OWI RobotiKits 6-in-1 Educational Solar Kit: Good For Us But YMMV

Jimmy got a cool gift from a friend for his birthday: an OWI 6-in-1 Educational Solar Kit
from OWI Incorporated. We have had a lot of fun with the Solar Car we built with this kit, and our success has created additional interest around simple electronic projects that are often associated with Make Magazine.

Having said that, there are a few things that make this kit really interesting and thought-provking for me as an adult:

  1. The pictures of the items shown on Amazon.com and on the box itself play tricks with my mind, because I just assume that the devices to be produced by this kit are bigger than they truly are. Jimmy and I assembled the Solar Car in this kit, and its assembled dimensions are about 3 inches x 2.25 inches x 1.75 inches.

    If I saw the assembled size of the Solar Car before seeing the assembly process itself or the fun we had playing with something we built, I would have seriously considered whether the kit itself is a good value. But, I'd say after building the Solar Car and playing with it, the kit is definitely worth the money.

  2. The Solar Module and Gear Box are required for each of the six items which the kit allows you to build. As a result, it's more accurate to say that you have the choice of assembling one of six different machines with this kit, but only one will function at a time.

  3. The sub-assemblies for the Solar Module and Gear Box are the most time consuming aspect of assembling one of the items in the kit. They are small, and moderately difficult for an adult from the software industry to put together correctly on the first attempt. The details of the directions are sparse when it comes to describing how to orient certain parts in the Gear Box.

    I think the age-rating guidance that OWI provides-- 10 years of age and up, is actually reasonable. But a 10-year-old boy working on his own on one of these projects must have good fine motor skills and very good attention to detail to succeed without adult collaboration.

But perhaps the biggest caution I can provide in this review is that the item that appears on Amazon.com says very prominently:

BEWARE OF FAKE MERCHANDISE: Purchase from Amazon.com to assure you receive original OWI merchandise. OWI does not license to any companies in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia or China. OWI PRODUCTS ARE ONLY PRODUCED IN TAIWAN.

It's clear to me that OWI has been burned by the Amazon.com policy of combining their inventory of this item with inventory provided by third-party sellers. Apparently, counterfeit versions of this kit have been a problem in the past.

If you are not aware of it, Amazon.com has been dealing with issues associated with counterfeit goods in its supply chain for some time. This reflects badly on Amazon.com as a company. But at this point, we are pleased with products we purchase from Amazon.com that are supplied by Amazon.com and by well-known third party sellers.

As I said, we received this RobotiKits 6-in-1 Educational Solar Kit as a gift. I am not sure where it was purchased, and our experience with it was great. More power to OWI. We will buy its products again in the future, because this one is a good value.

But, in terms of buying this Solar Kit from Amazon.com, I'd strongly suggest that you choose the item from Amazon.com's own inventory. Don't buy this product through Amazon.com if it's sold by a third-party seller that is not well-known to you at the time of purchase.