Saturday, January 9, 2016

Tinker Crate: DC Motor

Just before Christmas, I reviewed the Biomechanical Hand Tinker Crate. While corresponding with the good folks at Kiwi Crate, we got to talking about the way the subscription plan worked and the variety of themes and scope of projects potential customers could expect when signing up for this. To give me an idea of this diversity, they sent me three more kits, including two that were retired, so I  could share them with you.

This is the DC Motor Kit, which Emily worked on over the Christmas break.

Here's what came in it - electric components to make a classic DC Motor (and stand), along with some peripherals for fun applications.

The magazine (see first picture for cover) covered the theory and principles.

The blueprint sheet contained instructions for connecting this motor circuit.

Emily worked on it all by herself. I usually like to interfere because I'm nosy that way (and I can't keep my hands off anything Physics, really), but I sat out and let her do her own thing this time, just to see if an 11-year-old could set everything up without adult help.

Yes, she could.

Here's the completed DC motor (disconnected; if it were connected, that coil of red wire would be spinning).

Here are a couple of videos of the DC motor in action.

Kate came to watch us later, and used the supplied cardboard disks to turn the motor into a thaumatrope.

Tinker Crates are targeted at the 9-16 age group and our 11-year-old managed this one perfectly. Even our 7-year-old could make it spin (and be enthralled), although she would've required some adult assistance were she the one building it from the start.

Here it is in action:

If you've attempted a home-made a DC motor with your kids, you might remember the frustration of setting it all up and having it refuse to work, due to any number of issues: not enough turns of wire on the coil, a too-weak magnet, a wrongly-positioned magnetic field, an ineffective support for the axle, the wires not making good enough electrical contact, etc. 

I'm happy to say that this motor worked wonderfully, thanks to the Kiwi Crate team working out all the kinks beforehand and creating a simple and effective design for this circuit. While we want our kids to be problem-solvers and not shy away from obstacles to instant success, we also don't want them frustrated at the outset because of unsound theory, insufficient understanding, or poor engineering from the teaching end. It's lovely to have a kit like this that comes together as easily as a toy and inspires learning as solidly as an experiment. 

We have two more Tinker Crates to share with you. Check back soon!


  1. On your last review, we ordered the crate for my almost 15 year old daughter. She was so amused with the animation crate, that she is now taking a course on Blender. Sometimes these crates marketed to older kids are really silly. I was impressed with the breadth of information and kit.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Rena. I am afraid I don't quite understand if your daughter ended up liking or disliking the kit. Your comment seems to imply a bit of both?


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