Electronics Activities For the Young Mad Scientist

Well, hello there. Grab some Strawberry Lemonade from the pitcher in the fridge and join me in the basement lab/Bat Cave of my young mad scientist.

Every mad scientist should have an alias... or so I am told.

Every mad scientist should have an alias... or so I am told.

Today, we will share our favorite activities to keep the curious mind of a budding electrical engineer busy in his lab and well away from the disassembly of your kitchen appliances.

We’ll discuss the ElectroWizard series, Snap Circuits, and homemade wiring boxes.

And don’t worry about cost, I will mention a great free internet option, too.

ElectroWizard series:

I first found these little kits at Marshall’s or TJ Max or some buyout place like that after Xmas — and therefore on sale.

ElectroWizard is published (assembled, whatever) by Norman & Globus, Inc. Full price it may run around … oh maybe the $10-$15 range.

Anyway, my son first started building circuits when he was three using these nifty sets. Of course, the packaging recommends it for ages 8 and up, but that is just a suggestion. Certainly by age six, kids can easily manipulate the smaller parts and do more without your reading.

I’m a “I’ll read the direction, but you have to figure it out yourself” kind of mom.

The wires are prestripped and simply clamp into things like light bulbs or are held to a battery with a rubber band. Very simple.

The book that comes with the set includes easy picture and word directions.

The favorite of the mad scientist above is ElectroWizard: Invetions — Build, Build, Build by Penny Norman.

This particular set includes projects like motors, generators, telegraphs , relays,and even a radio. The kit includes everything you need, which pretty much comes down magnet wire, paperclips and rubber bands.

This just might be how MacGyver got his start.

Snap Circuits

Oh, where have you been all my life?!

I love this set. Buy the biggest set you can possibly afford. This thing will entertain your kid for years.

Everything literally snaps together. Very cool.

Recommended for ages 8 to 108, even you will find experiments to play with.

There are simple circuits, motors, generators, resistors, capacitors, lights, sounds…oh just everything you could want… including a solar panel.

My favorite part is that each componant has the actual schematic representaion on it. So when high school physics rolls around, this stuff will be old hat.

My favorite is the biggest, baddest set of them all. Model SC-750 with computer interface. With 750 experiments, you are gauranteed to have something for every dad blasted year of the science fair, plus Junior Academy of Science.

Click here for more info on Snap Circuits

Homemade wiring boxes:

The wiring box is an affordable way for your mad scientist to learn just what goes on behind the walls of your home.

By about 6 or 7 years old, every mad scientist aught to have his own wiring box. It is a simple rectangle made out of a 2 by 4 and wired with a plug. Using the regular stuff found in a home, like wall sockets, light sockets and switches, plus a little wire, your mad scientist will be on his way. The best part is you just plug it in to test wiring configurations. Safe and easy.

Everything you need can be found at your local hardware store and your usually your local high school shop teacher can talk you through the construction, if you are not familiar with this stuff.

Hit the library for a book on home wiring and your off.

This might be a nice time for a little safety talk and instruction on the use of basic tools, while your at it.

Free internet fun for the budding electrical engineer:

The University of Colorado at Boulder has a great simulation site. For the 4 or 5 years since I have found this gem, it has constantly grown better. More goodies to play with.

The circuits have always been a favorite at this house. It even simulates the fire my husband would cause if we ever allowed him at the wiring. Grand fun!

Click here for the outstanding PhET Circuit Construction Sim

Take time to poke around their site for other science simulation treasures.

One final note: Make sure you pitch your mad scientist out into the sunshine for some physical activity every now and then.

So, how are you going to stimulate your mad scientist this Summer?


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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi, I do think this is an excellent website.
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  2. […] Electronics Activities For the Young Mad Scientist « Recession …Jun 9, 2009 … Well, hello there. Grab some Strawberry Lemonade from the pitcher in the fridge and join me in the basement lab/Bat Cave of my young mad … […]

  3. I just found you on the Carnival. I have a newly budding mad scientist. These kits sound great. Thanks!

  4. The PHeT simulation link is the CU- Boulder link. Sorry if that was unclear.
    Again,
    http://phet.colorado.edu/simulations/sims.php?sim=Circuit_Construction_Kit_DC_Only

    Usually I have a book for everything, but in this case… no.
    A few choices would be to call the various shop teachers in your school district ( The fact that you homeschool won’t make a difference, trust me. They are just happy to be of use.) or perhaps a local trade college or even ask a local radio club or simply an electrician or any really handy person you know. oooo! or maybe even some talented boy scout.
    Unfortunately, these teaching aides don’t seem to be in any books, but they are widely used in trade curricula. In my opinion, they should be clumped in with high school physics, but never seem to be.
    Good luck.
    I’m sorry I can’t seem to put the wiring box into words and I haven’t built one in a while. Sooner or later I will try to build one again and post the pictures and instructions.

  5. Could you post the link to the CU-Boulder site? And do you have a recommendation on a book to make the homemade wiring site? My son is a mad scientist, and these sound great to keep him out of my circuit box.

  6. Poor camera. It never had a chance did it. Mad scientists strike again.

  7. As the mom of two young men, your post brought back lots of memories! My sons are teens now, but even last week they were creating a stun gun out of a disposable camera. They don’t work on stuff like that too often anymore, and I sure did soak up the warm fuzzies as I listened to them scheming and working together rather than sitting in there rooms with assorted mindless electronics.


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