Robotics/Electronics projects for myself and my 7yr old son

For the discussion of the sciences. Physics problems, chemistry equations, biology weirdness, it all goes here.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Moderators General, Prelates

JohnFly
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2010 1:41 pm UTC

Robotics/Electronics projects for myself and my 7yr old son

Postby JohnFly » Fri Sep 24, 2010 5:28 pm UTC

My son has recently become caught up with Star Wars (the original trilogy).

I'm wanting to take him from the sci-fi side of things to real science and thought that robotics and electronics projects would be good for us both.

What are some relatively cheap projects (costs less than $150) that you would suggest? They would need to be something with a tangible and observable result, mostly to give him the "LOOK WHAT I DID!" feeling at the completion of the project.


My first project will be taking an old webcam and making it an "IR Camera". (nearly free and has a result that I can explain.)

User avatar
Solt
Posts: 1912
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 5:08 am UTC
Location: California

Re: Robotics/Electronics projects for myself and my 7yr old

Postby Solt » Sun Sep 26, 2010 1:00 am UTC

Unfortunately there isn't any real science to jump off from in Star Wars. Light sabers, death stars, hyperspace travel, laser pistols, hovercraft, pod racers, the force... none of it really follows the laws of physics. They follow the laws of "cool shit george lucas thought of." There are no rockets, hell there aren't even any wheels in the whole series. If you really want to expand off Star Wars, you should get your son into art- drawing, painting, that kind of stuff, so he can exercise his imagination.

But if you want to plant the seed of interest in science and technology in general, I think the best thing you can do at his age is fund some relevant hobbies- particularly RC cars (real ones, not the $20 toy ones that run for 3 minutes on a charge) and hobby planes. If you are a little more ambitious and reasonably close to the Mojave desert in California, you can get into rocketry. The basic certifications are easy to get- basically you have to assemble a simple rocket according to the directions, launch it successfully, and then they will let you build and launch whatever you want, within certain restrictions (ie, at the first certification level you can build any rocket body but you have to use the provided engine).

More on RC Cars- at the hobbyist level you can do some cool stuff, and as your son gets older he will be able to delve more deeply into the details of what really makes them run, stuff like motors and radio signals and batteries and suspension. You could probably get a starter kit that would let you assemble the car yourself. Hobby planes would work the same way but they are more expensive to get into.

I wouldn't try to do some serious electronics/robotics stuff. You'll be surprised by how unimpressed a kid will be after building a basic electronic circuit. Plus you might put all this work and money into a robot and it will do what, pick up a ball and drop it somewhere else? Better to go for the super cool stuff and make him learn science and electronics if he wants to make it cooler/funner.

Other suggestions: telescope, science museum, Lego Mindstorms (does that still exist?), FIRST robotics when old enough, computer programming when old enough

Also, if you have any daughters I hope you will involve them too: viewtopic.php?f=18&t=62942
"Welding was faster, cheaper and, in theory,
produced a more reliable product. But sailors do
not float on theory, and the welded tankers had a
most annoying habit of splitting in two."
-J.W. Morris

User avatar
DarkLordofSquirrels
Posts: 68
Joined: Mon Jun 16, 2008 6:08 pm UTC

Re: Robotics/Electronics projects for myself and my 7yr old

Postby DarkLordofSquirrels » Sun Sep 26, 2010 7:34 am UTC

-Make an electromagnet with copper wire, battery and a bit of iron
-Make a plate capacitor and fry fire ants with it. That's assuming you live near some; but if you do they frickin' love electricity. Grab a couple of square foot metal plates, hold 'em close and run some charge through them and they'll climb all over them till they pile up so much that it shorts the capacitor and fries them all.

User avatar
Solt
Posts: 1912
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 5:08 am UTC
Location: California

Re: Robotics/Electronics projects for myself and my 7yr old

Postby Solt » Sun Sep 26, 2010 10:31 am UTC

DarkLordofSquirrels wrote:they frickin' love electricity. Grab a couple of square foot metal plates, hold 'em close and run some charge through them and they'll climb all over them till they pile up so much that it shorts the capacitor and fries them all.


