Customer Review

144 of 150 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best choice for robotics education, October 26, 2012
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This review is from: Robotics: DISCOVER THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY OF THE FUTURE with 20 PROJECTS (Build It Yourself) (Paperback)
My firstborn son is your classic engineer dork, and he was born that way. He didn't make much eye contact with people when he was a toddler. He could be counted on to completely fail to notice when anyone except me was trying to get his attention. He never really talked to people or played pretend. As a small child he did not require human interaction. He spent hours alone building things. Sometimes if I was really lucky he pointed out to me interesting gears, and he often slammed books about mechanical things into my knees until I read them for the five hundredth time. Never, ever, ever, did he respond to a friendly "hello", notice when a new person entered a room, or otherwise appear to be a member of society.

When he was five, his older cousin got a robot for Christmas and drove it into the living room with a remote control. For the first time ever, my nearly non-verbal son 1) noticed someone new was in the room, 2) made eye contact, 3) approached the person respectfully, not too close or too far. Then he said (still making eye contact!) "Hello, Mister Robot. I'm [Name]. How are you today?" and... you would never believe it if you knew him... waited for the robot to respond! My baby DID know how to make conversation! He WAS capable of interaction! I then burst into tears. And, of course, my son didn't notice my emotions.

My heart broke for him even as my boy made his bent so clear to me. I vowed to do everything I could to help my son make for himself that robot companion that was clearly his only hope for ever having a friend. Together he and I would create a world of androids to warm every Aspergian's heart.

In the five years after that episode, either my son or I have read every single book on robotics accessible to young people in the U.S. No, I don't think I am actually exaggerating. We are aggressive pursuers of books and fanatic followers of our interests. We have read ALL the robot books. They fall into three main categories: silly stories about robots doing things they can't do; technical manuals that you need to have higher maths or a neurological disorder to follow; dry non-fiction with flashy pictures that do a poor job compensating for a lack of depth in the content. Being unable to shell out the $750 for both a Lego robotics kit AND a Lego robotics class, we had pretty much given up on the idea of doing anything for robotics at home, besides studying electronics and math and programming and construction all separately. Both the boy and I were counting the days till I could dump him on the steps of CUNY's mechatronics lab. (One thousand, eight hundred and thirty five if they'll take him for early admission.)

Enter Kathy Ceceri's Robotics. Whoa... I am as blown away as I was that Christmas day my son had his first appropriate conversation with anyone. Somebody finally did it! She wrote a book that starts with very simple, basic ideas, explains them, THEN doesn't stop there but explains the next thing you need to understand, and then even doesn't stop there yet but goes on to make clear, using your slowly developed new knowledge, how the complicated, really serious robotics actually works. In detail.

This is the best book on robotics for kids ever. It is also a fabulous example of how to do a book on a very technical subject for children (or non-engineer-ish parents).

The projects are all genius! I have super high standards for science projects. I do not want to make a chemical reaction inside paper mache and call it earth science; that's chemistry, not a freakin' volcano. My son too, having already made many a silly pretend robot out of recyclables, no longer has any interest in busywork. He will only do projects that help him think about robotics. This book was full of them. Every last project was instructive or thought-provoking.

No where does she skim a fact or concept and cover that up by providing a dinky, funny craft or a big glossy photo. She covers them all in such a slow gradient, on a step-by-step, idea-by-idea basis, that I am unafraid to read this book to my younger, non-Aspergian children. My first grader will not be frustrated. He will get it.

Every school and every library should have this book. It's the only good one on the topic. But it's good enough for a shelf of books. Really, really, buy this book. You will use it. Your kid will love it. You will look at it on the shelf and swell with satisfaction from the simple knowledge that SOMEONE knows how to write engineering for kids.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 19, 2012 11:17:24 AM PST
I love your personal reflection on this book. I was hesitant to buy it, but the way you described it told me it was exactly what I was looking to get my year old. Thank you!

Posted on Jan 30, 2013 3:33:51 PM PST
Fantasy Fan says:
I love your review <3 I hope you and your family are still having tons of fun with robots together!

Posted on Mar 10, 2013 10:11:18 PM PDT
Seriously! How can anyone NOT buy this book after reading your review! I cried reading it, - what a sweet, funny and touching story. I admire your fearless mothering! Thank you! :-)

Posted on Mar 14, 2013 1:27:27 PM PDT
Nuala Ronan says:
R.C. thanks for this great review i was looking for ideas for a science fair project when i came across this - i am raising three engineering geeks, the eldest is a freshman at WPI majoring in robotics and the moment he stepped on campus he knew that he had "found his people". If you haven't already done so you might like to explore the FIRST organization with your son. It is a great way to meet budding engineers and explore robotics further:

Posted on Feb 27, 2014 12:51:50 AM PST
Your son sounds so much like mine! I'm now homeschooling and need some projects to get us out of the classroom. Thank you for your review!

Posted on Mar 24, 2014 1:41:53 PM PDT
M. Gregory says:
What an excellent review! Thank you so much!

Posted on Nov 8, 2014 2:12:35 PM PST
Kurt Hanson says:
headmistress, I posted my kindle book today. I've been surfing through Amazon in my book's topic area and came across your review of this book. The Kindle book I've written will be the last book your son will read to understand what robots of the future will evolve into. They will be benevolent Terminator-type of machines like portrayed in Cameron's movies.

Your son has a canny and quite unique "thing in the back of its eyes."

Your son will be inspired to create a most perfect robot after reading and understanding the 35 pages of my book, Secret of the Universe. Trust me.
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