It was always the joke that dads bought their sons train kits or Scalextric only because they secretly wanted them for themselves. Gender bias aside, it is odd that the traditionally “girlie” toys have never really had an equivalent. Maybe Thames and Kosmos’s magnificent PowerHouse fills that gap – or maybe not. It looks like a super hi-tech modern build-it-yourself dolls’ house, but this is an illusion, because it is sooo much more than that.

If this can be classed as a dolls’ house at all, it is probably the first dolls’ house for adults, geeks, fixers, makers and eco-DIYers. It’s definitely far too good to give to the kids. It is a  complete model house kit, with solar panels, a wind turbine, greenhouse, and even a desalination system.

The 96-page experiment manual asks you to imagine that you are one of a group of inhabitants of a small island, and guides you through projects for sustainable living using the resources available to you. Presented as a series of diaries and journal written by the other inhabitants, you  follow their efforts and conduct your own experiments alongside them, learning about the theory and practicalities of each. There are experiments to build and operate an electric train, generate wind energy and make a solar cooker, and lots more. There are even experiments in  preparing sauerkraut and making chewing gum.


Even as I’m writing, I’m getting pretty excited about this set. It’s like all the fun science toys you had rolled into one – the chemistry set, electric motor kit and all the geeky little bits and pieces. What’s so much better than those separately though is the structure involved in looking at how each is applied, and what the implications and resources are. Setting it as part of a storyline in an isolated community brings the scientific principles beautifully to life, and bang up to date, too.

Even reading the contents of the kit is making me salivate:
“The kit contains: foam house and plastic greenhouse parts • frame • base • wood glue • solar panel • compass • wire • LED (light emitting diode) • battery holder • small light bulb and holder • solar motor • magnifying glass • propellers, iron core • ring magnet • thermometer • test tube holder • measuring beaker • sand paper • copper foil • zinc plate • wire mesh • many small parts such as paper clips • screws • clips • lead sinker • washers • wing nuts • iron powder • wires • tubing • rubber bands • yarn • wooden components • cutouts for devices • and four color, illustrated 96 page Experiment Manual with 70 experiments and 20 building activities.”


Enough! I can’t take any more. Optimistically stating that it is for ages 12 and up (as if the kids are ever likely to get their hands on it), I was convinced that it had to be a brilliant buy to the extent that I almost forgot to look at the price. It’s $149.95, as if that matters. I can think of a million reasons why I need one.




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