Modern science lessons are all about adapting the concepts and often highly technical ideas involved in this field, and applying them to children's day-to-day lives. So there are a number of ways in which you can encourage your children to advance their interest in the subject both safely and cheaply. A few ideas are given below:
Create a battery using a piece of fruit
- For this you'll need a piece of fruit – a lemon is ideal, but most other fruits will suffice – a copper nail, a zinc nail, and some plastic-coated, insulated wire.
- Method: Cut two pieces of wire about 15cm (six inches) long, then using sharp scissors or a craft knife, strip one inch of insulation from each end of both wires. Wrap the bare wire around each nail. Push the nails into the flesh of the lemon, about two inches apart.
- Now put the other end of the wire on your tongue, and you will feel a tingle! It proves that the lemon creates a small electrical charge.
Make an electrical circuit
- For this you'll need a size C battery, a torch bulb, and a piece of aluminium foil measuring 12 inches by four (30cm x 10cm).
- Method: Fold the foil several times until the strip is long and thin, measuring 12 inches long by half an inch wide. Put the battery at one end of the strip. Then hold the light bulb’s metal base at the other end of the battery, and touch that base with the aluminium foil strip. You should see the bulb light up, which proves that the power generated by the battery is conducted through the aluminium, and is enough to illuminate the bulb.
Make a flashlight out of a lip balm container
- You'll need; a lip balm tube, tactile switch, A23, 12-volt battery, 470-ohm resistor, 10mm white LED, solder, heat-shrink tubing, wire, N-size battery holder, and J-B weld.
- This is a common project, for which full instructions can be found on a number of websites, such as www.instructables.com.
If you are bitten by the electronics bug, and want to take things further, it's a good idea to build your own kit of basic components. This should include the following:
- A 555 timer, to use as an integrated circuit to provide time delays as well as an oscillating function
- A store of batteries of different sizes
- Capacitors to store energy in an electric field
- A voltage regulator, for when a circuit you build needs a constant voltage
- Fuses, to help prevent overpowering an electronic circuit
- Switches, to break a circuit, and
- Transistors, which are used to amplify and switch electronic signals.
Other projects which are classed as simple to undertake include building a battery level indicator, converting an old fan from a computer into a mini wind generator, making a clock which can be powered by fruit – taking the fruit battery described above a step further – and even a circuit for a simple burglar alarm.
There are plentiful instructions available online, along with more ideas for projects which kids can use to satisfy their curiosity about electronics. A good understanding of the subject can certainly help on a practical level when it comes to maintaining a wide range of your domestic devices and appliances.
Christina Jones is a freelance writer, who isn’t afraid of trying new things especially where DIY is concerned such as looking after washing machines and other household repairs, but knows when it’s time to call an appliance repairs company to save the day.