5 brilliant electronics projects for the summer holiday
Turn off the TV and heat up the soldering iron: here are five kits for your kids to get stuck into
This summer, you can’t rely solely on heat waves to entertain your kids. What you need is a project: a kit to build from component parts into something useful or fun, which can give both a sense of immense satisfaction, and – whisper it – some educational worth too.
Make Things Do Stuff is a campaign that’s aiming to mobilise the next generation of digital makers. As well as the kits below, its website is brimming with activities, coding projects and clubs for 11-18 year-olds to get involved with.
Because these kits can also provide young minds with an understanding of the rudiments of electronics, they might just spark a life-long passion for microchips, and could even turn your progeny into the next Steve Jobs. No guarantees, mind you.
Build a light-up cat with conductive thread
Combining electronics with textiles, this kit comes with everything you need to make a stuffed felt cat with light-up green LED eyes. The secret sauce is the included two metres of conductive thread, which is used to carry charge from a coin cell battery pack via a push button switch in the cat’s right ear.
You’ll need scissors, a needle and pins and, ideally, an affection for cats. But hey, this is the Internet – who doesn’t like cats?
Electro-Fashion cat kit: £18 / kiktronic.co.uk
Create an electronic postcard
Bare paint is a clever electrically conductive paint which you can use to draw circuits. Sketch your design with the non-toxic paint, hook up a coin batteries, and boom – you have a greetings card with built-in flashing LEDs that’ll beat the heck out of the ones friends/rivals bought from Paperchase.
Oh, yours has a generic, slightly mocking message on front? Mine has a REAL CIRCUIT that I DREW ON IT MYSELF. Pwned.
This kit has components for three cards, but you can also buy the paint in jars, pots or pens to freestyle your own designs. It’ll work with most surfaces, including paper, wood, walls, textiles and plastics – so the possibilities are endless. Conductive LED-lit t-shirts, anyone?
Flashing cards kit: £15 / bareconductive.com
Build your own smartphone speaker
There are few more interesting kits in the world than those sold by Technology Will Save Us. One of its highlights is the Uber Amp 9000, which comes with everything you need to craft a dual AA-powered amplifier that uses an included ‘exciter’ to turn any box into a resonator – or in other words, a speaker for your phone to plug into (anything that can feed a 3.5mm input will work).
Soldering iron not included, and adult supervision is highly recommended for obvious, blimey-that’s-hot reasons.
Uber Amp 9000: £24 / technologywillsaveus.org
Make an Internet of Things printer
While you’ve got the soldering iron out, you might want to take a stab at this adorable little Internet of Things printer (not dissimilar in concept from the Little Printer) with a Raspberry Pi for a brain. It’s powered by Linux, and some understanding of basic Linux coding is recommended, but once it’s set up you’ll be printing tweets, Soduku puzzles, weather forecasts and basically anything you fancy… if you have the time to make it work. Looking at the weather right now, you do.
Adafruit Pi Printer Project Pack: £85 (Raspberry Pi Model B not included) / coolcomponents.co.uk
3D-print your gaming fun
OK, so it’s not an electronics kit as such, but how cool is this? The Holy Grail of summer projects combines the simplicity of Minecraft with the tech joy of 3D printing for the ultimate in geek creativity. Built a grandiose castle? How about a 1:1 scale replica of a Halo Pelican dropship? Printcraft will let you turn your Minecraft models into the real deal so you can display them for the whole (real) world to see.
You simply log into one of Printcraft’s servers, build something in its building plots and press the print button to either download the .stl 3D file or send it on to one of Printcraft’s 3D printing partners.
Printcraft: £varies / printcraft.org