Dude... I gotta try that. Does it have to be fire ants?
"Welding was faster, cheaper and, in theory,

produced a more reliable product. But sailors do

not float on theory, and the welded tankers had a

most annoying habit of splitting in two."

-J.W. Morris

JohnFly
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2010 1:41 pm UTC

Re: Robotics/Electronics projects for myself and my 7yr old

Postby JohnFly » Sun Sep 26, 2010 7:24 pm UTC

Solt wrote:Unfortunately there isn't any real science to jump off from in Star Wars. ...


Yeah, he is really interested in the more out there ideas, so I though electronic or robotic experiments/projects would be as close as we could get.

I have tons of electronics theory and physics books around, but much, much over his level, and I have done software for many years, so when he gets older I have plenty to work with. Its just keeping his interest up until he gets older.


-Make a plate capacitor and fry fire ants with it.


We have fire ants in the yard so I think thats a good one to try!

Mr_Rose
Posts: 380
Joined: Thu May 29, 2008 9:32 am UTC

Re: Robotics/Electronics projects for myself and my 7yr old

Postby Mr_Rose » Sun Sep 26, 2010 8:32 pm UTC

JohnFly wrote:My son has recently become caught up with Star Wars (the original trilogy).

I'm wanting to take him from the sci-fi side of things to real science and thought that robotics and electronics projects would be good for us both.

What are some relatively cheap projects (costs less than $150) that you would suggest? They would need to be something with a tangible and observable result, mostly to give him the "LOOK WHAT I DID!" feeling at the completion of the project.


My first project will be taking an old webcam and making it an "IR Camera". (nearly free and has a result that I can explain.)

I have no idea what the dollar price is, but have you looked at Lego™ Mindstorms™ robotics kit? You got robots, you got Lego, and if you're willing to spend a bit more, you got Lego star-wars bricks too. I would not be at all surprised of there's a build pattern and code-set to make an R2-D2 somewhere out there.
Microevolution is a term — when used by creationists — that is the evolutionary equivalent of the belief that the mechanism you use to walk from your bedroom to the kitchen is insufficient to get you from New York to Los Angeles.

User avatar
frezik
Posts: 1336
Joined: Wed Jan 10, 2007 7:52 pm UTC
Location: Schrödinger's Box

Re: Robotics/Electronics projects for myself and my 7yr old

Postby frezik » Mon Sep 27, 2010 1:39 pm UTC

Could you build a Turtle robot for Logo? I think this is a sadly underutilized language for teaching kids to program. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find any kits available for that sort of thing, but perhaps something can be done with Lego Mindstorms?
I do not agree with the beer you drink, but will defend to the death your right to drink it

User avatar
KestrelLowing
Posts: 1124
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2010 6:57 pm UTC
Location: Michigan

Re: Robotics/Electronics projects for myself and my 7yr old

Postby KestrelLowing » Mon Sep 27, 2010 6:59 pm UTC

The LEGO NXT Mindstorms kit is a bit more expensive than $150, but it can do thousands upon thousands of things. I'm a really big fan, and if I wasn't always so bogged down with labs and homework, I'd play more with mine.

I'm not really sure about any other options, but LEGO gives a really nice intro to programming, and you can graduate to programming languages that actually look like programming languages. It doesn't give you many abilities to fiddle around with electronic though. Those are pretty much set in stone.

User avatar
Hawknc
Oompa Loompa of SCIENCE!
Posts: 6986
Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2006 5:14 am UTC
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Robotics/Electronics projects for myself and my 7yr old

Postby Hawknc » Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:45 pm UTC

Oh man, I must have used Logo about 20 years ago. It definitely got me interested in programming in school, though. I moved from that to BASIC to VB6 to Java. It's not necessarily robotics, but it's still pretty cool.

