Saturday, March 16, 2013

the inventor's supply kit

I was recently looking for a couple of birthday presents for two sweet kids in my family. One, a girl turning eight, is very artistic. Arts & crafts kits for kids her age (especially those targeted at girls) are pretty easy to find, and I'm told she loves these things. I found two (one; two) I thought she'd adore and wrapped them up in a pretty fabric sack I'd made (tutorial coming soon).

The other, a boy turning eleven, was harder to shop for. He's also creative, and has a particularly curious mind when it comes to engineering gadgets and finding out how stuff works. This always impresses me about him.

It's somewhat difficult to find a ready-made kit for someone like him. A lot of science-y kits (even the more expensive ones) cheap out on the supplies, or only provide enough for a limited number of experiments one time through. I don't think that's the best way to encourage the kind of experimentation that engineering and inventing require. Obvious answer: to make an Inventor's Supply Kit of my own invention.

As a pre-internet kid, books were where I always found my answers when I was little. So I found a couple of books I thought would inspire a ton of ideas in his mad-scientist head, and collected a bunch of stuff he'd need to do most, if not all, of the projects in the books. Ta-da! Instant kit.

Well, I mean, not totally instant. You know me. I had to make it look "legit". I also used one of those nice shipping boxes with the red interior that came with a photo book from MyPublisher, and made some graphics and wrapped everything up in brown paper with stickers and striped tape. But mostly instant.

The first book, Kinetic Contraptions, requires hobby motors, which are pretty cheap from on-line retailers until you add in shipping costs. I headed to the thrift store and bought a couple of cheap motorized cars someone had donated. Then I disassembled them and salvaged the motors (full disclosure: the Mister helped loosen some crazy-tight tiny screws). As a bonus, this also yielded a supply of tiny screws, several wheels and axels, gears, and an LED lighting and speaker assembly, all of which are harder to come by than hobby motors.

Some kids would appreciate the opportunity to do the disassembly themselves, but I didn't want to leave any obstacles between the recipient of our gift and the projects in the book. Better, I decided, to give him raw materials to build with from the ground up. He can always pull apart old toys later to salvage more parts if he wants to.

Most of the other supplies came from the dollar store or were pretty inexpensive elsewhere. Here's a list of what I put in the kit (also printed on the graphic inside the box lid):

• 2 books (Amazing Rubber Band Cars and Kinetic Contraptions)
• 2 hobby motors (from RC cars)
• 1 speaker/light assembly (from an old RC car)

• assorted tiny screws
• straws
• bamboo skewers (with the sharp points cut off; I'm creative, not crazy)
• 4 film canisters (from a bunch of rolls of camera film I picked up for my old-timey 35-mm at the thrift store)
• assorted RC car wheels
• wire (leftover from another project)
• 8 AA batteries (the book recommends dollar store batteries, since things are bound to be left connected accidentally, and good batteries drain just as well as cheap ones)

• 36 spring-clamp clothespins
• 3 D batteries (see above)
• 2 spools of electrical tape
• 250 plastic-coated paperclips (which can always be stripped down if the project calls for it)
• 12 binder clips
• spare gears and wheel axels (from old RC cars)
• brads and decorative metal gears
• glue sticks
• rubber bands

I also used a part of a roll of striped orange paper tape from Target's stationary aisle, reused some brown kraft packing paper, and printed some labels on some label paper.

If you find yourself wanting to make one of these kits for a scientist or inventor in your family, I can totally send you a PDF of the graphic for the box top (for personal use only, of course, not for resale). Just send me a message via e-mail or in the comments field below and I'll hook you up!

Thanks for reading!

p.s. you can make these photos larger simply by clicking, but you probably already knew that, clever you!

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Simsim said...

This is a great idea! My nephew would love it! Popping over from the CSI Project xx

Shelly said...

This is absolutely GENIUS!!! Thanks for sharing on CSI Project "Thrift Store Turnaround"!!

Shelly @Minettesmaze

Shelly said...

Oh and you should come show this off at a party I co-host! DIY Sunday Showcase! There's only 1 hour left for this week but the next party opens tomm at 5pm central!


Marne said...

I would love a copy of the PDF. Thank you! This will be a great gift for my 10 year old son.

Nikole said...

I would love to have the PDF graphic for the box. Putting this together for my nephew for Christmas.

Thank you so much!


Night Garden Design said...

Marne & Nikole, I've sent PDFs to your e-mail; please let me know if, for some reason, you didn't receive it!

Karen and John said...

I LOVE THIS!!!! My 6yo wants to be an invetnor and is working on a rocket design as I type this! I would love the PDF! I love the way you put this together and all of the detail you provide..THANK YOU!