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littlerick 1st November 2012 12:20 PM

Need advice from people who know!
My grandson, who is 9 almost 10, has been introduced to electronics via a xmas gift from me. he has been using one of the megablocks kits for a couple of years now and has enjoyed it.

He is now ready for the next step and i wanted to get him a set up of real components and a good breadboard. Now I have seen a 300 experiment kit available for around 80. Would he do better with one of these lab style kits or would i be better off getting him a box of bits, a breadboard and a couple of good starter books.

Maybe upgrade to soldering when he is a little more confident.

Mooly 1st November 2012 06:56 PM

I'm thinking back to how I was when I started although I was a little older...

For me it would have had to be the box of bits and breadboards and as many magazines and books as I could get my hands on.

If "it's in him" he'll learn from his mistakes and burned fingers and smoking parts :D
I would have found an experimental kit far too limiting very very quickly. The fact he's had these "megablock" kits (which tbh I haven't a clue what they are) for two years and not wanted to progress beyond that maybe suggests its not going to be an all consuming passion... perhaps more of an interest.

Tough one !

littlerick 1st November 2012 10:28 PM

No the point is he used the megablocks to their full potential and enjoyed doing it. Thats why i want to get him onto the next stage and doing real circuits with real parts. Now i'm only learning myself so dont have the knowledge to teach him myself, so i would like to get a set up that will let him learn by reading and copying. The main reason for my question was to see if a lab kit would be of any benifit over a box of bits and breadboard, you can buy an awful lot of bits for the price of a lab.

Thanks Mooly and I reckon a truck load of bits and some good reading is best. Maybe get him to teach me along the way!

Enzo 1st November 2012 10:54 PM

I started my electronics career about 1954, when my dad got me a crystal radio kit for Xmas. I made it up and it worked, then I started trying different connections and moving or changing parts - most of which did not work of course - out of curiosity. But that got me started.

Those multikits usually either spark an interest or expose a lack of one. Your kid seems to have gone the inspired route, good for him.

There are a number of companies that make electronic kits, these are for specific projects. Power supply, amplifier, preamplifier, sound generator, LED blinker, what have you. I don;t know which are most available in the UK. They range from the most basic to fairly complex. You wind up with some actual thing that functions, not just a light switch that makes a motor spin. A project like a power supply is useful to power later projects, for example. These are less experiments than they are construction projects.

There are commercial kits for complete systems like stereo amplifiers. Chassis, cabinet, all the parts, etc. There are also just plans, and you can build a whole thing from scratch using all stuff you sourced on your own.

My electronics was learned mainly through an interest in short wave radio, and I made great use of the Radio Amateurs Handbook puiblished by ARRL. That book comes out each year and over time it keeps updating itself, not unlike a history textbook. The 1957 or 1962 edition will have a lot of vacuum tube coverage, while a 1997 or 2002 edition will not, but the newer ones will cover op amps and things the old ones never heard of. But I ramble. By directing an interest in certain directions it supplies practical areas to apply the interest. For example I often built antenna boosters, "preselectors" (tunable RF preamps), antenna switches. I made converters so I could listen to super low frequency broadcasts. But in the same way, an interest in audio might lead to making preamps and power amps and equalizers, and maybe experimenting with speakers and their crossovers. SSOme guys are into remote control cars, planes, and boats - radio control.

All these specific areas - and more - have their own interest groups, their own magazines and online publications, and support industries.

MY career is mostly professional audio (guitar amps, PA systems, recording studio gear), but I also design custom control systems for use on stage. (Custome signal switching, special props controls, odd equipment interfacces) And I still use breadboards for some of that. I think Mooly has a point that sometimes multikits can be limiting. It is appealing that the kit has a lot of ideas already there to explore, especially so if you yourself lack the experience to share, but you can also buy breadboards by themselves and wander off into exploration on your own. They come as plain breadboards of various sizes. They also come with built in power sources, and some with generic controls.

I realize the kid is only 9, but has he shown an interest in any particular aspect of the existing stuff?

When I was growing up, I had the good fortune to be in the Washington DC area, and my dad fostered my young interests in science and technology. We had the extensive Smithsonian Institution museums, but we also attended open house at places like ANdrews Airforce Base, and some other defense related laboratories. I got to see real high tech stuff firsthand. Even if I had little idea what was behind all of it, it still fed my fascination.

Electronics is such a broad field. If you like airplanes there is avionics, if you like sports ther are jumbo video screens and complex scoreboards, What might be behind the operation of cell phones? And the whole world of robotics.

sreten 1st November 2012 11:07 PM


FWIW you can learn and do a lot more with a circuit emulator allthough
its not "hands on", and you can't learn what really will blow up stuff.

TinaTi SPICE-Based Analog Simulation Program - TINA-TI - TI Software Folder is my favourite.

The thing with the 80 kit is it consistent, a box of bits is not.

something like

Elenco MX908 Electronic 300 in 1 Lab

Is probably better than an emulator at the moment, but books
and an emulator are the way to go in the long run if it sticks.

rgds, sreten.

littlerick 2nd November 2012 09:25 AM

yes sreten that is the exact kit i had in mind...

Enzo... very informative and interesting post. I'm not sure what direction he will take as he gets older, but it would be nice to know he has the capacity and the drive to learn. he has realy enjoyed the "child" based kits and has built a number of things using them. He has recently started showing interest in robotics.

Maybe I should just take him into the local Maplins and see what grabs his attention!

dangus 25th November 2012 08:19 AM

The old Alfred P. Morgan books have a very hands-on approach to electricity and electronics. Like making a telephone carbon microphone from a shoe-polish tin and smashed-up carbon rods from old batteries.

DF96 25th November 2012 02:47 PM

Have a look at Rapid Electronics. They do stuff for schools, as well as hobbyists. Breadboards, component packs etc.

Pano 25th November 2012 03:01 PM

Kids are smarter today than when we were young. :) I built my first kit at age 7, a crystal radio. I still remember how mind bogglingly complex it seemed at the time. Next I went on to the lab boards like the one linked to, and really enjoyed it. Bits and parts came later. I enjoyed the structure of the lab kit. Grandson may too, or he may be beyond that now.

littlerick 25th November 2012 03:54 PM

I think the 300 kit is ideal and i guess he can still use it for his own experiments when he is capable. I can always get him the odd kit from maplins to get him into soldering a few bits too.

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