Never Too Young to Start
Our almost-five-year-old asked for a "one-eyed robot" for Christmas this year. Jumping at the chance to start his electronics education, I have assembled a robot kit for him. I could have just given him one of the Lego NXT or Parallax BOE-bot kits I have laying around, but I want him to get the full experience and satisfaction of building a robot from more basic parts and I also want his first robot to be something that stays assembled forever, and is not scrapped for parts when he wants to make something else.
The parts I've gathered include a pair of Solarbotics gear motors with matching wheels and tires, a sheet of expanded PVC foam for structure, battery compartments, switches and circuit board stand-offs, a Sharp infrared distance sensor (the one eye he requested), an Arduino Uno to act as the brain, and a motor driver circuit that I soldered up last night to allow the Arduino to drive the gear motors.
Do I expect him to assemble this himself? I will do my best to get him as involved as possible in the building and programming, but I'll be happy if he just turns the occasional screw and squirts a dab of glue now and then. When we get to the programming phase, I don't expect him to learn C yet, but I will ask him what he wants the robot to do and show him how we tell it to do that.
It'll be educational and a lot of fun at the same time, the two reasons I picked up the robotics hobby in the first place.