One of the largest and latest crazes for kids is STEM, which is the incorporation and integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (all high demand subjects). STEM also furthers the develop of innovation, critical thinking, and problem solving. Nintendo appears to be dipping its toe into the STEM realm with their newly announced Nintendo Labo kits. They have two kits available for pre-order right now; the Variety Kit which includes: fishing pole, toy house, motorbike handlebars, two RC cars, and a 13 key piano. The second kit is the Robot Kit which allows you to build a backpack harness that controls a robot. The variety of these kits allow for a diverse range of exploration, discovery, and connecting to technology.
Make Play Discover Verses STEM
The Labo kits announced from Nintendo are the latest foray into STEM with an intriguing technology component. These kits are not advertised as STEM on the Nintendo website, which is a wise move on their part. These Labo kits are not STEM in the ideal educational model. They don’t meet the definition because they don’t provide an opportunity for the child to design and problem solve. Ideally in a STEM activity, materials are provided and the child has to determine how to build the item. With that said, the Labo tagline is “ Make, Play, Discover.” This cuts right to the core intention of STEM. First, the kits allow the children to construct items which turn their joy-cons into “toy-cons”. Then they can learn about the engineering and technology involved.
They may not be STEM kits in their purest form. But they have great potential. They let kids see how these cardboard objects are interacting with the different technological components in the Switch. This is a great fit for children who enjoy building. Labo provides kids with the opportunity to explore the mechanics of how each toy-con works. Then using the software, they delve deeper into how each item utilizes the Switch technology. Nintendo states that there also is the ability to create beyond what is in the kit, and that creation is at the heart of STEM.
With the Nintendo Labo, building is a one shot experience. Additionally, sharing among siblings may provide difficulty, especially for the robot. I have reservations about the durability of the cardboard, however, being cardboard a resourceful parent to child potentially could remake the creation.
The kits incorporate another level of play into the Switch that is far beyond solely interacting with the software. We may be seeing the next stage of technology integrating into kits for children. There have been kits to build robots for years. To incorporate the interactive technology that the Switch provides takes these STEM kits to a whole other level. While the complexity of the software of the Switch is undenied, I wonder if this will be the beginning of more interactive DIY kits. Ones that incorporate the technology we already own, such as our phones.
Overall, I am cautiously optimistic that Labo will be a great STEM experience for children to compete and enjoy with their families. We will have to wait until April 20th when it launches and then can see for ourselves once it is in the hands of our kids.