back to article Move over Raspberry Pi, give kids a Radio Ham Pi - minister

Schoolchildren should be given simple radio kits to build so they can learn basic electronics, communications minister Ed Vaizey said yesterday. "It would be great to get amateur radio kits in schools like we have with the Raspberry Pi," he added, referring to the cheap PC that's sneaking into classrooms to promote computer …

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Re: Not as good idea as it sounds...

closest thing I can find now is Snapcircuits. Wish I could find the old one I had with the wires etc on google, ah well.

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Re: Not as good idea as it sounds...

I had one or two of them. From Tandy I recall.

Basically you had components with terminals ending in springs, and shitloads of wires you used to connect them up by pushing between the spring coils.

They were great fun until you dislodged a wire and couldnt remember where it came from.

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Re: Not as good idea as it sounds...

I had one too, until I got over-eager and took it apart to rob things from it. Ended up with that being trashed and... well not a lot else.

Was pretty good as I recall

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Re: Not as good idea as it sounds...

One of these?

http://www.electronickits.com/kit/complete/science/mx906.htm

I searched for 'electronics spring kit' and found a few such things. I remember one too. I also remember designing my own circuits before I had gotten the concept of current limiting resistors and blowing every LED on the thing. The first circuit I designed was a relay oscillator driving the audio transformer as a step-up and source of extra inductance. Good for shocking my sister.

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Stop

Re: Not as good idea as it sounds...

Writing a program is just joining the dots with some punctuation. You wouldn't expect even a gifted 8 year old to design the computer where the program runs. Why is writing and debugging a program using discrete software elements any different from assembling a crystal radio from presupplied hardware elements?

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Re: Not as good idea as it sounds...

Yep .. Radio Shack / Tandy "Science Fair" - 'N-in-1electronics kits' where N was 5, 10, 30, 50 or 100 etc. I've still got mine in the loft from 30+ years ago. I got it after building a crystal radio kit after reading the Ladybird 'Story of Radio' book (sigh .. the Labybird history and technology books were great in the '60s/'70s ... then I moved on to Babani books by peeps like Parr and Penfold for move complex stuff ... 555s, PSUs, OP Amps, etc).

Still got a working valve radio I bought for 50p from a jumble sale when I was 9 years old ... excellent mellow sound.

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Re: Not as good idea as it sounds...

Yep, I had one of those 'spring kit' things to. Worked well, until I tried modifying a circuit from the instruction book, and a component gave off a whiff of brown smoke. Ho hum.

On the subject of good books for basic electronics, my mechanic has always sworn by Forest M. Mims III... I've just this moment read his Wikipedia entry, and he's an interesting man. - worth a read.

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Re: Not as good idea as it sounds...

same here. still have some brass cup washers knocking around from the ladybird breadboard book. i lost my 65 in one project set but once i discovered ebay a replacement was one of my first purchases. to go with the vic-20 and mattell intelluvision.....

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FAIL

Re: Not as good idea as it sounds... Hey teacher!

Maybe their attention span reflects your teaching ability.

I went to school. I remember that some teachers would hold the class attention for the most boring of subjects, and some couldn't for the most interesting.

Some kids (not many in my experience) may be unable to hold their attention on something for long and some may take a little longer to pick things up, but the clue is that you said "they are all", which makes the teacher the only common denominator.

Finally, HOW DARE YOU call any child "thick"!

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Re: Not as good idea as it sounds...

I too had something like this from Tandy back in the day: http://www.amazon.co.uk/200-1-Electronic-Project-Lab/dp/B000LRCD6Q

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Black Helicopters

Re: Not as good idea as it sounds...

I bought my daughter one of those push-it-together electronic kits a year ago, when she was five.

She hasn't designed anything new, but she has come up with a few innovative uses for the circuits in the kit. My favourite is a set of alternating flashing leds under some tissue paper to simulate a camp fire in a forest diorama.

Most new stuff in this world is really stuff that isn't new being used or combined in new ways. DAB, for instance, is a combination of digitisation, compression, and wireless radio; nothing there that is less than forty years old. Modern innovators such as Sinclair and Dyson found fame and fortune by making new things out of stuff that already existed, used differently.

This is what children should be learning; how to make better use of what we have. When they reach the limits of what is available to them (by which time they won't be children anymore) then they will naturally look towards making something new.

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Re: Not as good idea as it sounds...

Took 2 weeks school dinner money to replace an AC171 I'd put in the wrong way round.

