Tinker Crate: Circuits and Optics 10

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My son loves figuring things out.  The kid can work on Legos for hours on end!  I wanted to feed his love of problem solving, so I’ve been coming up with engineering projects for him.  Each week, my goal was to come up with a project based on a concept I learned in college.  Sounded like a great idea, but then life happened, and I fell behind.  Then a friend of mine told me about Tinker Crate, a monthly subscription box she had bought her kids.  Each month a box comes in the mail filled with activities and experiments to demonstrate engineering concepts.

I loved the idea, so I thought I’d try it out for a month.

My son was sooo excited when the box arrived with his name on it!

We opened the box and found a book full of exercises about optics!

The first exercise was a simple activity to introduce how light works.

How Light Works: Playing with Light and Water

We filled a bottle with water, and shined a flashlight through the bottom.  My son then tilted the bottle, and what we saw was awesome!  As soon as the water hit my son’s hand, the water lit up!  My son thought it was magic, but I explained to him it wasn’t magic at all.  It was OPTICS!

I explained to him OPTICS is the study of how light works, and the water and light experiment was showing him how light works.   My husband drew the following sketch, and explained optics a little further:

“Light moves in waves.  Light waves do not cross over media.  In other words, the light waves do not cross over from water to air.  When the light is shone in the bottom of the water bottle, the light waves travel through the water in the bottle, and follows the path of the water all the way down to your hand.”

We spent awhile playing with the light and water.  My son just thought it was “so awesome” that the light bent with the water and landed on his hand.  Even my toddler got in on the action!

After we dried our hands (and changed the toddler’s shirt), we moved onto the next activity in the Tinker Crate box.

Building a Circuit

The box included a book that talked about the history of constellations, and ended by telling us we were going to build our own constellation.  The first step to making our own constellation was to build a simple circuit that would power a light bulb.  The Tinker Crate instructions were so clear, my six year old was able to put the circuit together all on his own!

The little black box on end of the circuit is a battery pack with an on/off switch.  As soon as my son flipped the switch and the light bulb turned on, we was grinning from ear to ear!

Making a Constellation

The last activity was to built a constellation on a piece of black foam.  First we secured the circuit inside a small box, using the tape and cardboard supports provided in the kit.

The kit came with several outlines of constellations, so my son chose one, and copied it onto a piece of black foam paper.  He then poked a hole everywhere there was a star in the pattern, and glued one end of a optical fiber to each hole.  After letting the glue dry for about two hours, he bunched all the optical fibers together, and placed the bundle in front of the small light bulb in the circuit.

Next we found a dark room to check out my son’s constellation!  We flipped the switch to the battery pack on, and saw the bulb turn on.  Then we looked at my son’s constellation, and were excited to see the constellation come to life!

I asked my son how he thought the light had gone all the way from the bulb to the foam sheet.

Son: “Um…I’m not sure”

Me:  “Remember the light traveling through the water onto your hands?”

Son:  “Uhhu”

Me:  “The same thing happened here!  The light from the light bulb traveled through the optic fibers to the black sheet!”

Our Tinker Crate Experience

We loved learning about optics with Tinker Crate!  My son loved experimenting with water and light, and building a circuit.  I loved how the Tinker Crate box took a engineering concept like optics and made it fun and easy to understand, even for a kid!

What do you think about our first experience with Tinker Crate?  Are you curious about the subscription box?  If you are leave a comment, and I’ll share more details about our experience!


For other engineering activity ideas, see my other posts!

Teach Your Kid to be a Mechanical Engineer!
Teach Your Kid to be a Project Engineer!
Teach Your Kid to be a Reliability Engineer!
Be a Process Engineer: Play “How’s it Made?”
Learn about Forces at the Splash Park!
Exploring Energy: How are Height and Distance Related?
An Explosive View of a Dinosaur
10 Books that Inspire Kids to be Engineers
Toys that Teach Engineering
11 Engineering Toys for Girls!


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