Other than that, I'll second the Mindstorms idea. Pretty sure plenty of people have built an R2 unit with them before.
ImageImageImageImageImage

User avatar
rath358
The bone of my bone
Posts: 944
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2009 6:02 am UTC
Location: who knows these days

Re: Robotics/Electronics projects for myself and my 7yr old

Postby rath358 » Tue Sep 28, 2010 3:32 am UTC

Thirding mindstorms. If you aren't picky, you can probably find one, either the new nxt version, or the old "yellow brick" rcx, for very little on ebay/craigslist/whatever.

User avatar
ian
Posts: 706
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 3:55 pm UTC
Location: Sealand

Re: Robotics/Electronics projects for myself and my 7yr old

Postby ian » Tue Sep 28, 2010 2:48 pm UTC

mixing the rc cars with starwars, make an r2 droid, or a mouse droid or something. you could then go further and add on operational versions of the various arms and instruments/tools they have

User avatar
LaserGuy
Posts: 4552
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 5:33 pm UTC

Re: Robotics/Electronics projects for myself and my 7yr old

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Sep 28, 2010 3:56 pm UTC

My general suggestion would be that the best science projects for young children are making things that are fast, loud, or squishy. Here's a few little projects that I can think of off the top of my head that might be fun to try.

-Bottle rockets are a relatively cheap and easy one to do. If you're feeling particularly epic and have a good pump, try it with a water cooler jug.
-With a bit of kitchen-top chemistry, you make slime (basically just a simple non-Newtonian fluid)
-Take a bit of copper wire, run it from your electrical outlet through a wet fruit or vegetable (pickles work well, so do oranges and lemon) to make a fruit-lightbulb.
-Buy a cheap microwave. Put stuff in it. Candles (lit or recently extinguished) are pretty cool. There's whole websites devoted to microwavable goodness.
-With relatively minimal resources, you can build yourself a home-brew catapult or trebuchet
-You can take apart an old DVD or BluRay player and get the laser diode out from inside (check for online resources on how to do this). Now you've got yourself a nifty laser to play with.

Mr_Rose
Posts: 380
Joined: Thu May 29, 2008 9:32 am UTC

Re: Robotics/Electronics projects for myself and my 7yr old

Postby Mr_Rose » Tue Sep 28, 2010 4:18 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:-You can take apart an old DVD or BluRay player and get the laser diode out from inside (check for online resources on how to do this). Now you've got yourself a nifty laser to play with.

Yeah, about that; don't start messing with blue laser diodes around small children. The ones they put in BRD players are, or were in early generation models at least, absurdly powerful. I'd stick to the red DVD ones for a while, even if the colour isn't as cool.
Actually, lasers and small children generally are a bad idea unless they are already aware that Things can Hurt and that daddy knows ahead of time which ones those are.
Microevolution is a term — when used by creationists — that is the evolutionary equivalent of the belief that the mechanism you use to walk from your bedroom to the kitchen is insufficient to get you from New York to Los Angeles.

User avatar
LaserGuy
Posts: 4552
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 5:33 pm UTC

Re: Robotics/Electronics projects for myself and my 7yr old

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Sep 28, 2010 9:05 pm UTC

Mmm... yeah you're right. BluRay can put out over 100 mW of blue. Probably not best for children. CD players are much lower power, but they're really just on the edge of the visible and you probably won't be able to see it (unless you build that IR camera first ;) ) A DVD player (not burner) is probably best since it's a fairly weak red laser, probably not much different from a commercial laser pointer. Still best not to point it in anybody's eyes though.

SBD
Posts: 39
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2007 3:19 pm UTC
Location: Perth, Australia
Contact:

Re: Robotics/Electronics projects for myself and my 7yr old

Postby SBD » Fri Oct 08, 2010 4:03 pm UTC

Bottle/model rockets are a good idea. Either way you can build them yourself, they're nice and dramatic and you can teach him some basic Newtonian physics.
Physics fits your face better.


Return to “Science”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests