01 December 2007

Electronic Kits as Gifts

Glenn Reynolds has a post on the Elenco Snap Circuits SC-300.

Vintage Radio Shack 150-1 Electronic Projects KitI'm a big fan of electronic kits for kids. I still remember getting my first electronic kit, the Radio Shack Science Fair 150-1 Electronic Project Lab (shown on right). I built dozens of the projects easily and safely, but can warn parents today that it might be very tempting for kids to stick the jumper wires that come with such kits in the nearest wall outlet to see what happens (it'll shock the begeebers out of you, blow a fuse, trip a breaker, and possibly stop your heart!).

My daughter and I have great fun building and repairing electronics together. The place I find myself repeatedly going back to for the best (and best prices) on kits is OmnitronElectronics. They have a great selection of Electronic Project/Lab Kits and Robot kits.

Elenco MX-906 Electronic Lab 130-in-one ProjectFor example, they are selling the SC-300 for $8 less than Amazon and if you're looking for something similar to the Radio Shack Science Fair version (without the "over 60 modular snap-together" lose-able, breakable, pick-up-able parts) for about the same price as the SC-300, check out the Elenco MX-906 Electronic Lab 130-in-one Project.

I would strongly suggest that parents who do not have a background in electronics check out the manuals/instructions for any kit before buying it. It's no fun (for the kid or parent) if the instructions are unclear, missing steps, incorrect, or don't explain how the circuit works. Another site I really like (though usually more expensive than OmnitronElectronics) is DiscoverThis. They do a much better job of posting manuals (in full or excerpts) online as pdf files. This is an awesome help to customers! I would definitely recommend checking out the SC-300 manual before buying it.

I also think the robot kits make a good choice for kids. My daughter and I built the OWI-991K Weasel robot together and I have used the same Weasel kit in a basic electronics lab for college students. Sitting on our shelf waiting to be built is the 21-887S FOLLOW ME Robot Kit. I even bought her the Radio Shack ColdHeat soldering iron so she could do her own soldering, which is very cool. I wouldn't recommend that soldering iron for most hobbyists/pros, but it's an awesome soldering tool for kids learning to solder.

Most of the robot kits at OmnitronElectronics come in a solder or non-solder version, so you can also get the non-solder Weasel kit or non-solder FOLLOW ME kit.

Not only are these kits fun to build, but they're fun to play with!


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