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Thread: Advice please--electronic kit for middle-schooler

  1. #1
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    Advice please--electronic kit for middle-schooler

    Hi folks. For the last two years, my son's been playing with electronic kits made by Elenco--"Snap Circuits" and "Electronic Playground." The limitation of these kits is that they don't really explain to the user what part of a given circuit performs a given task, and how it does so. He's ready to step up to that level now. Do any of you know of electronic kits that teach the basics of engineering for a middle-school student?


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  2. #2
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    http://www.makershed.com/products/ma...ponents-pack-3

    At this stage of the game, basic safety components like a grounding strap,
    and an ESD mat where he's assembling are in order.

    I also recommend good magnification in a task light.

    When he progresses beyond "bread boarding" a small
    soldering station with a vacuum hood will keep the house
    smelling fresh.

    kudos

  3. #3
    Honestly, I can't think of one. There's the Radio Shack Electronics learning lab, but that's basically just one project after another. About the best I could recommend is to get a couple of beginner electronics books, and just source things like a breadboard and parts separately. What kind of budget are you looking at? Perhaps I could make some recommendations.

  4. #4
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    Find a local Ham radio club for him to go to/join.

    One problem w/the DIY method of electronics is the huge amount of math involved. The components don't make any sense by themselves, they only make sense when they are used together & the way they interact with each other is explained.
    This is the type of math they don't teach in school.
    Things like gain, impedance, half power point, maximum power transfer, etc. You can say a capacitor is placed at this point in a circuit - and still not have a clue as to why.
    If you say the capacitor is a bypass cap, then it begins to have meaning.
    If the math behind and theory behind what a bypass cap is and what it does is understood, then the whole picture becomes clear.

    Even if the eventual path taken is digital, a good solid understanding of both components and analog devices provides some solid footing.
    My granddad always said, :As one door closes, another opens".
    Wonderful man, terrible cabinet maker...

  5. #5
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    It's a shame HeathKit is not still in business.

  6. #6
    Buy him and Arduino and a book about projects for Arduino, or even a Raspberry Pi and a book to go with that. It's really where it's all happening in that world right now. Both are simple to use and incredibly powerful. He will have a blast with either. The Arduino is probably a little more user friendly for someone like that to start with.
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  7. #7
    I highly recommend these two books:

    Getting Started in Electronics (Mims),

    Make: Electronics (Learning by Discovery).

    Especially the Make book. It's a book for hackers. The first describes the theory and what all the components do, but I can tell you from anecdotal experience (my own and my sons) that electrical concepts are extremely non-intuitive unless they're coupled with hands-on learning. I mean, non-intuitive to the point of discouragement in my and my son's case.

    Anyway, check these two out.

  8. #8
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    Start him on Arduino learning.
    http://arduino.cc/en/Tutorial/HomePage


    Buy an Arduino and a couple LEDs and resistors and help him connect to a PC or laptop. Watch the blinky lights.


    Next, keep him reading the tutorials.


    Go to Sparkfun tutorials
    https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials


    At sparkfun, he will be able to spend more of your money on kits and especially cheap parts. Cheap parts are at Radio Shack also.


    Have him work on home automation and alarm circuitry.


    Let him wonder around the web for other Arduino tutorials.


    At some point, this guy


    http://youtube.com/channel/UCiqd3GLTluk2s_IBt7p_LjA


    provides some of the clearest explanations of electronic and ham radio topics I have seen. Maybe a bit advanced to start with, but who know what a kid will settle on to really take off.

  9. #9
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    Have you checked out Little Bits?
    http://littlebits.cc/shop?gclid=Cj0K...Y4AaAq3V8P8HAQ

  10. #10
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    And I forgot this guy's videos.

    Extreme top quality instruction.

    http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosnWgi3eorc1klEQ8pIgJQ

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Shepherd View Post
    Buy him and Arduino and a book about projects for Arduino,
    ^^^^This^^^^
    I've been considering getting some components for myself.
    You can make everything from a flashing light board, with sound, to a robot controlled with a smart phone.
    Really cool stuff, and works with LittleBits.

    I learned electronics with help from the "Radio Amateurs Handbook" by ARRL.

    Does his school have a robotics competition team?
    Last edited by Myk Rian; 12-04-2014 at 12:32 PM.
    Never, under any circumstances, consume a laxative and sleeping pill, on the same night

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Engelhardt View Post
    This is the type of math they don't teach in school.
    Sure they do--its Circuits I and II for sophomore EE majors, at least back in the early-mid 90's.


  13. #13
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    Wow! I didn't realize they offered electronics in regular schools.
    My granddad always said, :As one door closes, another opens".
    Wonderful man, terrible cabinet maker...

  14. #14
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    i would recommend one of the project books previously mentioned, buying a breadboard, and shopping for components on-line. Start with one of the simpler projects and its a great learning tool. One of the facts of life in electronic projects is the need to substitute for components that are not readily available. This is a very good learning experience in itself.

  15. #15
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    I learned a lot from a book called 'The Art of Electronics."

    I also learned a lot making projects on circuit bread boards. These were plastic covers over rows of pins that would take most standard electronics parts so they could be interconnected with jumpers. They could be snapped together for bigger projects.

    I also used to get a lot of old circuit boards that were scrap and would cut the traces and run jumpers as needed to build a project. I used to have a lot of old wire wrap prototype boards and components for making various projects.

    I still have a some of it in storage. Most of it is obsolete TTL and other stuff from the late '70s and early '80s.

    Probably still have my old galena crystal and cat whiskers set from back in the '50s.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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