The Amazing Science Fair Project

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Chapter 3: Fun and Games

James was grinning from ear to ear the next morning in class.

“So, how did it go?” asked Ben, sitting down beside him.

“We did have self-saucing pudding, and dinner was delicious,” began James. “My Great Aunt is so cool. I mean she is old, like really old, and her whiskers tickled when she kissed me on the cheek.”

Ben raised an eyebrow. “And…?”

“But that didn’t matter,” James said quickly. “She was really interesting, and she didn’t act old. She had really cool stories of all the places she saw when she travelled around the world. She’s been to India and Africa and Europe and South America, and she even rode an Elephant and a Camel once!”

 “At the same time?” asked Ben.

“No, on different trips. She even saw a Polar Bear one time.”

“Wow!” nodded Ben, impressed.

“She also brought presents for us. Mom said they were too much, but she insisted, said she was making up for a bunch of missed birthdays and Christmases and stuff.”

“So what did she get you?” asked Ben. “Do you have it here?”

“I wasn’t allowed to bring it to school, but I will show you at my house after school,” said James. “It’s really awesome, but you have to wait. Even I haven’t had a chance to play with it yet.”

---

James found it hard to sit still through the morning classes. He couldn’t wait until after school, when he could show his friends what his Great Aunt had given him.

“So what did she give Susan?” asked Tom as he unwrapped his sandwich. The four friends were sitting on the steps outside of their classroom, eating their lunch.

“Susan got a tablet computer,” shrugged James.

“Wow!” said Tim. “That’s some present!”

“So, what did you get then?” prompted Ben.

James just smiled. “You’ll have to wait and see…”

---

The four boys practically ran to James’ house after school. They quickly slipped off their shoes and dropped their school bags inside the front door, then thundered up the stairs and down the hall.

“Hey, quiet down out there!” called out Mrs. Cartwright from the living room, but James had already closed the bedroom door.

“So where is it? Where is it?” demanded Ben.

“Yeah c’mon, you’ve been making us wait all day long,” said Tom.

“Yeah! Show us!” said Tim.

James went over to his closet and brought down a small box from the closet shelf. He placed the box on top of the little desk in his room, and they examined it closely. It had a cartoon character of a boy waving, but none of the writing was in English.

“What is it?” frowned Ben.

“My Great-Aunt said it was really new. She bought it on her last trip to Japan.” James carefully slid a white Styrofoam block out of the box, then lifted the top half to reveal a small, heavy shape wrapped in plastic. James carefully slid the object out of the plastic bag and set it on the table. The boys all took a deep breath.

 “Wow, that’s cool!” said Tim.

“…But what is it?” asked Tom.

“It’s a robot,” said James, proudly.

The little robot had four wheels, two little claws and what looked like a little face on one side. The curved, beetle-like body was a combination of metal and plastic, with a semi-transparent green shell that covered most of the top. Two bright red stripes ran along the top of the shell, from the front to the back. Small blue dots were scattered over the rest of the plastic shell.

“Cooooool,” breathed Tim, Tom and Ben together.

“But what does it do?” asked Tim.

Anything I want it to. It’s my robot, so it will do what I tell it to,” said James, smiling.

“Let’s try it!” said Ben, reaching out for the robot.

James snatched it off the table before Ben could grab it. “It’s mine, I get to play with it first.”

“So how do we play with it?” asked Tom, scratching his head.

“There are some batteries in the box, let’s plug them in. Where did the manual go?” asked James.

“Here it is,” said Tim, pulling it out from under the box.

“Let me read them!” said James, snatching them from Tim’s hand. He looked at the front page, then quickly flipped through the other pages.

“Hey - none of these are in English! How do we put the battery in? I don’t want to break it!” wailed James.

“There are pictures,” suggested Tim.

James put the robot down on the desk. Together they studied the pictures, and in a couple minutes they had installed the batteries and found the ‘on’ switch. James flicked the switch to the on position, and little lights came on all over the little robot. The shell glowed green around the stripes and through the spots.

“Oooooooh”, said Ben.

“Ahhhhhh,” said Tom.

“Now what?” asked Tim.

James shrugged. “I guess we tell it what to do.” He turned the robot so the ‘face’ was looking right at him.

He stood back a little from the desk, looked straight at the robot and said “Wake up!”

The robot stared back, unmoving.

“Go! Move! Start!” yelled James, getting frustrated.

“Are there any other buttons on it?” asked Tom.

James looked at the robot and then at the pictures in the little book. “Nope, just the on/off switch.”

“What a useless toy!” said James, banging his fist on the desk.

The robot jumped, the lights flickered and one claw opened.

“Hey look! It moved!” said Ben. “Do that again!”

James banged the desk, and the little robot beeped. He banged the desk again, the lights blinked, and the claw closed.

James was preparing to bang the desk for a fourth time when the door to his bedroom banged open.

“What are you doing? That’s not how you make it work!” yelled Susan. “You’re going to break it!”

“So how do you make it work, miss smarty pants?” asked James, frustrated. “Stupid toy!”

“Wait here, and don’t bang anything else,” warned Susan as she walked down the hallway towards her bedroom. She came back with a small computer tablet in one hand.

“You make it work with this. Didn’t you listen when Great-Aunty said this was a really big present, and we had to share it?” asked Susan, raising an eyebrow. “You got the robot, and I got the tablet, but you control the robot from a program on the tablet.”

“Man, that sucks,” said James. “Like you would ever share with me.”

“I would too, ‘cos Mom said I had to. She said she would take both of them away from us if we didn’t share and cooperate.”

James rolled his eyes and stuffed his hands in his pockets. He sighed. “Ok, then, show us how it works.”

Susan shrugged and pressed a button to turn on the tablet. “I don’t know, I was waiting for you to open up your part of the present. There were some instructions, but nothing was in English!”

“Tell me about it,” grumbled James. “This is going to take forever to figure out.”

Just at that moment, James’ mother called James and Susan for dinner. “Oh man, dinner time already! Sorry guys, you can come over again when we have the robot figured out,” apologized James.

James picked up the robot and walked his friends to the front door. He squinted at the robot, turning it over and over in his hands while the others tied their shoes and picked up their school bags. “I wonder what you do,” he mused, staring into the little green plastic face.

James opened the door and waved at his friends as they headed towards their own houses for dinner. “See you at school!”

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