Birthday present for son becomes STEM project for Mommy

For our son’s recent birthday, we got him this really cool race car track set that included two battery-operated cars and a bunch of flexible glow-in-the-dark track. He immediately wanted to play with it, which necessitated putting batteries into the cars. Things went downhill very quickly from there.

I’m no stranger to battery-operated kids toys, so I was prepared.

We keep a supply of AA and AAA batteries stocked for these occasions, and I even had my tiny screwdriver at hand, so there was no need to fiddle around with a steak knife to try to open the battery compartment.

I casually flipped it over and removed what looked like the obvious choice for the battery cover screw.

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But I was mistaken.

Undaunted, I went for the next most obvious screw. Then the next one. Pretty quickly, the whole thing fell to pieces, with little cogs and pins rolling across the table.

Meanwhile, my significant other handily popped open the second car from the set, put the batteries in, and handed it off to my son.

One might think, ah, problem solved. Thank goodness there was a spare!

But any parent of siblings will understand what a calamity this caused.

Child number 2, already miffed by not being the birthday girl that day, started demanding access to the one working car. I could see the storm brewing over on that side of the room, and bent my head to the task of reassembling the cussed thing as quickly as possible.


30 minutes go by, and I had figured out which little cog went where.

The only problem was, the stupid plastic housing seemed to require defying the laws of physics in order to snap it into place without dislodging the delicate balance of pins and cogs.


Don’t ask me how I finally managed it. In between trying to keep the peace between the kids and reassure them that their sharing problems would soon be fixed, all of a sudden the cover snapped down, and I managed to poke the relevant bits of gears into place with a pair of tweezers.


It was one of the most entertaining puzzles I’ve solved in a while. Tons of fun for the whole family to enjoy.

This is proof that we don’t really need to go looking for fancy STEM kits to teach how things work. Just go take stuff apart.

If you want to try it out yourself, here’s a link to the set.