Robots in the city

Does your child enjoy tinkering with electronics? Robots just might be the next big hobby in your home.

For major robot inspiration, head to the FIRST Robotics Competition Midwest Regional, hosted at the University of Illinois Chicago, March 18-20. This intense competition showcases robots developed and operated by high school teams from all over the world. It’s a family friendly, free event complete with special lighting, music, a large video wall and energetic announcers.

Is your child ready to advance from LEGOs to more advanced engineering feats? Robot City Workshop, located in the Lakeview neighborhood just north of Belmont on Sheffield, is the newest go-to place for technological whiz kids. Part-workshop, part specialty retail destination, Robot City Workshop is a gear-head wonderland.

Enter inside and you’ll find a wide array of robots, from R2D2 to Robosapian to Roomba-the widest selection of robots anywhere in the Midwest. Magazines, DIY kits and manuals, books, DVDs, toys and novelties are also available.

The center also offers an enticing array of workshops for children and adults of all ages. Beginning workshops focus on building basics: your child will work to create his or her very own simple robot while learning more about the functions of the different components of the robot (sensors, gears, electrical circuits and components). Advanced workshops focus on higher level engineering feats such as soldering and programming. Most beginning workshops last two hours and cost $25 per hour. Advanced workshops are $50.

For more robot fun in Chicago, visit the Toymaker 3000: An Adventure in Automation exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry. Twelve robots work on an assembly line that manufactures 300 toy tops per hour. Max and Lisa, assembly worker robots, are on hand to race against children.

Round out your robot fun by watching the top three robot-centered movies for kids: Lost in Space, the 1960s television series featuring a clunky robot as a main character will delight kids, while the original Star Wars trilogy wouldn’t be the same without its lovable robot heroes R2D2 and C3PO. Not to be missed is 2008’s Wall-E.

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