Dogs, cats, action figures, dinosaurs, and dolls! These are just some of the new wave of toys that walk, talk, do tricks, and remember things. Some even know your voice, learn new words, or remind you it's your friend's birthday. These amazing pets, heroes, and friends have come a long way from the old stuffed animals and dolls that just sat on your bed. How do these toys do the things they do? What makes the animal walk? Where did it learn to roll over? How does it know enough not to run into the wall or walk off the table? And, how can it possibly go from a sad mood to a happy one?
The Real Deal on Robot Toys
It all starts in the inventor's imagination. Thinking of what would be fun and how it would look means that the inventor has to be creative-like an artist. And, maybe a little like a kid, too! She does some drawings, looks at how other toys work, and decides what parts she needs. Then, she starts building a model called a "prototype." The prototype is the starting point for testing and improving the design. Robotic toys are complicated, though. Knowing how things work, putting it all together, and getting the toy to act like the real thing means being a bit of an engineer. Even the best inventor needs a lot of help. Her team probably includes a designer to work on how the toy will look; some programmers to put in memory, moods, and personality; and somebody else to figure out what it will cost. She might even need to work with a puppeteer or a paleontologist (dinosaur expert) to make the movements look natural. Some inventors work for a toy company. Others work on their own and sell their ideas. They might get called in to solve a problem on someone else's toy. They all like the challenge of turning a fun idea into something that works just right and makes people happy. When inventors aren't working, we might find them walking around in a toy store, looking for fun and the next big idea.
Experience and Education Behind Making a Robot Toy
What does it take to be a robotic toy inventor? There's no specific requirement, but you should like solving problems. You should be good at math and comfortable with computers. Many toy inventors have college degrees in some type of engineering, such as product design, mechanical engineering, or electronics. Others have studied fine arts or psychology.
What You Can Do Now
To get started and to see if you would like inventing, let your mind run free-dream something up, draw it, and think of how it would work. In school, courses like biology, physics, art, and math can put you on the road to invention. Work on your computer skills, especially graphics. And remember, inventing takes teamwork. So, get involved in science projects or other activities in which you work with others.