In December 2016, I purchased a Mand Labs kit for my niece, who was in middle school. When the kit arrived, I could not help but look inside. I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. The box was compact, easy to care, and all the accompanying books and materials stored efficiently.
“The electronics components were arranged precisely in individual compartments; the most frequently-used components consisted of a rich variety along with quantity. The books were printed on durable color paper. The steps for each lesson were photographed beautifully and clearly.”
I instantly decided to get Mand Labs kit for my children, too. I ordered three: one for myself, one for my son and one for my daughter.
We started using the Mand Labs kits seriously earlier this year (2018). My daughter (10) decided to explore Ohm’s law for her science fair project, while my son (8) decided to learn about batteries for his. We started watching the accompanying online videos and the book 1 step-by-step projects to learn all about current, voltage and resistance, and how to measure them using the multimeter.
“Every time we read about a new concept, we carried out a related activity. For instance, when we learned about resistance we used the potentiometer. We wound the potentiometer and observed how the LED wired to it in a circuit changed the intensity: We could either make it brighter or dimmer.”
The components, including the breadboard, are small but the children had no problem inserting the components when wiring the example circuits. For elementary schoolchildren like mine, it was sufficient to plot the results and observe the general dependencies between the key variables. Both science projects were a success.
“What was thrilling was that the children were excited to be doing something with their hands; both were excited to be tinkering with electric components and observing the results immediately: one may read all one wants about an LED’s wiring, but nothing comes close to leaving a lasting impression as seeing it lit when wired correctly, and not lit when wired the other way around.”
As with all prototyping, even if one follows the instructions exactly, one inevitably misses something, and these moments are the most useful, because this is when one realizes that something was not understood well.
“At home, without tests or formal labs and teachers to answer to, one can rewind and try again. Stress-free failure is possibly the best way to learn. We had plenty of such moments.”
For instance, when we were learning to measure current, we kept all wires in the circuit and, of course, measured nothing, that is until we re-read the relevant pages and realized we needed to connect the multimeter in series in the circuit.
Since the science fair projects we have used the kit’s components for various ad-hoc explorations. We observed how flowing current induces a magnetic field and acts on the needle of a compass. We observed how changing magnetic field induces current in a wire. We also built an electromagnet and are a step closer to exploring relays and logic gates.
“I built a small version of the Enigma machine to demonstrate the electric aspect of its inner workings. We are moving slowly but steadily and enjoying every step of the way.”
“Mand Labs is a fantastic starter kit on any journey to learn about electricity and electronics. The fundamental concepts are covered really well both in the videos and in the books.”
Elementary schoolchildren will need help with clearing the ends of wires, but not much else. There is no soldering. All projects, as needed, come with warnings, so it is sufficient to be just one step ahead and point out the warnings as needed.
There are plenty of components that even if you break a few while tinkering with them for the first time, there is plenty to continue with. Every Thursday the makers of Mand Labs send out a project to try, so if your inspiration dries out, it won’t stay so for long.