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Learning Laboratory: Electronics

Emma examines the circuitboard to an old dance mat

Mike never misses a chance to teach the kids about electronics. They have taken apart a broken laptop (old laptop screens are actually really cool to see all taken apart), baby monitor, thermostat, disposable camera, alarm clock – and I’m sure I’m missing several lessons. These photos are from a dance mat dissection. I don’t remember the details, but we got the dance mat several years ago as part of a random cereal box promotion, and it used to hook up to a simple dance game on the computer.

Emma is holding the circuit board in the top photo, and examining sensors below.

Learning about electronics by examining dance mat sensors

It was pretty cool to discover how the sensor works. It is basically a foam sheet with holes in it with electrical contacts on either side. When you step on it, the contacts touch each other through the holes, making a circuit and allowing the step to be detected.

We’re out of broken electronics (for now, at least), but he’s getting a snap circuits set for Christmas, and that should keep him and the kids busy for a while!

Do you take broken electronics apart in your house?

Warning from Mike: Taking apart electronics is very fun and educational, but you should be careful when taking things apart because large capacitors can store enough charge, even when not plugged in, to give you quite a shock. You should never open devices like TVs that have warning labels on them. When we took apart a disposable camera, I carefully discharged its capacitor by shorting it with an insulated screwdriver. The spark and flash of light was enough to make the kids jump back a few feet.

learning laboratory at mama smiles

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

13 thoughts on “Learning Laboratory: Electronics”

  1. We have lots of broken things at the moment! What a brilliant way to set up a learning environment with those nonfunctional gadgets…
    Thank you for the inspiration and the linky!

  2. My sweetie is an electrical engineer, so that is pretty normal for us too. I just hate that he has to save all the parts when he is finished…

  3. Last one I dissected was a ZhuZhu pet and that was only to remove the mass of hair that was twisted around the wheels (kid lesson learned-keep ZhuZhu pet away from hair). Had to take the whole thing apart to get to those wheels. The kids thought that pet’s “guts” were pretty darn interesting.

  4. Elisa | blissfulE

    What a great glimpse behind the scenes of devices that to so many of us are black boxes we simply take for granted! I had one of those 101 Electronic kits from Radio Shack growing up, but taking stuff apart would have been cooler.

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