When I went to the Gadget Show Live last year, one of the companies I discovered there had the intriguing name of Technology Will Save Us. They are a company who produce electronics kits for kids that are aimed at making it easy for them to get “hands on” and build things. Their range includes simple things, like kits to build a speaker, or a system that will alert you when your plant needs watering, and more complex things, like a kit to build a hand held games system. This is what they say about their company:
We are on a mission to provide families, educators and young people – of all ages, backgrounds and interests – new opportunities to learn and create using technology.
This all sounded good to me, and I was very pleased when they gave me one of their kits, the DIY Electro Dough kit, to take home and try with the kids.
As it is British Science Week this week, and the kids are doing all sorts of fun science-based activities at school, I thought it would also be fun to try some science at home, so we got out the Electro Dough kit at the weekend, and gave it a go.
The kit contains almost everything you need to make all kids of electronics circuits – all you need to add is the dough and two AA batteries. As far as the dough is concerned, the instructions say you can do the experiments with Play Doh, but they recommend you make your own conductive dough instead. Now, I’ve never made salt dough before, but I thought I’d give it a go. I followed the instructions closely, starting off by boiling salt and water…
However, I wasn’t terribly successful, and my mixture never actually turned into dough! Checking back afterwards I managed to forget to add one ingredient, which would probably have caused the problem. I should also have watched the instructional video first, as that made it all much clearer. For future referece, your dough should not look like this:
Not to be defeated by my lack of dough-making ability, we dug out a pot of the kids’ Play Doh and carried on. The instructions first of all had us create a very simple circuit with just one LED. You have to be careful to connect the LED the right way round in the circuit (when I turned my back for a minute my daughter managed to connect one backwards and it smoked a little before I unplugged it!), but done correctly you get a satisfying light:
The instructions then take you through a series of circuits to build, which develop in complexity and teach the fundamentals of electronics in a very accessible fashion. Early circuits demonstrate the difference between connecting your LEDs in serial and parallel, for example. Switches are introduced, and the buzzer. We discovered that our Play Doh didn’t conduct enough electricity to power the buzzer, so when we next get this kit out I’m going to have to attempt to make the conductive dough again. The instructions try to inspire the kids to make their own circuits, and also introduce the concept of insulating dough to build even more complex setups. In no time at all your kids could be producing things like this:
Both my kids were very interested in the Electro Dough kit, and enjoyed helping me to make simple circuits with it. Technology Will Save Us say the kit is suitable for ages 4 and up, with parental involvement, and certainly it wasn’t a kit I would leave either of my kids (4 and 7) alone with for the moment, although I don’t think my 7 year old will need to be too much older before she can use it on her own. Both kids were genuinely surprised when they say the LED stuck in Play Doh light up, and I could see it sparking their imagination. The kit comes with a good number of components and there’s plenty of opportunity for learning and creative play.
The DIY Electro Dough kit is available from the Technology Will Save Us shop for £15. They are offering free standard delivery in the UK until March 15th; after that you will need to pay for delivery on top of the kit price. I think £15 is a reasonable price for the number of components in the kit, and I’d recommend this kit as a really good, simple way to help your kids learn about electronics.
Disclosure: I was given a DIY Electro Dough kit for review purposes. All words and opinions are my own.