science kits are helpful, they often depend on expert guidance and have limited play value – which is a tough sell when parents and educators are competing with TV, video games, the Internet, and a host of modern distractions. Instead, a host of science-based, interactive children’s toys on the market are being used to teach children about applying science, technology, engineering, and math skills to solve complications facing today’s world.

Solar Power

Because solar power converts energy from the sun into electricity or heat, it can replace facilities powered by oil, coal, and other non-renewable fuels. Solar panels, used to capture the energy in sunlight are becoming an increasingly common sight on rooftops, calculators, and of course toys. Some solar powered toys, particularly those children can build themselves, provide an ideal mix of creative, active learning. In 2009, the award-winning 6-in-1 Educational Solar Kit from OWI, for example, allows children to snap together 21 parts to create six different working models including an airboat, windmill, puppy, and two different planes. Or in 2013, the 14-in-1 Educational Solar Robot kit allows for two levels was introduced. Level one includes: Turtle-bot, Beetle-bot, Quadru-bot, Boat-bot, Walker-bot, Dog-bot, and Wheel-bot. After they amuse themselves with the entry level, one can challenge their manipulative skills with the second level: Roly Poly-bot, Auto-bot, Slither-bot, surf-bot, Zombie-bot, Crab-bot, and Row-bot. Most recently OWI has changed the game by introducing a solar kit that utilizes both solar, and hydraulic power. Dodeca 12 in 1 Solar Hydraulic Robot takes the same principles that led to the success of both the 6 in 1 and 14 in 1 up a notch by combining two forms of alternative energy in one package. Dodeca has 12 exciting forms that can be separated into two animated building modes (Automotive, and Animals). OWI Mini Solar Kits are powered by a solar panel using sunlight for outdoor use or halogen lighting for indoor use. As children watch the toy they built move around and speed up or slow down depending on the intensity of the light, they’re not only learning and experimenting with solar power but also having fun with it. The 6-in-1 kit was so popular it was named one of Dr. Toy’s “100 Best Children’s Products”, and “10 Best Educational Products” for 2009. Stevanne Auerbach, also acknowledged OWI’s commitment to producing long-lasting, educational, creative, and eco-friendly products by selecting 14 in 1 Educational Solar Robot kit as the recipient of the “Best Green Products” for 2013. Creative Child Magazine, with their panel of moms and educators, has anointed OWI Dodeca 12 in 1 SolarHydraulic Robot the 2018 Eco-Friendly Product of the Year, the Creative Play of the Year, and Dodeca also received a Family Choice Award.

Fuel Cell Power

Two-thirds of the oil Americans use each day is for transportation, much of it in gasoline for cars. Gas powered cars, however, are not only significant contributors to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions but also relatively inefficient in converting the energy from gasoline into usable energy (only about 20 percent of gasoline’s thermal energy potential is converted to mechanical work in cars). Unlike non-renewable oil, fuel cell technology is a clean source of electrical power generation that’s efficient and non-polluting. Using a variety of fuels, fuel cells convert electrochemical energy into electricity, with the only by-products being heat and water. One fun way to introduce children to alternative energy fuel cell power is to expose them to OWI’s Salt Water Fuel Cell line. Instead of using batteries, children can make one of four SWFC vehicle kits (Salt Water Fuel Cell Car, Salt Water Fuel Cell Motorcycle, Salt Water Fuel Cell Monster Truck, or the Salt Water Fuel Cell Baja Runner) which runs continuously for 5-7 hours by adding saltwater to a magnesium metal sheet in the toy’s fuel cell module. The Salt Water Fuel Cell Car won “2011 Toy of the Year” and Kids Product of the Year “award from Creative Child Magazine, and Dr. Toy’s prestigious “Best Green Product” award while the Salt Water Fuel Cell Monster Truck won Dr. Toys Best Vacation Children’s Product. Just as children grow up before parents and educators, the future will be here all too soon. Part of preparing children for an energy and environmentally-challenged future should be teaching them how to constructively deal with it. Fortunately, well-designed children’s toys can help make learning about alternative energy a fun, hands-on process in classrooms, homes, parks, and playgrounds.

Robotics

In 1980, OWI Incorporated was looking for a way to expand its consumer product lines and bring its extensive technology background to the educational community. RobotiKits™ and OWIKits® were developed to affordably introduce students to robotics technology. With OWI robotics, the user is able to construct and operate six award-winning kits that range from beginners with no experience (EM4 Robot) up to advanced mechanical assembly skill levels (Hydraulic Arm Edge, Robotic Arm Edge, All Terrain Robot). OWI Robotics has also re-introduced Infrared technology in recent years with the Kingii Dragon robot, and KIKO.893 robot. These kits are popular in classroom STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) as fun and challenging tools for teaching. In conjunction with educators, OWI Inc. has developed a fully structured teaching curriculum with modules tailored to the kit’s unique electronic and mechanical features.

Aluminum Dinosaur and Bug Kits

Perfect for future paleontologists and entomologists alike. OWI’s Aluminum Kits serve as a traditional build and display model kit. The kits replicate the authenticated version of the selected dinosaurs and bugs presented in a sleek metallic finish. Not only do these kits turn eyes, but they are also durable and feature moving parts, so your display can have a personalized touch.

Conclusion

For nearly 4 decades OWI Incorporated has made a concerted effort in providing consumers with award-winning educational products that are fun to play with. We look forward to continuing that effort with new STEM model kits released yearly. Thank you for choosing OWI!