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Re: Not as good idea as it sounds... Hey teacher!

@cazChance - HOW DARE YOU blame the teacher! There are a huge number of thick children out there, because they are not being taught not to be by parents and society at large. Being "thick" involves not being willing to learn from their actions, or to take instruction due to the generalised parental attitude of "I don't want to be bothered, but I'll be damned if anyone else is going to do it instead".

From your later post, it sounds as if you might be one of the rare parents that tries, but please accept that you are in the minority.

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Re: HOW DARE YOU call any child "thick"!

It's an expression. It expresses how ignorant and clueless children are. All children are ignorant and clueless, and the expression we use to represent that when we see it in adults is 'thick'.

If I didn't think that children had something to learn from adults, I wouldn't bother.

That, and it's really fun to see them go from aggressive turds to young men I wouldn't be ashamed to have as friends (I work with the 15-18 age group)

I ALSO DON'T YELL AT THE STUDENTS. That's what they do, and they do it because they haven't learned better. They are all thick as two bricks. What's your excuse?

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Childcatcher

Re: Not as good idea as it sounds... Hey teacher!

Ah, one of the "All children should be above average intelligence" brigade?

Some children are thick as mince - some are slightly thicker.

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Re: Not as good idea as it sounds... Hey teacher!

Sadly many teachers are thick too, you don't see many these days that got better n' a Douglas.

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Re: Not as good idea as it sounds...

I'm not thick, but I have the attention span of...

...ooh, shiny...

Seriously - either you are teaching the wrong people, or there is something wrong with the teaching (either you, or the curriculum, or both? can't say from here).

What I can say is I had a little Tandy billion-in-one kit. Bunch of components on springs that you stuck wires in to make up circuits. The funny thing was this particular Tandy kit had a fairly basic user guide. It would be "here's a radio" and "here's an amplifier". It was left to you to think "hang on, I can push the radio signal into the amplifier". You could. It was crap compared to a cheap tranny, but it showed you it working piece by piece. What happens if you change that resistor for a different one. What about that lumpy thing? Does waving a magnet by the ferrite rod have any effect? How about getting a load of wire and wrapping it around a drinking straw. Or getting some wire and wrapping it around the other end of the ferrite rod, could a MW radio pick up LW? All of these sorts of questions could wander around your head on a lonely rainy weekend.

Then we'd go to school. And learn that a motor turns if you push volts into it [in the height of a model car craze - Big Duh]. Or that hooking a little lamp to a battery makes the thing glow [OMFG, like, for real!]. The advanced kids might even get to play with a variable resistor [Zzzzz, done that on my Tandy kits]. Followed by lots and lots of rubbish on the board about electrons and stuff. That might have had significance back in the days of valves where it was all about the movement of electrons, but considering the insane electron-frenzy inside something like the OMAP, perhaps it is better to cover the theory in a day or two and then explain what all those components actually do and how they are used. You can build a fairly simple receiver for the European weather forecast signals, I think it is part of DCF77. This signal can be pushed into a microcontroller to be handled there, or processed and passed to an MCU of some sort. Doable, not too hard, covered both electronics, hardware, and programming in a practical way and you end up with something useful at the end. Really, basic electronics skills are undervalued.

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Computer club

For a year a colleague and I went to the local high school to provide a computer club - prior to that they only had a "computer club for girls" which involved a trip to Alton Towers (!!)

We had the kids taking computers to bits and assembling them. We gave them ubuntu and they used C-Robots or whatever it is called these days, in Java . We had them controlling the maplin robot arm with a serial port controller another colleague had made (before maplin did the USB kit).

On the last day I was so proud - one of the kids had taken apart on of those scrolling LED badges, so we attached wires to the buttons and had the USB controller kit press the buttons so that any message could be programme into the badge in seconds.

For a brief moment at the end of the year, their eyes were opened to the possibilities. I really hope it lasted.

What we had to fight against was the teaching staff, who were very co-operative but found it very hard to grasp that we were not going to support the curriculum in any way whatsoever, we were going to let the kids do whatever they jolly well liked.

Then my company ran out of money and got bought by SonicWALL (which was great too). Maybe the club could be started again... hmm...

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Re: Computer club

That's what I'm trying to do - I'm in IT support at a school. But I am running into two problems: I am not good at teaching, and the students are inattentive and uninterested. I do not have the skill to keep them focused or inspire them. They all went into the club wanting to build a big robot-wars-style robot, and it's clear to them as well as me that they won't be ready for that for a long time. It took many weeks to build a simple electronic dice. They really did build it though - not just assemble a kit, but make it all from 4000 series chips on breadboard. Most of the schematic was my design, but they put it together, reading pinout diagrams from datasheets.

