Birthday badges teach kids how to solder

[Ian Lee, Sr] wanted to have an educational activity at his younger son’s birthday party. These were uncharted waters for him as he doesn’t remember education taking place at his own early birthday parties. But he came up with a great idea, with was to teach soldering using interactive badges which each guest could assemble themselves. He needed about twenty, so he tried to keep the BOM as small as possible. But that didn’t mean skimping on features.

You can see the black LED-type package on the left of the assembled badge above. This is an IR receiver whose counterpart transmitter is on the right side of the board. When two of these get within 6-8″ of each other the start talking back and forth. There is no microcontroller involved, instead the system relies on a multivibrator design. One of the red LEDs at the corner of the ‘smile’ is always blinking. When it is off, the IR transmitter is powered. This is picked up by another badge’s receiver, which lights the second ‘smile’ LED. You can see this happen in the short clip after the break.

Although there are relatively few components that went into this, it would take the kids a long time to put them together as they’re just learning. [Ian] and his eldest son soldered on all of the components except for the resistors beforehand.

Comments

  1. asheets says:

    Neat idea… I personally waited until my son and his friends were 8yo, and even then I had a crazy (IMHO) mother who didn’t want her kid playing with a soldering iron.

    • rockets4kids says:

      Pfft. I taught myself how to solder when I was eight. Nobody though twice about giving a soldering to a 8 year old back in the 1970s.

    • Sven says:

      I got to use a sharp carving knife when i was something like 5 or 6.

      Same year when my uncles were cutting up firewood i got a small carpenter’s axe to split small logs with :P

      I can’t really remember when i first got to use a soldering iron, probably at about the same time as above, but i know i did a lot of soldering when i was 9 and above. I got mostly used industrial electronics instead of toys to play with.

  2. Hirudinea says:

    Wish they had these when I was young, I can’t solder for crap!

  3. snogosdpofwaef says:

    Cool!

    I watched my Grandfather solder when I was 3, and he had me soldering around the age of 6.

    The sad thing is, I know adults who refuse to learn how to solder. They claim they’re “no good” at , so they can’t possibly solder something.

    It’s all BS, of course – uless you have a serious disability. Soldering is one of those basic survival skills every kid should learn.

  4. fartface says:

    Now this is rocking cool. A++.

    My only question, how do you get a bunch of little kids soldering without burns, etc.?

    Another idea is paper and a few components and silver bearing paint to draw circuits and glue them to paper.

    • ianlee74 says:

      Thanks! Believe me, I didn’t let any of the small kids wield the hot iron without my guiding hands also attached. We made it all day without a single burn. Amazing!

    • targetdrone says:

      How do you avoid the little kids getting burned? Tell them the iron is very hot and it will burn them, and how important it is that when they aren’t using it that they have to put it away in the special holder so it doesn’t burn anything else.

      It’s critical to explain to them “It’s so important that if you do this wrong even one time you might hurt somebody, then we have to put it away and you won’t get to solder any more,” and then make good on the threat if someone breaks the rule.

      They are smart creatures, and at this age are in this amazing learning mode. And they want to please.

      By age 11 or 12, they stop taking that advice so seriously, and are much more careless. But if they know you’re good on following through with taking stuff away, they’ll take it seriously.

  5. Peertux says:

    Make sure to use solder with lead in it for the lead poisoning.

    • M. R. says:

      (Assuming a sarcastic remark implying that teaching children to solder at all is already unacceptably dangerous)
      Don’t be so cynical. With proper supplies and equipment, soldering is probably safer than using hot-glue guns (metal and skin don’t stick together well, so any contact is very short as the victim flinches), and you need those to assemble a lot of crafts.

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