In the early days of parenting, I was often stressed about how to know when my kids would be interested in something. I wanted to give them the widest set of influences possible so they would have every opportunity to chase their passion.
I mean, maybe my son is the greatest claymation movie maker ever, but how would I know if I didn’t get him introduced to the topic?!
Every spring and fall we go through the similar dance when it comes time to register them for extra curriculars and summer camps. I run down the list gauging their level of interest and trying to create as diverse a list as possible.
The boys have done stop motion movie classes, played soccer, taken dance, mixed media art, swimming, skiing, gymnastics, and more. This summer they dug deeper into robotics, film making, zoology, architecture, and engineering.
While Zacharie has floated through different genres without any real passion for anything, Charlie has locked in on engineering and robotics.
When your kids are into something, you’ll know. They’ll talk about it all the time. They’ll doodle about it all the time. They’ll ask about it all the time. They will want to do it all the time. For Charlie right now, that’s robotics.
He’s always been interested in design and drawing and technology, but that seed germinated this spring when we saw Pacific Rim Uprising.
He loved the girl who lived in a junkyard and built a robot out of scrap metal. Charlie asked me if he could go to a junkyard and build one. I said we could try and he immediately went to his room and designed Scraptor.
I managed to satisfy his interest a little bit when Nintendo Labo dropped this spring. We spent a few weeks building all the pieces and he was so thrilled when he designed a virtual robot using cardboard and string and he played the games for weeks. Until the cardboard broke down, and he started talking about coding his robot again.
When I realized he wasn’t going to let it go, I took him on a weekend adventure to some junkyards only to find that kids under 16 aren’t allowed. “That’s okay, daddy,” he said. “You can go inside and FaceTime with me so I can pick out what I need.”
Still wary at the thought of soldering and wiring a 30 foot robot in my garage with my 8 year old son directing the project, I steered him in another direction. I handed him an old stereo for him to get his gear head on and dissect. He loved checking out the speakers and wiring. So I found an old film camera, again he dissected every capacitor, resistor, and lens.
This week it was a broken coffee grinder that he ripped to little shreds trying to get at the blade, something he said he needed to “create energy” in his design.
The original Scraptor model has been scrapped as he goes into more detail with each moving part. He’s even started to teach himself binary code so that he can have his robot “OPEN HEAD” on command.
When your kid is really into something, you’ll know it. We know it now about Charlie. The robot/engineering thing isn’t slowing down, it’s gaining pace.
So what do you do when your 8 year old son is rabid about STEM? We’ve tried to find some robotics books and toys for him to play with (again to keep the idea of a 30 foot Scraptor at bay), and have so far found kitschy robots or LEGO Mindstorms.
We’ve looked at more extra curriculars and have subbed out his usual fall art class for an Advanced Robotics class with Engineering For Kids (who knew these awesome groups existed?!) and we’re looking at others at the University of Calgary for weekend fun.
But what he really needs is a mentor. Someone who builds 30 foot scrap metal robots or someone who knows how to steer his passion in the right direction. So we’re looking and not wondering as much when Charlie will find his passion. The kid’s got his teeth into this, and he’s not loosening his grip.