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  1. #1
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    Toy Circuit Board for Children Advice

    Hey Community,

    My kid is asking for a circuit board for his birthday with "real" components. I've started researching different options, but this is a new area for me. I am looking for any suggestions. He is turning 10, has good dexterity and has usually built above his age (legos, robotic kits, etc.).

    He has had Snap Circuits for years, but now wants to use real wiring. I had something like this as a kid, but that was the 80s and I'm sure things have changed.

    We don't mind a kit that can tie into a computer for coding, but we also want something he can work on when away from a screen. The wiring piece and creating physical circuits it the primary interest. Something that can include coding later would be cool, but not necessary.

    I like that my kid is wanting to physically wire circuits through a board. Just need help finding the right set up. It does not need to include robotics, but simple things like creating an alarm, light sensitivity, sound creation, etc would be great.


    Saw this one, but kind of pricey (I don't want to sound cheap, willing to spend if it works well) and wondering if anyone has had experience.

    https://www.homesciencetools.com/pro...ription-anchor

    This set up is q bit cheaper, but having a hard time finding details on it. Again, wondering if anyone has experience.

    https://www.botsbitsandkids.com/best...-starter-kits/


    Thanks for any input.

  2. #2
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    How's he with 120V? I have a few lines I need run in the garage.
    "timberridge is terminally vapid" -- a fortune cookie in Yueyang

  3. #3
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    The Arduino 2560 board has a lot of devices on it, a decent free sdk and a huDge community with a zillion weirdo projects.

    Some of the on board devices, notably some of the Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) pins, require wiring and there's tons and tons of externals with breadboards deluX.

    It uses a variant of C, the best low level programming language and necessary for device driver/OS development.

    https://www.arduino.cc/
    Merde De Glace On the Freak When Ski
    >>>200 cm Black Bamboo Sidewalled DPS Lotus 120 : Best Skis Ever <<<

  4. #4
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    Radioshack used to be the jam for this kinda stuff. I was addicted to this kinda stuff as a kid.

    https://www.radioshack.com/collections/project-kits

    The HAM/shortwave radio world still puts out kits and keeps it out of the code world. (There are a bunch of these but here is a super basic one.)

    https://www.amazon.com/Qianson-Short...147297&sr=8-17
    Live Free or Die

  5. #5
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    You just reminded me, I got this for my 12 year old for Christmas. Its a two pack, so I thought I would work on one while he works on the other and I could help him out if needed. He'll be doing some basic soldering next year in middle school so this seems appropriate, but I have not built it yet and don't know how good/bad it is.

  6. #6
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    I wouldn't trust a 10-12 yr old with soldering unsupervised. Between the kid inhaling fumes and a 650-700 degree tip. Shit, I hate it and will only do it when necessary.
    "timberridge is terminally vapid" -- a fortune cookie in Yueyang

  7. #7
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    Arduino or Microbit. With Arduino he'll have more examples of cool projects to copy or remix. Microbit is probably a little easier to get started, especially if he hasn't written much code (although I haven't used an Arduino in a few years, and I know people have been developing kid-friendly interfaces).

    What I'd recommend doing is finding some cool projects you think he might like, then sitting down and looking at them with him. Let him pick something he'd like to make. Then order the parts, or a kit that contains the parts. Get a decent soldering iron and stand too.

    A couple sites to get you started:

    https://create.arduino.cc/projecthub.../tags/beginner

    https://www.seeedstudio.com/blog/201...eginners-2019/

  8. #8
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    Teach him to do point to point wiring on a tube amp and he will never go hungry. (Or get rich.)

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ottime View Post
    I like that my kid is wanting to physically wire circuits through a board. Just need help finding the right set up. It does not need to include robotics, but simple things like creating an alarm, light sensitivity, sound creation, etc would be great.
    I think at 10 years old, ^that's about right. The Arduino kits/projects are cool but it is a lot more involved - you are adding PC/Laptop, an IDE and programming. Learning about electronics without coding part is probably better at this point and sounds like what his immediate interest is.

