Spacefem (spacefem) wrote,

teaching kids about computer parts?

Every February I volunteer to organize this huge engineering day, where kids visit booths and do hands-on activities to learn about engineering. It's a total blast... drains my energy like nothing else because I'm trying to maintain "enthusiastic kid-level energy" the whole time, but it's worth it. Anyway in recent years I've been kinda down because there's not a lot of electrical/computer engineering activities. The kids get to make slime and build bridges and dig for rocks but we can't exactly get them building circuits.

So how could I run a booth? I'd just need an idea for an activity that's educational, but very fun. It needs to be doable for a wide range of ages; we advertise that it's for grades K-8. It needs to cost about nothing to run it. And it needs to make the kids feel like this nerdy science stuff is accessible, not just for geniuses.

Today I got to thinking about how many hundreds of people have old computer parts laying around. I mean just in my house we've got video cards, old hard drives, motherboards... you name it. So why not let the kids play with them? We could have a "name that part" activity... every kid would get a notecard with a few computer parts illustrated on it (motherboard, memory, expansion card, fan) and they could dig through a kiddie pool of parts, get a sticker for every type of part you identify.

I bet the average 8-year-old can easily tell the difference between a memory chip and a video card, given a few things to look at. And it would feel empowering.

Would it be fun?

Would it be safe? That's the other issue. I can't be slicing little kindergarter's fingers open, that's no way to learn about the fun of engineering. We will not be taking CRTs apart, that's for sure.

Anyway I figure there are a lot of smart people who read this lj, maybe someone will have an idea for how a fun "computer guts" booth could be set up.
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