Toy Hacking: What exactly is this popular STEM activity and how do I get started?

This isn’t malicious code, or Russian hacking or hacking twitter bots, this is Toy Hacking, an approach to robotics for the rest of us.

In the simplest terms, the way to begin teaching with toy hacking is to do some toy acting yourself. Steal some toys from your children or pick them up at the local thrift shop look for ones that have simple electronics in them. A couple lights sound button, this is a good place to start.

In this post, there’s a video about hacking seasonal toys. And that one I take apart and Easter bunny that sings an obnoxious song. This is really the best spot to start with toy hacking. Using toys that no one likes anymore is actually a type of recycling. The parents in my school are glad to donate the most obnoxious toys in their household to the toy hacking project. It actually helps them get real value out of these toys of questionable worth.

Toy Hacking is an opportunity for student choice

When you’re thinking about how to turn toy hacking into curriculum, use choice as your watchword. The great thing about toy hacking is it’s almost impossible to have all the kids doing the same thing. This is the strength, not a weakness.

Toy Hacking is like Robotics Class … but better

Typically in robotics, we focus on learning to make things light up, to make things move, and make things respond to stimulus. These are all goals we can hit in Toy Hacking.
I like to start with a simple make it move challenge where are you asked the students to make something that moves. In my fourth grade class, we turn this into a biomimicry challenge where asked them to make a thing that moves like something else. This required them to plan and then after they planned they got a chance to build and use the toy components to create.

How could Toys help your students learn about programming? Do you have a toy that needs hacking? Share int he comments, let's work together.

So… what do you think? Wanna give it a try?

Are you interested in learning more about Toy Hacking?  We would love to know your thoughts. Please take a moment and leave us a comment below and share your thoughts or stories.

Here is a video from my first Toy Hacking Project

also here is Jeff Branson explaining how an H bridge does its thing. Knowledge building is a process, let Jeff's words wash over you.

About the author, Sam

Sam is Makerspace coordinator at Echo Horizon School, the nicest little school on Los Angeles' West Side. In the classroom since '02 Sam has taught grades PreK-12. Every lesson is a writing lesson.

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