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Re: Computer club

Sam, your style of teaching would fit well in a montessori style school.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montessori_method

There are only a few schools in the UK that use this style of education, and competition for places in them is fierce, because of the above average results.

If I had access to serious money I would fund you...

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Pint

Re: Computer club

Hell, if they really did build something to your design out of 4000-series chips then I have to disagree with your claims that "I am not good at teaching" and " I do not have the skill to keep them focused or inspire them."

I'd say you're wong on both counts.

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Re: Computer club

Four of them: A counter, a chip of NAND gates to reset the counter when it reaches six, an adder (the counter does 0-5, the adder makes that into 1-6) and a seven-segment decoder (with latch). The final part was to be the astable, but we ran out of term-time before that bit was done. Used a mini-siggen for testing purposes. They also watched me build a power supply (Battery, regulator, MCB, caps, USB port) to run it, but couldn't build that part themselves because it needed the soldering iron for almost everything.

During the upcoming holiday I will be moving the die from breadboard to stripboard (again, they can't use the iron) for display purposes.

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Paris Hilton

Rasp Pis in school

I thought that's what they were aiming for rather than what they had already achieved?

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Re: Rasp Pis in school

He's a politician, ergo "Statement of intent == Achievement"

Never mind the real world, like almost all our current crop of politicians he's probably never seen it, having gone straight into lobbying or political researcher then become a politician.

And now they want to do the same to the Lords. $Deity help us.

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Playing to the crowd

Well of course the rent-a-minister is going to say how wonderful and inspirational ham radio is when he/she/it is lying talking to the RADIO Society of GB. However IMHO (from experience) the internet took over all the interesting aspects of amateur radio.

Also, I'm sure the minister will be eating, nay: wolfing down, his words when someone whispers in his ear about all the cases of RFI that rigs can cause, especially in high-density housing estates and when surrounded by cheaply made and largely unshielded domestic electronics.

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Re: Playing to the crowd

Tomorrow he is going to be at the association of washing machine manufacturers telling them how kids should be taking apart washing machines in school to see how they work.

Politicians are quantum - they only exist when they are being observed by the media

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Re: Playing to the crowd

Sorry, that's just wrong.

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Re: Playing to the crowd

Thanks to the efforts of countless EMC engineers over the last 40 years, it is a requirement that electronic devices have a high level of immunity to RF signals. If they don#t then in the vast majority of cases it is due to poor design rather than there being any problem with the transmitters in question.

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Terminator

Best do it quick...

Before they shut off analog signals then! :\

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Re: Best do it quick...

Oh damn, beat me to it! I just posted a similar comment!

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Confused...

Isn't this the same Govt that has some disembodied limb which is pushing for the death of analogue radio?

If they do that then building a radio is gonna be a damn sight more complicated than a tuning coil and a few other basic components. In fact it will probably contain more chips than the Pi!

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Anonymous Coward

Non-starter.

Little Johnny/Jackie build their crystal set stick on their headphones and their little lugs get blasted by Daddy's (or the person 500 metres down the road) internet homeplugs.

Unless it's a contieuation of the BBC's "get rid of analogue radio" plans?

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Anonymous Coward

Why not combine them?

A Pi should have enough CPU to do narrowband software defined radio - why not a kit that acts as a receiver front-end and tie that into the Pi.

Let them build receivers for broadcast AM, broadcast FM, and some of the amateur service bands (and broadcast shortwave). Have Pi software already set up for AM, FM, SSB, RTTY, PSK31, and CW. Also package up OSSIE or GnuRadio if they want it (but, I do this *for a living* and I find OSSIE and GnuRadio a bit difficult - hence why I suggest canned stuff first).

Then, let them get their tickets, and THEN let them build some low power transmitters in the 2 meter band (and if they get HF licenses - build 20M rigs.)

You could even set up some D*RATS (!yuck!) or other modulation schemes that can push reasonable data, and move some QCIF video at 10fps using H.264.

(and if the damn D*STAR idiots would use a Free codec like Codec2 rather than a proprietary codec like AMBE, they COULD implement a D*STAR system.)

73 de N0YKG.

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Re: Why not combine them?

