There’s a lot of buzz nowadays about toys and activities that awake interest in children for coding and engineering. The STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) toy scene has really exploded in the last couple of years and we’ve seen some intriguing STEM toys hit the market. The latest entrant designed to catch your kid’s eye and inspire them to be the next Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg is STEMosaur.
STEMosaur is a cute, 7-inch, plastic dinosaur that can talk to your kids, tell them jokes and stories, quiz them, and answer some basic questions. It’s Wi-Fi connected and easy to set up via an Android or iOS app. There’s a button on its belly that your child presses to pose a question and the STEMosaur’s mouth lights up to show when he’s listening. His Yoda-like voice comes out of the speaker in his left nostril.
It comes in eight parts and your child’s first task is to work out how to assemble it. Once they’ve constructed their own robot dinosaur, giving them a brief introduction to engineering, they can go online to access the coding panel. This is where the real fun and learning begins.
The coding panel is a simple browser-based flow chart that teaches kids the building blocks of programming with triggers and responses. It allows them to customize their STEMosaur’s conversations and create their own set of questions and responses. This means they can set up their STEMosaur to tell jokes they’ve concocted, dictate who its favorite super hero should be, or change how it responds to specific conversational prompts.
“Having kids construct it right from the beginning seems to add to their feeling of ownership,” Donald Coolidge, CEO of Elemental Path told Digital Trends. “The coding panel teaches kids how to program conversational agents, so they might start with something simple like a favorite color, but then go more in-depth and create conversation trees and complex stories.”
STEMosaur is the latest “CogniToy” from Elemental Path. You may remember our CogniToys Dino review from last year. The Dino was the first release and it came assembled with no coding option. It was originally powered by IBM’s Watson AI, but Elemental Path is now using its own proprietary technology.
While STEMosaur has all the same features and a very similar design to Dino, he must be built before he can be used and the ability to program him is new. You’ll also notice that he’s translucent now, so the kids can see the components inside. STEMosaur is recommended for girls and boys aged 7 years and over, and the building and coding is ideally something that parents will engage in with their kids.
There is also a parental learning panel, which can be accessed by parents online, that shows all the activities your child has been engaging in with their STEMosaur. You can see at-a-glance what stories they listened to or the games they played. New content is pushed out weekly and it changes based on the time of year, so you get special content for holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving.
While every STEMosaur will initially have the same voice, Coolidge told us there are plans to allow kids to choose their own voices in future and to tweak the tone and pitch. The coding panel is still relatively new, so the hope is that early backers will provide valuable feedback to help Elemental Path develop it further and possibly roll it out into future products as well.
“Our goal with STEMosaur is really to get kids excited about creation, engineering, and coding,” says Coolidge. “We want to inspire a new generation of innovators.”
It’s a laudable aim. There’s plenty of competition, with toys like Anki’s Cozmo and platforms like Sony’s Koov also aiming to get kids building and coding, but the conversational element of STEMosaur sets it apart.
You can pre-order a STEMosaur now at Indiegogo. The early bird price is $120 and it will cost $140 when it goes on general sale later this year.