    Basically, what's the next step up from Snap? I don't know but maybe something like this: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0176IEUH2...EAAAAAAAAAAUqQ

    Cheaper than that all-in-one unit you posted. But maybe not a step far enough?

    Cool your kid is into this. Maker influences have made this stuff much more approachable to the current crop of youngins'

  10. #10
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    A Pi might be overkill, but check them out.
    https://www.sparkfun.com/categories/233

  11. #11
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    I got into tinkering with electronics as a covid hobby this past winter and I had never soldered anything before. I didn't want to fuck up any expensive gear trying to learn so I bought this. It's unclear whether you are OK with your boy soldering or not but if you are then this is a really cheap way to get some practice.

    https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

  12. #12
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    Yeah if soldering is ok I'd get one of the new USB3 PD based irons and a couple kits like what dfinn just posted. Tindie is an option, or look at what people use for conventions. There seem to be a ton of little boards that are used as soldering practice or tests.

    Do you think your kid's more interested in lights, motion, or noises? That might be a way to pick a few options without getting too far into it.

  13. #13
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    I don't have a "kit" suggestion, but if they have outgrown the toy kits with built in components but you don't trust them with a soldering iron, I would suggest a "breadboard" such as:

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EV6LJ7G...mcd_asin_2_img

    and pair it with a 5V/12V power supply and components/wires that you can just plug into the holes. I know they sell kits like this as well and ones that interface with PI and Arduino later on and come with project suggestion books.

    We used breadboards even as professionals decades ago to test circuit ideas and tweak them before committing the design to the system.

  14. #14
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    Apr 2021
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    Once upon a time model trains were the shit for this. Designing and wiring switches and power supplies back to a board you crafted yourself, soldering rail together, creating power block sections to combat power losses in long rail runs.

    I don't even know where you can find good model train stuff anymore.
    Wait, how can we trust this guy^^^ He's clearly not DJSapp

  15. #15
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    I use the following site for all my science STEM projects....I would assume it should have what you are looking for.

    pitsco.com

  16. #16
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    One of my kids got a kick out of piper when he graduated from snap circuits. Def a more involved project than snap circuits...
    Brandine: Now Cletus, if I catch you with pig lipstick on your collar one more time you ain't gonna be allowed to sleep in the barn no more!
    Cletus: Duly noted.

  17. #17
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    Awesome. My wife is impressed with this place.

    Not looking to solder just yet. Maye in a year.

    Breadboard style projects with lights and motion.

    Need to take time and track all these avenues down. I get a sense this is his future. He will be sure asking to solder soon enough.

  18. #18
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    We've had fun with this subscription (and company in general) in the past:
    https://www.adafruit.com/adabox

    Self-contained box of project(s) along a different theme every quarter(?) Problem with subsription is you don't know what you're going to get until it comes. But, there are a couple old ones still in stock, and looks like you only need to get his hands on one anyway:
    - focused on learning about sensors, including board that has both sensors and an output screen:
    https://www.adafruit.com/product/4491

    - focused on more arty projects with a simpler board that still has some sensors, buttons, and LEDs to control:
    https://www.adafruit.com/product/4504
    ^ lots of things can be done on just that "circuit playground" ($25) btw:
    https://www.adafruit.com/product/3333


    These boxes have their own tutorials (and sample code), so there are built-in activities to get started (e.g. for the second one):
    https://learn.adafruit.com/adabox014

    The company itself designs & sells a lot of boards, etc., but they have a pretty awesome focus on learning:
    https://learn.adafruit.com/

    Haven't done it in a few years, but we've had ones to build RaspberryPi-based gaming console (RPi Zero provided in box), internet-radio boom-box, and cloud-connected weather station. A robot one in there somewhere, as well. IIRC, coding at the time was done through Arduino IDE for the boards, but not sure if that is still their MO -> would check that out and verify you (yourself) can load the most recent IDE on whatever computer you have at home. Biggest trick for us was we were all on Chromebooks when we started in on this, and had to dust off/rehab an old MacBook to be able to talk to the boards. Otherwise, its some pretty-fun hardware projects to get started, with very expandable components.

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