Robots, as ubiquitous as they already are, still seem futuristic. This is probably because we think of robots as androids, robots made to look and behave as humans, rather than a wide variety of machines programmed to do human work for us without us having to be there with them.
This aspect of robotics is still far off, though it is approaching. An interesting book that looks into this area of robotics is Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots, by Timothy N. Hornyak, an excellent book written at a high school or adult level. Nevertheless, the human aspect of robotics stimulates the interest of children and makes robots an attractive method for exploring technology and building skills that will prepare our children for their own futures.
Still thinking about children’s books, though, my oldest daughter and I read six that we found at the library which were all worth the time. I wrote about the first three a while ago. The next three were more age appropriate for my older daughter and more interesting, too.
The best of these was How To Build A Robot, by Clive Gifford. Though published almost 10 years ago, this little book covered all the important issues concerning robots, and managed to be both informative, funny, and the most thought provoking and engaging in its presentation of robotics.
How to Build a Robot consisted of seven chapters that covered what a robot entails, their development from a historical period, the components and their functions, control, teaching robots how to think. Along the way, Gifford supplies simple experiments to show readers how they might approach a problem that robotics engineers face. All of this, along with his witty style and the fun cartoonish illustrations make this book a great introduction.
The next book that I liked was Robot, also by Clive Gifford. This is a Dorling Kindersley book from way back in 1998. I’d like to compare it to the current one, Robot (DK Eyewitness Books, by Roger Bridgman. Like all DK books this was of excellent quality and really strong on photographic illustrations. The text was excellent, just as with How to Build a Robot, but the format was just not as engaging, nor as informative, as How to Build a Robot.
The third of my upper tier of robot books for kids is Robots Among Us: The Challenges and promises of Robotics, by Christopher W. Baker. This short book was really nearly the equal of Robot. It also covered the basics of robotics very well and it had excellent photographs. It was the strongest of all three in its coverage of robotic intelligence and the challenges in programming robots to make decisions and to learn, which are the core to artificial intelligence.