I decided to organize a computer class for my children and their homeschooling friends. It is a year long class where the children learn the fundamentals of computers, all the parts and how they work and come up with something the want to make for the Maker Faire coming up next April.
Today 8 children came to the class with their old desktops and a big box to put all of their bits in. Mike Morrissey, the teacher explained what all the parts are in a desktop tower and what they do. He explained how transistors work and how the first computers didn't have many of them. The latest computer chips have 2.6 billion transistors, an astounding statistic especially once you have held a single transistor in your hand. He kept pulling computer components out of his magic carpet bag.
The children have found computers on free cycle and at recycling centers. Some of them work, some are relics from the past. Antiques! After opening them up and checking out what was inside, the next step is to plug them in to see if they work. Do they turn on? Does the operating system work? If the computer actually works, we are planning to erase the hard drives and install Linux. It is an easier operating system to navigate and works well on older computers. I love that our kids will be able to recycle old computers and render them useful again.
The children are also being challenged to come up with their own individual project to make. They have idea books and things in mind that they want to get started on. The list of things they want to make is diverse from electronic dog tags, dictation microphones, death robots, a tick discovery wand, their own working computer.... so many things.
Next they will learn about micro-controllers which are basically small computers that can't do a lot but have a lot of inputs and outputs. They will learn circuitry and do some soldering. I am excited for the kids and Tristan made a new friend. Claire is not so interested. "You know that this is not my passion!" she said. Not yet (I thought) or maybe never, but what you are doing is cool and necessary to know. Computers are so integrated into our lives that we can take them for granted now, but everyone needs to know the basics.
Below are some of the projects that kids made at Robotics and Beyond over the summer. The first one is a fridge I think.
I can't wait to see how this class evolves.