Kids, Electronics, and Spark

I know I’m not the only person here with kids, but I’m still a relatively new parent. My wife and I just celebrated our 3rd parent anniversary this past week. My oldest daughter is 3 years old and starting to get a little more inquisitive about all the “robots” she sees around her. If it’s an electronic device mounted on a wall or ceiling (speakers, cameras, motion detectors, etc), it must be a robot, and she wants to know what it does. This past week, she has taken an interest in my 3D printer and even wanted her new Robot Turtles board game.

With the Spark, I feel like a I get a little more freedom (untethered!), which may make things a little more interesting for her. I’m hashing out some solar projects that I could do for her in her playhouse or soon-to-be-delivered-and-assembled gigantic play set. Doorbells, blinky lights, sounds, motion, etc. are all interesting to her. My wife is also trying to help encourage this interest, but isn’t quite as nerdy as me (we did meet at a LAN party, though!).

Who else out there has kids? Are they interested in electronics, inventing, and tinkering? What cool projects have you done with them? How old are they? If they’re interested in this stuff, when did they start taking interest? How did you explain it to them? Does your significant other approve?

If you don’t have kids yourself, feel free to chime in about your nieces, nephews, siblings, the kid next door who thought your blinking board was cool, or even how you yourself got into this stuff at an early age!


My kids are mildly interested in my electronics tinkering (a little moreso now that I have a motion sensor with blinkenlights sitting by our front door).

I do have a fun story about our youngest from when she was around 4 years old, though. We had been shopping, and we had gotten her an Icy to drink. When we left the store to load into the van, all she had left was that lump of flavorless crushed ice that you typically end up with. So we took her cup and threw it in the trash. But she was convinced that there was still more to drink, so she was mad, and she wanted her cup back!

She said “When I grow up, I’m going to build a GIANT LASER to get my cup back!” She paused and thought for a moment, then added, “Dad? Can you build me a giant laser?”

We laughed and laughed! :smiley:

Anyways, when I eventually get around to building some sort of robot that can move around, I’m hoping that she’ll want to join in on the fun (she’s 8 now).


I have two teenagers now and they never really had any interest in computer or electronics stuff. However, in the local Maker community I am seeing tweens getting into the scene. I think with the low cost of entry with some basic robots the attraction by both parents and youngish kids is starting to show. My advice, expose them to everything and let them express interest or not. Remember one thing for boys though. It has to be shinny! :wink:

And for girls, it needs to be pink and glittery! I should probably get some pink filament for my 3D printer.

Check out for a kids maker club a friend and I started to get kids interested in this stuff. We have 35 kids participating in two groups that meet weekly. More banging on the doors to get in, but we can not accomodate anymore. We had hoped to get 10 kids interested.

So the kids are out there, and I have found plenty of them. Parents are interested too. I have 10 girls participating and having fun.

We started with programming using the MIT scratch language. Then added the Makey Makey so they could interface their own input devices. Kids range from 10 - 15 years of age. Amazing what even the 10 yr olds can do. Then we went into robotics, then laser cutting and 3D printing.

Soon the will each get their own sparkfun inventors kits which will expose them to micro controllers, resistors, LEDs, LCD displays, servos, sensors and a lot more. Will be doing some fun things with 555 timers. I just recently found out about the spark core, and have ordered one to try out. If it works out like it says, I hope to find the resources to introduce the spark core to the kids.

Luckily there are companies out there that get this, that getting kids into the maker movement is key to getting them into programming, computers, electronics etc, and key to filling positions. Several companies have donated $$ and equipment to our project so we could get all this stuff going.

Guys there are kids out there wanting this stuff, and parents wanting this stuff for their kids, there is just a lack of mentors, clubs, and groups providing it for them. My 12 year old daughter is participating in the club. I asked her if she wanted too, she said yes, and she is having a great time.

Kevin Reeve
Mentor- Cache Makers 4-H Club


So this morning I was trying to find out what interests my 8 year old son lately and came up with a simple rating system. 1 to 5, 1 being the worst you’d never even do it and 5 being the best… you love it.