You, sir, get an up-vote from me :)

That's an excellent idea. A little USB soundcard plugged into the Pi, something like a Softrock kit for the SDR front end... Job done!

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Re: Why not combine them?

QRSS is great fun and perfectly do-able with an RPi, a simple osc and a basic dipole.

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Anonymous Coward

Learn about spectrum...

Then join government to screw as much money as you can out of the industry...

Perhaps he's worried that there'll be no-one left to fuck over radio spectrum users in the coming years...

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Give them a crystal kit...

Then install ethernet-over-the-mains in all schools. That'll teach'em.

possible outcomes (from uncool to cool):

They end up developping good EoM kit with appropriate shielding

EoM dies a painful death when they get old enough

A generation of hackers able to steal your credit card number just by listening to radio interference arises.

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'Scuse me, that's my lawn...

I was given a Philips electronics kit when I was 10 (1970-ish), and spent the next 5 or 6 years totally engrossed in radio and electronics. Devoured 'Everyday Electronics', 'Wireless World', 'Short Wave Magazine', 'Elektor'... all of them. Built receivers, transmitters, transceivers, bugs, everything... absolutely invaluable foundation for later life.

Erm... I'm now a potter... erm...

Oh...

Mr H.

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I'd love to see a Raspberry Pi radio

"So what if it's six months late, 50% more than we said, only receives slow music and is only compatible with a few earphones. The community will sort that out."

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Is this the same government that

is trying to fill all our land fill sites by outlawing "normal" radio and forcing a reluctant world to go digital?

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FAIL

In secondary school...

...in science we had to mess around with this kind of crap. No one liked it, building circuits and radios and stuff. My brother likes all this stuff, and guess what he did it outside of school too because he was interested in it. Everyone else in my class hated the subject.

Giving lessons in this or that is a nice idea but, MPs, don't expect lots of people to start wanting to become engineers, only one person in my whole class now has anything to do with building electronics, and even she wasn't interested in it while at school.

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many more steps to take

by pushing kids away from the separated physics biology and chemistry into a single "science" subject, science education as a whole is diluted. what is the challenge is that "way back then" electronics and optics were only skirmished with, digital electronics was ignored totally

so yep, split the sciences back up again and teach each one properly, and yep - add modern tech like electronics and digital electronics to the physics curiculum

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Anonymous Coward

So, schoolchildren will be able to build their own radios.

Then they go and get licenced realising how cool all this is.

They get their M6 and are not able to build under it.

Given you get some quite young Foundation holders, this raises a question.

If we have a young M6, and then their school decides for them to embark on this project, aren't they now breaching their licence by constructing the equipment?

Sincerely, a concerned M0.

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Happy

Kitted out

Foundation Licence holders can build and use commercial kits and that includes most of the ones available through several clubs, organisations etc. In fact they have to build something to go through to the Intermediate level. My present lot have built receivers and one M6 has learnt an important lesson when I showed him my SMD "Finningley" SDR kit that he sneaked off and built - the lesson being "never build another surface mount kit"!

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They won't be transmitting (self build or not) on the amateur bands without the licence.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Kitted out

Yes, the requirement is to build a radio related thing.

IIRC for my M3 I did an audio amplifier kit.

The idea I was under was that they were talking about them constructing their own Tx/Rx box. That would not be permitted, AIUI.

They could transmit without a licence if the teacher were a full licence holder and they were simply doing a greeting to another station.

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Anonymous Coward

This would be a good move. My degree was physics, I've worked in mobile coms for years and hold an amateur radio licence. The foundation of so much state of the art technology is radio. I've lost count of the number of times 'software' people have screwed things up because they didn't understand the physics/radio/electronics of the system they are working with.

I think it would be better to teach radio and electronics in schools than programming.

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Childcatcher

Sounds to me like the tories jumping on the populist bandwagon

Whether a useful skill or not, kids are not interested in Radio (directly), they are interested in things that can play movies and games, and run software, that they have some existing relationship with, that they can build their skills from.

You don't introduce advanced shit until the basics are there otherwise you destroy confidence and interest.

I've no doubt the guy is clueless, and even this is not likely to be his idea.

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Anonymous Coward

Pirate Radio

We kids already went and built our own radios for nothing, not on any emergency freqs. Then we got busted cause they want payment for something that cant even be seen, whats the score with that....

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Talking Electronics - an unbeatable teaching resource

I encourage youngsters I know to visit < http://www.talkingelectronics.com > so they can select projects that are within their capability and pocket change.

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