SARCNET runs free electronics prototyping workshops for SARC members during school lunchtimes, sometimes for a class or the whole school or the public during science week, and for more than a year we ran our free Tuesday Night workshop at the Moorabbin and District Radio Club. The kids just love creating things and making them work, so building circuits using reusable electronic components on a prototyping board is a real hit, not to mention the educational value (which we don’t mention!). If you want to get kids into STEM this Forum explains how to do it yourself and provides some really great ideas.
Now, while we provide our time and often our kits for free, there are a lot of very costly, highly commercialized, class sets, kits, robots and gadgets out there. Don't be fooled: People are making a lot of money out of STEM. But we find that most of these so-called "STEM kits", just provide entertainment for kids and don't actually teach them the skills they need to do it themselves. Sometimes the approach is just silly: What is the point of making circuits out of "conductive plasticine" or "conductive paint" on a piece of paper, when you can make real, reusable circuits, far more cheaply, using the same techniques the professionals use? Because we purchase parts for thousands of electronics prototyping kits, we can provide them to our students for free, or at cost for only $10. Similar parts would cost $20, at the local electronics shop. Alternatively a programable robot kit will cost $300 and keep them entertained for about an hour. This back to basics approach is a winning strategy: For the price of coffee and a donut parents can buy their child something that may get them interested in STEM and change their lives. For school STEM coordinators this is a chance for you to develop your own STEM programs. <soapbox dismounted>
To start off with you will need a prototyping board. The electronic components just plug in to it and they can be removed easily to create different circuits. This 170 tie-point board is ideal to get started. Next, you’ll need a battery holder and some components. You can source the components yourself or they can be purchased with free instructions on our products page. There is even a Printed Circuit Board and a free assembly manual for when your budding "electronics engineers" want to graduate from electronics prototyping to electronics kit construction. Next they'll want a soldering iron and tools and more components...
More Electronic Prototyping tips in our next post. Feel free to add your own ideas, and especially pictures of circuits you have made.