These are the things I asked about with his responses:

Soccer 3
Basketball 5
Math 3
Science 5
Hacking 1000
Electronics 100,000
Making stuff 400,000
Drawing 100
Making stuff with the spark core "infinity"
Playing with your sister "machine out of order"
Reading “machine out of order”

Machine out of order meant that it went beyond infinity, and broke. That’s what he said, I was like… fair enough!

So there you have it… we definitely need more time together making stuff with electronics and Spark Core’s… his sister can help also, she’s 2 :wink:

For his first project he wants to make a remote controllable spherical robot. He said he came up with it all by himself, but I’m pretty sure I’ve influenced his mind somehow. I invented one 20 years ago. And the Orbotix guys totally crushed my dreams with their amazing little sphero ball. I’m pretty sure we can whip something up. I was explaining to him how my design drives forward and backward using a pendulum. So then I said, how would we make it turn left and right? He thought about it for a bit and said, “dang, we need two weights”. I can definitely tell this stuff is sinking in :slight_smile: So then I explained how you can move one weight to get the combined effect of two weights.

Too many to list, but something memorable is I taught him how to solder at age 5. He picked it up so fast, I went out and bought an electronic stoplight kit that he could build. He built the whole thing himself, with very little help from me. It took two days and about 3 hours to do… but he was so proud of himself when it was done. Since he was born he has helped with many projects and loves to Make!

I explain by doing, and then explain why something works the way it does and what everything is called. Some things he just had to learn the hard way… like not to plug battery pack wires into a breadboard such that they short together. He also loves to play Minecraft and he’s getting scary good at redstone wiring. We have more lego than any kid could ever imagine having. Some week in the near future I need to re-sort it all. I’d say there is about 80 pounds worth all in sorted drawers (well they were sorted).

My wife definitely approves :wink:

I keep thinking there needs to be a Hackerspace closer to us, but then I remember… oh yeah, The Basement Lab aka Technobly.

BTW all girls need lego as well. My daughter had her first set before she could crawl. Second set when she started to walk. Then I finally broke down and got the duplo… those are actually pretty cool and she loves to build with them at 2 years old. Even my son enjoys them, and he’s built crazy large technic sets already.


I will definitely be exploring the girly side of nerd-dom, since I have two girls! The oldest just turned 3 and the stuff she’s learning and doing (often without warning) amazes us every day. One day, she could barely scribble. The next day, she was drawing circles within circles within circles. One day, she doesn’t care about the giant cardboard “castle” blocks. The next day, she’s having us pick her up so she can build taller towers. Her sudden excitement about all things robotic (or electronics mounted to a wall behind a dome or enclosure) got me into thinking of “safe” projects for her. I mean, how do you teach a lefty to solder? Is that even possible? But being all of 3 years and 8 days old (as of today), she’s probably not quite ready for that.

We have a ton of Duplo and Megablocks, and she’s probably about ready for the small Lego blocks. I have a large plastic storage bin overflowing with Legos in the basement, with more sets still sitting around at my parents’ houses. And these are Legos from the 80s and 90s, before every single frackin’ piece was customized to the point it would only work with the set it came with.

I have to keep reminding myself that she’s only 3, and I need to take it slow. I don’t want her to hurry up and grow up and wish away all those young years! My wife could never wait until she could walk, talk, etc. Now she’s sad she wished away those baby months. Our 2nd (7 months old) is growing up much faster than her older sister at that age (she’s been crawling and standing herself up for 2 months already), and my wife wishes she would slow down!

I guess he’s ready to learn about integer wrapping and overflows!

I’m loving the responses so far. I’m convinced that geeks make the best parents. We love to foster learning and education. We’re also innate troubleshooters, which has really helped out with quickly-developing, ever-changing systems like that of a growing child.


I thought I’d share the latest “enclosure” I’m working on. It’s about 50% complete.

Once the base enclosure is completed, I’ll create a sub-enclosure for a :spark: that will power environmental sensors, maybe some lights, and definitely a doorbell. I’m going to have to measure the light in this area to see if I’ll get much out of a solar setup as well.