The Educational Rationale of BontenMaru

Today most children grow up with little contact with the real world of things. Their playthings, from simple toys to hi-tech games, are provided to them readily, and they have no knowledge of how they are made. In school, most children learn about science and technology as bodies of knowledge necessary for passing examinations but not relevant to real-life situations. Much of what they know is provided in the form of recorded images. As a result, they tend to lack concrete experiences of the things they are learning about. 

BontenMaru is designed to give children a chance to discover the joy of creating their own toy and making sense of it at the same time. The BontenMaru kit consists of many intricate and tiny parts. Putting them together is an active learning process and a challenging task both for mind and hand. It engages children's creative thinking and practical skills and rewards them with the thrill of accomplishment. They must make sense of the parts as well as the whole. Furthermore, once it is assembled, children can create their own programs and load them into the robot. This gives them a considerable degree of independence and control over the operations of their robot. 

Fostering children's creative and practical skills is among the goals of the Association for the Promotion of Mechatronics Education for Children (APMEC), a volunteer and nonprofit organization based in Sendai. APMEC's members come from diverse backgrounds: universities, schools, museums, local government and private companies. They include students and children. The organization promotes one-chip robots such as BontenMaru for children in elementary, middle and high chools. Among its other activities, APMEC organizes a monthly public robot workshop and an annual junior Robot Contest at the Sendai Science Museum and other locations. Of all the robots they have worked with, BontenMaru is their favorite.