Reviewed by David Savage
Kids spend around six hours of their day at school. Some even come home with homework and spend more time learning. That is all good and kids should be encouraged to learn as much as possible, especially as their brains are like sponges. However, you don’t want to overload them and want them to play and have fun when at home. But why does playing and having fun mean that they can’t still be learning at the same time. We love educational toys and games in our house, especially ones everyone can join in with and where the kids can learn something new without knowing it.
At the moment, the biggest educational toy seems to be coding toys and I must admit we do have some. But whilst coding is important for kids to learn, and it will just get bigger and bigger, we can’t all be coders and kids need to learn other things. When I was growing up electronics kits were the all rage but could be quite tricky with stripping wires and soldering to circuit boards. So when we were asked to try out the Hot Wires Electronics Set from John Adams we were delighted to give it a go.
The Hot Wires set is vastly different from the electronics sets that I remember. Hot Wires is all plug and play, no wires to strip or solder, just snap the components together to build your circuit. The snap together components make is so much easier for little hands to build fully working circuits independently. The Hot Wires set allows you to create circuits such as a lie detector, burglar alarm, spinning disk and plenty more.
The Hot Wires electronics set is a 67-piece set and comes with over 100 experiments and circuits to build involving light, sound and movement, supporting the National Curriculum. It is supplied with a 54-page full colour book of instructions to help build the circuits. Suitable for children ages 8+, it will help supplement what they learn at school.
On opening the box, it was a delight to see that all the pieces where so well laid out. All the components are fitted into their individual slots so that you can see at a glance what pieces you have. It is a comprehensive kit with capacitors, resistors, transistors, diodes, bulbs, LEDs, IC units and more. With the box laid out as it is, you can see that all the components are there so when packing away you can easily make sure that you haven’t left anything out. The book also gives you a full list, with pictures, of each component and how many of each piece. All components are colour coded and numbered so that you can clearly match to the diagrams in the book.
With plenty of experiments in the book, 112 in total, there are plenty to go at. As it was the first foray into electronics for the kids we, of course, started at the beginning (although I did want to make a lie detector or burglar alarm). Four AA batteries, not supplied, are needed to power the circuits so we made sure we had a fresh pack before starting.
The first experiment is Making a Simple Circuit. This is something I do remember from school – using a switch to turn on/off a small light bulb. All the components are ‘snapped’ on to a plastic board (supplied) and then the components snapped onto each other. The kids found this easy to do and followed the simple illustrated picture diagram quite easily. By building a simple circuit and using the information in the book it shows how electricity flows and how opening or closing a circuit will give a result, in this case turning on or off the light.
As we have been working our way through the book, the experiments get slowly more complicated adding in resistors of varying strengths, different types of switches and sensors and even sounds. The favourite experiment the kids have completed so far is experiment 3 where they power a spinning disc causing it to fly up in the air.
As the book continues the experiments become more than simple circuits with the addition of sound IC units for burglar alarms and lie detectors (requires moisture on a sensor) and light sensitive photo resistor. Will this kit you can even create logic circuits, introducing binary and how computers work. I am really impressed with as how you progress through the book the experiments get more challenging, adding in new components and more complicated designs. The sees circuits go from a switch to circuits activated by touch, noise, water and light giving results in sirens, flashing lights, flying discs and even sound effects.
Understanding electronics is a vital part of children’s scientific education but this set teaches more than that. It also helps with problem solving, critical and logic thinking when something doesn’t work as it should – where did we go wrong and what can we do to fix it. It also teaches patience, being meticulous, how to read and follow diagrams and instructions, and having a clear thought process.
Overall, the Hot Wires Electronics Set is an excellent kit. The snap together pieces are the perfect introduction in electronics. It removes the frustration of wire stripping and soldering or twisting bare wires onto boards and components. It will give children the basic tools to understand how circuits and electricity work in simple form, giving them the confidence to move up to using printed circuit boards and the delicate components to build a real circuit board.
The entire set is just quality. The components feel tough and durable, and are not flimsy so will stand up to being snapped together and unsnapped for a long time.
The experiments in the book are really fun and do encourage children to learn in a fun way. With making Morse Code generators, simple radio sets, flashing lamps etc. there is a lot to do and enjoy. I have loved helping the kids with the experiments and, I must admit, to doing a few whilst they haven’t been around (it is quite interesting and you’re never too old to learn).
If you want to help further your children’s education at home then Hot Wires is the perfect set to encourage their scientific learning. Who knows, you may just find that you have a budding electrical engineer in the house.
Definitely worth 5 stars for ease of use, quality, durability, educational and fun value.