Entertaining and Educating the Engineer Minded Child….Even Though You Are NOT an Engineer or Scientist.

Over the recent years there is a new term called STEM. What is STEM? It stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. This new STEM education focuses on educating children how to apply those things they have learned in a practical way. Growing up with parents of a financial background, limited my scope of what is out there.

So I came up with ideas of a STEM program I can do as a parent for my two little girls. Here are a few steps:

  1. Do you want to invest in your child’s future?

I am not going to lie, investing in your child’s future can be pricey. You might want to go out and buy all the items in this blog but you might find that your bank account has lost a lot of money. I will list a few starter items that won’t break the bank at the end of this blog. In the future I will talk about others ways to invest in your child’s educational future and what educational items to get your child at particular ages. (please leave a comment or email me at the bottom requesting particular topics you would like to hear.)

2. Get them the Knex and Legos.

This is a wonderful first step for any child with a technical, artistic, and/or brilliant mind. It allows them to build and create objects that are existing. In other cases, it even allows them to tinker on things that have not been created either.

3. Get some books and Google search.

Make sure your children read about potential career opportunities such as:  Aerospace, Software Developer, Chemist, Robotics, etc. This will allow them to get excited about a particular field they never heard about. Once they are engaged in something, start by finding mini projects that are related to those fields of interest. Example a kid likes Robots, so look into buying Lego Mindstorms or LittleBits. Click pictures below.

4. If they are older than 12 start getting them into more advanced topics like below

  • C/C++ Software (Coding)
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Architectural Software
  • Chemistry Sets

Coding and electrical engineering can be addressed in Lego Mindstorm or Little Bits. For that little civil engineer or architect, you can get a intro chief architect home designer software.

My parents got me this my junior/senior year, and I played with it for over a year. It helped me realize I was not interested in being an architect. This saved me money that I would have spent on college classes that I wouldn’t have enjoyed.

By providing them more advanced outlets will allow them to be more creative, weed out the fields they are not interested in, or have impressive projects they have built they can show on their resume for college.

5. Make sure your kids take some time for technical/creative time outside of video games. You might realize that the more they enjoy doing those creative projects the less they play mindless video games and become better engineers and students.

All in all giving new outlets, that even yourself didn’t know about, to your kids will allow them to expand their view of the world and future.

Below are some picture links for basic starter items to get your brilliant scientist.

Little Bits vs Sparkfun Review

As I started my company last year initially making modules for Arduino or Raspberry Pi platforms I wanted to make a module that was as small as possible, have the ability to connect to it via stacking or planerly, and simple. As I started selling I already knew about Sparkfun but found Little Bits. There are some pros and cons about each of these companies and that is what I wanted to do a review on to show you the difference between the two companies.
Sparkfun:

Sparkfun ScreenShot

Photo: Screenshot of Sparkfun website

Pros:

-Thousands of Modules

-Lots of software and hardware documentation via sparkfun or third party people

-Engage both electrically and software

-Well made and popular

-Versatile: works with arduino, raspberry pi, or own custom platforms

Cons:

-Need some understanding of electronics

-Need extra items; Breadboard, wires, solder iron, etc

-Not color coordinated

-Not always intuitive

-Modules may not be reusable

Photo: Screen shot from Little bits website
Little Bits:

Pros:

-Lots of Modules

-Lots of software documentation

-Engage more in software

-Well made and popular

-Color Coordinated

-Intuitive

-Easy connectability

-Don’t need to understand electronics as much

-Don’t need extra parts; Breadboard, wires, solder iron, etc

-Reusable

Cons:

-Does not engage teaching in the technical electrical side as much

-can be really bulky prototypes

-Software is not regular programming language

“Update saw that Little bits does integrate Arduino. Still not primary focus”

Overall Suggestion:

If you are a teacher or parent of a elementary or middle schooler and want them to learn about some electrical engineering or software development Little Bits is best.

Once your kid is in middle school to highschool to get more complex prototypes and smaller inventions spark fun modules will be the next step.


Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Little bits or Sparkfun just the Amazon Affiliate program. I may get paid if you click on my links and buy things from Amazon which will help this blog/tech company keep going.