The Big Loader is a toy made by Tomy that features a very busy truck. The truck fills, scoops, lifts, dumps and hauls by changing its cargo carrier and other tools at specific points in its journey. The Big Loader is allegedly for small children, but I can see educational value for children to adults!
In a nutshell, the Big Loader is a battery powered truck that makes its way around a track. At one particular point, it picks up some cargo to deposit it moments later at a point further up the track at a drop-off point. The truck then leaves this point, makes its way around the track to change into a common or garden digger that can scoop up the cargo it previously dropped off. It actually scoops it up and drops it into a container that the truck then carries further along the track. Eventually, the cargo makes its way back to the initial loading point that was visited at the beginning, and so the cycle repeats.
Sometimes words just aren't enough; here's a video of the Big Loader doing what it does best:
What Educational Value Does The Big Loader Have?
The Big Loader follows a specific set of steps that have to be performed in a specific sequence. This sequence repeats in an orderly fashion and each cycle is identical (OK, more or less!) to the previous one. Exploring the trucks actions encourages the development of sequential thinking skills. You can certainly introduce the concept of sequence, which, although it sounds simple, is often a new concept to many students. As an exercise, you can get students to list the steps that the Big Loader takes. Getting students (of any age) to really observe and break down an activity into its individual components is a worthwhile activity.
Any toy that demonstrates activity performed in a sequence (especially a repeating, or looping, one) is valuable for teaching programming skills. When programming, one must be isolate the discrete steps that are required to achieve a particular outcome. The parallels between the Big Loader and a computer program are fairly easy to see. The Big Loader computer programm might be written something like this:
- Go to pickup point 1
- If there is cargo there, load it
- Once cargo is loaded, travel to drop-off point 2
- Once there, drop off cargo
- Once cargo has been unloaded, proceed to scoop point 3
It's quite surprising just how strongly the Big Loader can capture an attention span. Last night, I watched mine for two hours!