Sunday, February 2, 2020

Introduction to practical electronics for children

I designed this 7-hour (one hour/day) course for 6 graders, as part of their STEM curriculum.
The goal is to introduce the children to practical electronics and teach them about:

1. electronic parts/components: how to identify/recognize them, how to measure (using a multi-meter), what they are used for (role in an electronic circuit):
  • resistors (current reduction), variable resistor/potentiometer, trimmer
  • capacitors (energy accumulator), variable capacitor
  • transistors (amplification)
  • coils (inductors)
  • diodes, LEDs
  • speakers. microphones
  • buttons, switches
  • integrated circuits, processors
  • displays
  • sensors (light, magnetic, proximity/infrared/ultrasound)
  • servo motors
  • relays
2. how to solder (using a soldering station), how to place and position parts on a board, how to check connection, how to follow steps of an instruction manual;

3. electricity and electronics concept:
  • voltage, current, resistance;
  • AC vs DC
  • digital vs analog
  • oscillation
  • rectification
  • amplification
  • series, parallel
  • voltage transformation (AC)
  • voltage regulation (AC, DC)
4. basic understanding/reading of schematics (wiring, electrical connections).

Required materials

Course schedule

Day 1
theory: introduction to components; presentation and identification (1/2 hour)
practice: beginning soldering (1/2 hour) LED + resistor, using flux, soldering wire, wick, on prototype PCBs;

Day 2
theory: introduction of a simple clock kit or another, more familiar to me, simple HDSP clock kit; assembly analysis, component placement and positioning;
practice: solder passive components on PCB; assemble the HDSP clock;

Day 3
theory: more on components; introduction to schematics;
practice: solder the active components of the clock kit;

Day 4
theory: electricity concepts (digital vs analog);
practice: finishing up the kit assembly; power, test, use;

Day 5
theory: electricity concepts (voltage, current, resistance); example of other kits;
practice: learn to use an ohm/volt/meter;

Day 6
theory: electronics concepts (oscillation, rectification, amplification, sound generation etc.);
practice: bring an electronic toy, working or not; disassembly, analysis, repair (if needed);

Day 7
practice: continuation from Day 6; identification of components used in the toy; understanding of how it works; modding/expanding functionality/adding LEDs, speaker, buttons etc.;

We are already on "Day 3", but behind schedule. Soldering is harder for the kids than I originally thought. One thing that I overlooked was that each student needs individual attention/supervision on the practical side (soldering, component placement etc.). Half hour per day of hands-on practice is definitely too short at this level. The schedule may be a little aggressive for the average Grade 6, probably better suited for older and more disciplined students. In any case, I am working on adjusting the content of the course and the feedback I receive is amazing. Kids really enjoy the fact that it is practical and some of them are amazed when they see the LEDs they soldered actually lighting up.