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My 13 year old son

MrsFluffsters

Jan 27, 2016
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Please help, my 13 year old son loves electronics. He loves taking things apart and re-wiring them, turning dog food box's into speakers and all sorts. I love his passion and do not want to dampen his enthusiasm but I am petrified his going to blow us all up or cause a fire.

Is anybody on this forum in the UK? Do you know of any electronic clubs in the sussex/surrey area that would be suitable for his age group? Or any other suggestions on how I can encourage him safely?

Many thanks for any advice.
 

Gryd3

Jun 25, 2014
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Please help, my 13 year old son loves electronics. He loves taking things apart and re-wiring them, turning dog food box's into speakers and all sorts. I love his passion and do not want to dampen his enthusiasm but I am petrified his going to blow us all up or cause a fire.

Is anybody on this forum in the UK? Do you know of any electronic clubs in the sussex/surrey area that would be suitable for his age group? Or any other suggestions on how I can encourage him safely?

Many thanks for any advice.
I think you should take a look for local 'hacker space' or 'maker space' ... don't worry, I'm not referring to 'computer hacking', it's a common word used by enthusiasts for cobbling things together.

Additionally, it would seem as though he's getting close to the age where he could take electronics in school. I would look into this and see if you can get him enrolled in an elective course.

As far as explosions and fires are concerned, it's both easy and difficult to do.
It's easy in the regard that with the right (or wrong) tools, you can cause damage.
It's difficult in that being mindful of what you are working with can make electronics very safe to work with.
Now, I don't mean to scare you, but an example of it being easy would be putting a metal wrench across the positive and negative terminals of a car battery (Or any other highly capable battery) can cause the battery to 'vent' or rapidly expel gases. This can be violent and dangerous.
Now, on the difficult side of things. If your son is working with a bench power supply, or even with an old computer power supply and decides to touch the positive and negative wires together, the power supply will make a little spark and turn itself off, or turn itself down considerably to protect itself.

In short, your son would either have to try to make fire or an explosion, or would have to be very ignorant and working with dangerous equipment.


Here is a small, non-exhaustive check-list for you that might help
Good things to work on:
-Low Voltage projects. (Battery operated. Typically the same batteries used in TV remotes and video games. You may have a drawer in the house full of these)
*Low voltage 'can' still be considered if he uses a proper power supply! This would be something like an AC-DC adaptor that provides 5V out... for example, your cell-phone charger. Just because it plugs in the wall does not mean it's super dangerous.
If in doubt, ask what voltage he is working with. If he can't answer, or the number is higher than something like 12V or 24V, it's probably not a good idea he works on it yet.

Things to avoid. At least for now:
-High power projects. (Things that may use car batteries or direct household power without an adaptor)
-High voltage. Things that spark
-High current. Things that get hot.
-Old household equipment may contain capacitors or other components that can be deadly if touched because they store energy when the device is unplugged. It can be worked on safely, but until your son becomes familiar with these safe practices, he should avoid it. The exception here is if the device has remained unplugged for a very long period of time. (If he plugs it in to see if it works, make him wait a long time before he opens it.)

Don't use this as a solid list, but use it as a guide-line to start only. When your son becomes familiar with it, he will be more than capable of doing repairs on common household devices, automotive, and small electronics. If you want to encourage this, you can also buy electronics kits that he can use to build low power devices. If you are curious about what might be acceptable, please share what you find and we can do our best to give you additional info.
Remember that you are the only person who can truly understand if he's ready. You be the judge, but when it comes time that he works on an old DVD player or household stereo, never let him work on anything in the 'avoid' section alone. This is true for anyone and everyone, not just your son.
 

duke37

Jan 9, 2011
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Some radio clubs provide training for the amateur radio examinations. They start at the very beginning so suitable for your son. I think he is too old to qualify as the youngest amateur.

Look at RSGB.org, they give a method of finding a Foundation course within a certain distance from your post code. Look across the top of the page.
The South Normanton club does the course but a trip from Surrey to Derbyshire would be a bit much.
 

cjdelphi

Oct 26, 2011
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Fire, unlikely....blow something up? Unless mains powered, unlikely..

ask him if he knows about electrical shorts and the consequences - ie the object heats up and can burn

what's safe, anything mains powered runs the risk of having capacitors that still hold 240volt charge! (If this was touched it could kill him)

If it's low voltage (15v dc, anything with a block/transformer on the wall to convert 240v down to say 5vdc for your phone/usb is perfectly safe to play with (not the block on the wall)

The only exception are low voltage devices like cameras which produce 300v and store it in a capacitor, again potention to kill

If he fails any of these, then maybe both of you can sit down together and both of you can look it up, the dangers should be known by all :)

Then you'll find he'll be perfectly safe at home or away
 

(*steve*)

¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd
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I can't really fault the advice given above.

In addition, he can always ask for help here :)
 

rickselectricalprojects

Feb 1, 2015
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It's great that your son is into electronics. I always am happy that young people like my self are interested in electronics. It keeps the hobby from dying.
As far as finding an electronics club goes, you can look for the local Amateur Radio Club or for your local Hacker space as other people have mentioned and visiting your local Electronics Store might be a good idea as well, the people who work there might be able to lead you and your son in the right direction.
I hope this helps.
 

Osmium

Jan 28, 2013
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When I was your son's age magazines were a great source of information and ideas. For me, in Australia, it was "Radio, Television & Hobbies"...

These days, magazines have to compete/merge with the internet but many are still relevant.

Electronics is such a broad field it can be difficult to suggest a single source of information. But I had a look for magazines available in the UK and the following looks interesting:

http://www.epemag.com/ This seems to have a beginner microprocessor series starting in February - might interest your son.

Also, this website: https://startingelectronics.org/
looks like a good place for your son to browse to determine just where his interests lie.

Note that parents of electronics nuts tend to have to fork out on birthdays and Christmas for tools, kits etc... and pocket money keeps the local electronics store or mail order firm in business... At around 16 he'll be largely self motivated and knowledgeable - at this stage buying a nice book about electronics for his birthday is not recommended - he'll be way past this - trust me - I know....

If your son is generally sensible, I wouldn't worry too much about catastrophes... oh, wait, I did blow a large hole in my bedroom carpet at one stage... mostly he won't repeat the same mistake...
 

shrtrnd

Jan 15, 2010
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I'm with *steve*'s advice.
Along with local help there, get your son to log-on here with ElectronicsPoint to ask for information with his projects.
It will help him a lot.
 

MrsFluffsters

Jan 27, 2016
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Hello and a big massive thank you to all of you that have taken the time to reply. I have been away and have not been able to look at your advice until now. Tonight i'm shattered and so will have a proper look at the weekend. I am sure I will have further questions and again, thank you. I am very grateful.
 

(*steve*)

¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd
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Jan 21, 2010
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I'm pretty sure each of us was once 13 years old, and a fair number of us were looking for the same things you and your son are looking for.
 
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