I recently purchased a Cosmic Jet Racer kit for my 11-year-old son. He enjoys cars and science, so I figured that this would be a fun, educational toy, which (as it says on the box) demonstrates Newton’s Laws of Motion. Unfortunately, what this kit better demonstrated was frustration and lack of interest by my child.
The kit comes with two racers, plus a cardboard ramp and little plastic traffic cones. Paints, a paintbrush and decals are also included for decorating the cars. The racers themselves consist of a central tube that the balloon attaches to, two body shell pieces that clamshell around the tube, and two axle assemblies, with wheels that snap onto each end.
The first problem we encountered was assembling the racer body. The shell pieces are made of thin, molded plastic. They are meant to attach to each other, around the central tube, by using tiny little strips of double-stick tape. My son had problems peeling these tiny tape-tabs from the sheet and keeping them from sticking to each other. So did GeekMom, when he asked her for help. In fact, the only thing these tabs seemed to be good at was sticking to themselves. The plastic pieces had to be repeatedly pressed together to keep them attached.
The next problem were the axle assemblies. Each of them consisted of a square tube that the axle ran through, and two snap-on wheels. The square tube was meant to pop into grooves on the bottom of the racers, using more of the double stick tape to keep them from falling off. Once again, the tape did not do a very good job keeping the pieces attached to each other. There were also problems with the wheels not staying snapped onto the axles. They easily fell off before the construction of the racer was even completed. We would have tried using tape-tabs on them as well, but we used all of the ones for the second racer to replace the ones that stuck together when building the first. (I guess including glue in this kit would be considered too much of a danger for modern children.)
We finally got a racer assembled enough to test. To make it move, you inflate the balloon by blowing into the tube at the back of the racer. The way the balloon fits into the top of the racer, it is very hard to pinch it closed once you have it inflated. My son tried to stop the end of the tube with his finger after blowing it up, but his fingers were not wide enough to completely keep air from escaping. He was getting very frustrated by this point, so he handed the car to me for the first test run. I blew it up and let it go, only to see the racer fall apart immediately after leaving the starting line. So, we put it back together and tried again. And again. Each subsequent two-second run was followed by a five-to-ten-minute repair period. We did this for about an hour before he completely lost interest and went to play with something else.
I would not recommend the Cosmic Jet Racer kit in its current form. If you want to give your child a demonstration of Newton’s Laws of Motion, I would suggest getting a bag of balloons and let them fly around the house. It is a lot cheaper, and the balloons make those great Whoopee Cushion noises when you let them go. No assembly required.
WIRED The kit comes with paints and a paintbrush, plus stickers to decorate the racers.
TIRED Hard for children to assemble and use. Barely held together by double-stick tape.
RATING 3 out of 10