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This $25 'solar cockroach' DIY kit is fun for the whole family

It's cuter than you'd think and fun for kids and adults, too!
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Reviewed by Min Shin
Assembled "Solar Cockroach" on a brown and tan background

The assembled "Solar Cockroach".

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Doing little science and technology projects with kids is not only fun and rewarding in the now, but might also gently steer a young person towards a lifetime of interest in those areas.

To this day, I still remember building things like electromagnets and even a simple radio with my grandpa in the 1970s, and I have no doubt that this helped nudge me in the direction I find myself moving in these days.   

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Kits are a great way to do this, and today I spent a very pleasant 15 minutes assembling a solar-powered cockroach. It says the kit is for "ages 10+," and I certainly fall into this age range! 

The kit, by a company called Brown Dog Gadgets, contains parts for four of the solar-powered cockroaches (there's also a kit that contains the parts for 25 of the cockroaches, perfect for schools or clubs). The kit comes with all the parts you need. 

View at Amazon

Each cockroach consists of a solar panel that supplies the power to make it move, a vibrating motor that does the moving, paper clips for legs, a loop of wire to make the antenna, and, of course, googly eyes. 

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The kit also comes with conductive nylon tape to make the electrical connections if soldering is out of the question, which is a really nice touch. 

Look at it go.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Everything that comes in the kit is good quality, and the instructions are clear and easy to follow.

You do need to add a few tools for assembly. For this, you'll need snips, a hot glue gun, and an optional soldering iron.

Soldering a wire onto a circuit board

This kit is fun to build.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Not only is the kit great fun and educational to put together, but it can also act as a platform for all sorts of other forays into education, such as exploring solar power, circuits, and much more. Moreover, the end product is immensely amusing (my cockroach is off exploring the garden as I type), 

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The company has a whole bunch of other kits that I really want to try, from a solar tracker to Bristlebots. The kits are a bit expensive, but sharing the cost with other adults or buying them for a school or club makes good sense.

This thing is fun.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

This is a fun activity for young ones to hone their building skills, and there are plenty of opportunities to learn along the way. 

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