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K'NEX Education® Stem Explorations Vehicles Building Set Review by Lisa McKinney

Basic Fun!

K’NEX Education Stem Explorations Vehicles Building Set is a complete building and learning experience for children geared towards grades 3-5. The set includes 130+ parts (including rubber bands and two motors) to build seven vehicle models with different power sources, including push-power, rubber band power, wind power, or a spring motor. There is additionally a downloadable booklet that guides students through five hands-on, inquiry-based experiments on several of the models once they are created. The experiment guide is aligned with National STEM standards for grades 3-5. All the connectors and rods are proudly made in the USA. The set is sold by K’NEX on Amazon for $24.99.

This set is intended to be used independently for ages 9+ and includes instructions for building seven different vehicles. It is ideal for hands-on learners and can be used in a school setting or just as a fun home activity. The downloadable experiment booklets include activities for testing the vehicles which are aligned to STEM standards for the upper elementary grades. This makes it a great possibility for school settings including homeschool activities. There are five hands-on, inquiry-based experiments included in the guide which explore potential & kinetic energy, velocity, acceleration, motion, graphing, and more! Experiment #1, for example, recommends that the child design his own 4-wheeled vehicle and suggests they can use the included directions for the short rubber band racer (without the rubber band) model instead. The experiment gives an added supplies list like pieces of cardboard, plywood, or hardboard, tape, measuring tape, etc. The experiment asks the student to set up ramps with specific height guidelines and then roll their vehicle down the ramp. They are asked critical thinking questions to evaluate the performance of the vehicle in both situations. Next, the guide gives a crash course lesson on potential and kinetic energy and provides some suggestions for exploring how changes to the vehicle or ramp can change performance and encourages the child to try it out.

Our family always enjoys building sets, but I specifically wanted this one for my soon-to-be fifth grader. He does not tend to be as successful with designing his own vehicles, but he does excellent following written directions. This was his first time exploring K’NEX and he dove right in. He devoted over an hour to put two of the models together. He followed the direction illustrations and was able to complete the models. He loved the pullback motor features on the rubber band racer and the three-wheeled spring racer and was able to use the pieces to complete both. The experiment added an extra element of fun. He enjoyed setting up the ramps and testing his vehicles. He is very precise, so he measured and followed the directions exactly. We chatted about the questions the booklet posed, and he made some variations as directed. It is his style of experiment and he enjoyed working through it.

He was nearly independent in completing the models; however, the pieces are small and very stubborn to get on at times. I had to step in and help and discovered it challenging even for me. It even hurt my fingers to try to get them to snap on and yet try to be careful enough for them not to break. Additionally, the directions are not step-by-step, so he missed the placement of some pieces and had to take sections apart for rebuilding. This led to much frustration. We also discovered that there are not any replacement pieces if anything breaks, so we had to use tape to hold a couple of things together. We also found that we were missing one of the connectors that were supposed to be included, so we were unable to make another vehicle without tearing apart the others for one piece. My son said he wished there were step-by-step directions, so he did not miss key pieces to attach and that there were a couple extra of each piece for breakage. I agree as I have found the K’NEX is susceptible to breaking with the pieces fitting so tightly.

The K’NEX Education Stem Explorations Vehicles Building Set is an impressive set for gifting, but also just for having in a school or home for exploration. I agree with the age specifications of age 9+ because the parts are tricky to snap in place, and the directions are not step-by-step. I think it would be difficult for any child to get these put together 100% independently after our own experiences with it. Even with his minor inconveniences, my son has asked for a few more sets with his birthday coming up, so that tells me that he still enjoyed this one. Once put together, both of my boys enjoyed hours of fun rolling and ramping them through our house. They are now getting ready to take the first two models apart and try a couple of the other ones included in the directions. They then have plans to turn these pieces into something else altogether fueled by their imagination!

-Product review by Lisa McKinney, The Old SchoolhouseMagazine, LLC, June 2020