children

2nd "Making Session" with primary school kids

Yesterday I did my second 'making workshop' with fifteen 5-6 yearolds at our new local primary school, The Belham. For a bit more background, please see my last blog post on these 'making workshops'.

"Making" workshops with 4-6 yearolds

Yesterday I did my first 'making workshop' with fifteen 5-6 yearolds at our new local primary school, The Belham (my 4-yearold daughter has just started at The Belham). My hope with these workshops is to encourage the kids to try building interesting creations and, along the way, sneak in some stuff they might not have played with yet like basic electronics. I'll be doing two workshops a month. I suppose the main aim is to show how much fun it is to build stuff (which shouldn't be hard: the kids seem to know this instinctively).

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The plan was for the children to get into three groups of five children. Each group would make one den out of cardboard boxes. If the kids wanted 'windows' cut into their boxes then they'd draw the outline of the window and an adult would come along and cut out the window. They'd then run plastic pipe between the dens to make 'telephones'. Then we'd install lights, batteries and switches in the dens. And it wasn't just me running the workshop: we had two awesome teaching assistants (i.e. two full-time staff from the nursery school) who were much better at handling the kids than I was!

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Resources and organisations for teaching kids to engineer / code stuff

This is not yet an exhaustive list. Please comment if you know of any other resources to mention!

Very basic electronics kits for 2 year olds!?

My 2 year old daughter appears to enjoy the very basic geeky things that she's gotten her hands on so far.  Things like plugging headphones into the iPad to listen to music; building things with large Lego blocks; turning torches on and off; playing with little remote-controlled-cars etc etc.

I'd like to see how she gets on with some sort of basic "electronics kit" which allows her to experiment a little while teaching her some very basic principals (like circuits require both a power source and a load).

All existing electronics kits I've seen would be way to advanced for her.  For example, she's years away from being able to understand what "completing a circuit" means (i.e. any kits which require you to connect both a negative and positive cable from power source to actuator would be way to abstract for her).

I'm thinking of making her a very, very basic "electronics kit".  Each component would be in its own little tinted, semi-transparent box. 

There would be several "sources" of electrical power (small battery pack, PV cells, little hand-cranked dynamo etc).  Each source module would have a single large DC socket to send power to another module. Each source would produce about 3 volts and would have short-circuit protection.

There would be several "actuator" modules like a lamp, motor, door bell, volt meter, radio etc.  These modules would each have a single small DC socket.

Cables would have a large DC socket on one end and a small DC socket on the other.  The use of large DC sockets on the power source modules and small DC sockets on the actuator modules should make it mechanically impossible to create a "wrong" circuit (like connecting a battery pack to a PV cell).

And maybe some basic "control" modules like a switch, light-operated switch, oscillator etc.  Each control module would have both a small DC socket (power input) and a large DC socket (power output to actuator).

Each class of module (actuator, controller, power source) would have its own colour.

Does anyone know if a similar kit exist for purchase?

If not, I'll make the kit for my daughter, unless anyone has good evidence that such a project would still be way to advanced for a 2 year old.  Of course, I'll start with the real basics like just a battery module, switch, light and two cables to see how she gets on with it.

If the kit is a success then we could extend it by adding "control" / "audio" cables (maybe 3.5mm jack sockets) so we could make a simple telephone, radio, synthesiser etc etc. (Yes, you've guessed it: this entire project is just an excuse for me to finally get round to building the modular analogue synth I've wanted to build since I was a kid!).

(I also posted this on the Instructables forum)

(BTW, sorry I haven't posted much about my PhD work for a while. Been busily wrapping up my data collection work and writing a paper).

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