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Do Kids Still Enjoy Electronics Experimenter Kits?

My eldest grandson was about to have a birthday so as usual my wife and I discussed what would be appropriate for an eight-year-old. I thought back to my time as a youngster and decided that perhaps he was going to be old enough to start experimenting with electronics. 

My passion in that field started at about the same age when I was given a RadioShack 20-in-1 electronics experimenter set. I fondly recall spending hours upon hours building and rebuilding the projects and then carefully attempting to build some circuits of my own.
The projects were by no means complicated and, as I recall, there were several resistors, a couple capacitors, no integrated circuits at that time, but there were several transistors, enough to make a very basic AM radio that sounded horribly tinny but brought in several strong local stations like CKNW, CFUN and CKWX.

My brother, several years older than I, had purchased a Trio shortwave receiver from LaFayette Electronics at ‘House of Stein’ a Vancouver downtown Granville Street electronics store. He would spend hours in the evening listening to shortwave broadcasts from around the globe. He was not particularly electronics adept and at one occasion a great puff of smoke rose from his receiver when he tried some homebrew tuning. 

Undeterred he purchased another receiver of the same make and model and carried on although I never saw him trying to tune it again. To this day, the joke about whether he was ever able to receive Japan, carries on.

Try as I might I could never get beyond local radio stations with my kit. It wasn’t until several years later that I was given a very basic shortwave receiver kit, built from about a dozen parts, and therefore was not particularly sensitive although I could tune to Radio Moscow, Radio America and the BBC. I think back on those times as the spark that started my path in electronics and eventually to obtaining my amateur radio license. 

I was able to find a very nice kit by a company called Elenco via eBay. The kit boasts the ability to build up to 100 different projects. It includes three integrated circuits, one resistor, the battery box, a speaker, a motor and a number of modular connectors. The integrated circuits certainly cut down on the amount of wiring, but also opens up possibilities not available during my experimentation 50+ years ago. Things such as NOR gates, AND gates and other digital logic projects.

His birthday is in March and time will tell whether this will be as successful an investment as it was for me on my birthday. There are six hams in the family now and his mother passed the VECTOR Basic course with flying colours AND got her CW endorsement to boot, so I’m sure she will be supportive. I’ll try to update in due course as to how it worked out, but perhaps this will mark the birth of another VE7 2B in the family.

~ John VE7TI 
  Communicator Editor

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