When I was 12 years old, I was introduced to the BBC Micro and I used to program in BASIC (Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) with the help of the BASIC language manual. That’s what inspired me to get into programming and computers. I used to write/play games, utilities etc. On the right is what a BBC Micro looks like.
All the data (games, programs etc) used to go in a 5.25 inches floppy disk (the biggest media on the left) which holds around 2 MB of data. Now a days a single picture taken from an ordinary digital camera is much more than 2 MB. It’s so much fun remembering the old days.
I am trying to do the same thing with my kid (7 years) also. Get him interested into Science. When ever I complete one of the basic circuits, I show it to him and explain it using the concepts which he already knows. He might be not be able to build them today, but helps him build curiosity on how different things. Here he is holding the Arduino Uno and the Induino. Whenever I get a new piece of hardware, he is more excited than me to know what it is and what it does. I have to scream at him not to touch them with wet hands, so as to not short the component
Today I did build an Infrared-Receiver Circuit with the Arduino Uno R3 and the Infrared-Receiver Module which came with the Sunfounder Arduino Sensor Kit. The IR sensor will receive IR light from a remote control and then turn the LED connected to the Digital Pin 13 of the Arduino board on and off. It’s as simple as that.
The way I decided to explain him was taking the analogy of a Television remote control which emits the IR light, then the receiver in the Television gets it and takes the appropriate action. He was very much excited to know how a TV remote works and also the circuit in action.
Till now, I had been mainly into programming which is nearly invisible and it’s difficult to get kids interested into software. And also software is becoming more and more complex to write. The BASIC language which I mentioned earlier, had a very simple syntax and fun to program with. With the recent IOT I had been doing, it had been easy to show him the different circuits physically and map them to what he already knows like a Television remote.
With constant reminders from various directions that today’s kids are getting behind in STEM (Science – Technology – Engineering – Maths), it’s equally important to gets the kids excited about them. As I mentioned above, my kid might not be able to build a circuit today, but he now knows how a Television remote works. I am very happy about it.
I did order a CanaKit 4 Wheel Drive (4WD) Robot Platform for Arduino and anxiously waiting for it to arrive to build a robot with it. Planning to build a robot with a couple of sensors like obstacle detector, line follower etc. My son and myself are really excited about it.
If your kids are a bit old, I would very much recommend to buy something like a Raspberry Pi 2 for them or else buy one for yourself and explain it to him how it works. The Raspberry Pi 2 costs 35$ plus the cost for accessories like a power adapter, USB cable, memory card etc. It’s worth the price.