Turn a kid on to Engineering

Jack Ganssle
Jack Ganssle

Jack Ganssle, embedded systems guru, challenges you to turn a kid on to engineering.

In the ’60s and early ’70s a national Apollo-era fascination with things technical helped groom youngsters for an electronics career long before entering college. It wasn’t (quite) as dweebish to enter a science fair as is the case today. Kids were excited about science and engineering.

Above all, perhaps, was the specter of ham radio. Like so many others of the time, I got my first ham license at age 16. Though even back then sophisticated operating modes like single sideband (SSB) existed, most of us teenagers couldn’t afford the latest cool technology. We were forced to build our own equipment.

“Forced” is hardly the right word, since building stuff was much more interesting than actually using it, when and if it finally worked.

It brings back memories for me: endless hours playing with Legos and my Erector set, the two-stroke lawnmower engine spread out across the shop (that never worked again), the crystal radio my dad helped me build, the blown fuse from connecting a ham code key using just an extension cord (don’t ask…), the ham radio receiver in my bedroom, the Jacob’s ladder in the garage.

What do kids play with these days that interests them in hardware? Ganssle has some suggestions:

Get a Digikey catalog. Surf over to www.imaginetools.com. There are indeed a lot of resources for young EE-wannabees. Check out www.arrl.org, or Ward Silver’s Ham Radio for Dummies, Wiley Publishing, April 2004.

Sounds like fun!

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