My Beautiful Wickedness


Building a foxhole radio and other fun stuff
November 11, 2007, 1:34 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Edited to add: If you come here looking for instructions on how to build a foxhole radio, here’s a good link that will take you to an instructional video with really thorough helpful instructions. Good luck.

For the parents among my readership or those thinking of fun things to get their bright tweener nieces and nephews I suggest anything from the ScienceWiz Inventions series. I got Kid the “Projects with Electricity” and I think I already talked about building a motor and other stuff while her granddad was here. He’s a chemist and as noted elsewhere, there is no such thing as an adequate chemistry set for kids these days. (He might or might not be assembling one out of his private supplies…he’s hinted around that he’s doing this, but he’s also safety-obsessed, so he might chicken out on this.) So we opted for doing some electrical and mechanical building. She’s studied a little bit about circuits and electricity flow and resistance, so this was a good practical way to learn a little more.

The most complicated thing in this set is a version of the foxhole radio, so naturally Granddad bailed on that project and we had to complete it. It’s not so hard for little fingers to do, but there is a lot of trial and error piddling around trying to figure out what needs to be adjusted. The first time we tried it, we didn’t have it hooked up right. The second time, there were some connection problems. But third time was the charm. We got signal! Our tuner needs work and it doesn’t look great, but Kid was really pleased that she was able to hang in and get it working.

She’s got a shoebox full of wire and magnets and foil and nails and little resistors, some styrofoam, some cardboard, two little screwdrivers, and a whole bunch of other plunder…her “toolbox” was supposed to go down in the basement with the rest of our tools, but it stayed in the dining room this weekend. I came down this morning and she was sitting at the table with the toolbox open a schematic from the Inventions book in front of her, some wire in her hand, and a look of deep concentration on her face. I just backed out of the room and let her go on with her work. She’ll learn better by messing around than she would by me taking it out of her hands and showing her how to do it. Sometimes good parenting involves just getting out of the way.

Who knows? She loves math and excels at it and she is interested in hands-on practical stuff so maybe she will want to think about engineering as she gets older. Whatever. I just want her to not be useless when it comes to fixing things and understanding how they work. I’ve found it very useful in life to know my way around a toolbox and to be able to do simple repairs, change the oil on my own car, etc.

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