Wiley sent me this book as well as Adventures in Coding. I’m free to give an honest opinion.
Electronics for Kids is a rather nice full-colour publication by Cathleen Shamieh. It seeks to give kids (or beginner adults) an introduction to electronics by helping you to build simple electronic projects.
The first project in the book is a shopping expedition to purchase the parts you’ll need to do the rest of the projects in the book. It is very comprehensive and, although US-focused, should give you enough to go on should you be in any other country.
The second project (the first real one) is to create an LED flashlight. The chapter is very well-written with plenty of photographs to show you how to construct the circuit and, later, to add a simple switch to control the LED. The chapter also introduces you to the idea of current and voltage and also uses ‘proper’ electrical diagrams (schematics). It’s a lot to cover in the first proper chapter, but it’s well done.
The next chapter introduces solderless breadboards. It explains how they work, why you should use one to prototype circuits and then uses one to create several simple circuits. As with the rest of the book, it’s about building up your knowledge one step at a time.
Projects 4 through 7 are all about controlling light. You build a two-way traffic light, a light timer, a stage lights dimmer and a smart nightlight that uses a sensor to determine when it should be lit. All the way through, photographs are used to show you how to construct the necessary circuits. Capacitors are explained and used as are transistors. Schematics are given for all the circuits and full explanations bulk out the rest of the chapter. At this point, the language used is quite complex and I’m not altogether sure it’s suitable for ‘kids’. Older teenagers, perhaps, but certainly younger children will need the aid of an adult just to understand what they are reading. I’d be concerned about just giving a child this book and letting them get on with it – they will need guidance!
Projects 8 through 11 use an integrated circuit, namely the 555 timer, to do complicated things more simply than if you had to build the circuits without the IC. You build a blinking LED circuit and use a potentiometer to vary the blink rate. You also build a light-sensing alarm and create light-controlled sound effects. The final project uses several buttons and the same 555 timer IC to create a one-octave keyboard.
The final part of the book (projects 12 through 14) are more advanced projects. You use light chaser circuits to create a Roulette Wheel; you create a three-way traffic light system and finally move on to creating a basic radio with an audio amplifier. An index rounds out the book.
I was really impressed by the content of Electronics for Kids. I do wish that the ‘for Dummies’ tagline hadn’t been added, actually. First of all, I don’t think kids will necessarily ‘get’ the joke; secondly, this book is very much not for dummies!
Kids will need all their powers of intelligence and concentration to cope with the advanced nature of some of the concepts, and some adult supervision will be needed, particularly for younger kids.
Having said that, electronics is not easy, and it’s hard to imagine how else it could be done with the assumption of no prior knowledge.
The chapters unfold at an appropriate pace and the full-colour photographs really help to bring everything alive. In other For Dummies books, it has been a strictly black-and-white affair.
The full-colour is really helpful. Not only does it bring the concepts to life, but it is also vital to help the reader see the difference between wire colours.
The projects chosen are interesting and the learning curve is sensible, given the subject matter.
Overall, a very good book and one I would quite happily recommend for those who are electronics beginners.