Electronics for children

I’ve been trying to introduce my daughter, 6 years old, to electronics.  I started her on the Velleman MK100 Electronic Christmas Tree which went fairly smoothly.

Then we progressed to a Velleman MK127 Microbug which was a lot more difficult.

The problem with these kits is that beginners will make mistakes that will be unable to recover from.  Not only that, but they don’t explain how they work so you can’t debug them or understand what you are doing.

On top of that, the bots can be outright hackish – for example, requiring you to scrap the edge of the motors, and then solder the chasis of the motor directly to the board at an angle!   And this is even more difficult than it sounds, since the motor is highly magnetic and so requires a steady strong hand to keep the soldering iron still.

This was the result:

Notice the four wires from the motor. This was because we put the motors in the wrong way around, despite following the instructions. So I had to reverse the motors. This sort of repair is probably beyond a child. But worse:

Notice the yellow and white wires? This is another repair job after finding that the light sensitive resistor had broken the bottom of the board and was not making a proper connection. Pretty much impossible to detect this for a novice or if you didn’t have a voltmeter.

I’m not sure what the solution is. In the past I’ve used various non-soldering electronics kits, but they all have their own disadvantages.


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