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A Home Lab/Shop For Kids?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the treasures-from-edmund dept.

Hardware Hacking 291

sharp-bang writes "When I was growing up, my Dad let my brother and I have the run of his wood shop, and kept up a steady stream of Lego kits, Estes model rockets, chemistry sets, Heathkit projects, and other fun science stuff from the Edmund Scientific catalog, and the rest was history. I'd like to give my kids that kind of experience. If your kids were interested in science, computers, robots, and building stuff, how would you build and outfit a lab/shop for them (and you) to play in?"

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hmmm (4, Funny)

gadabyte (1228808) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621763)

diesel fuel, fertilizer, and a copy of 'the turner diaries'?

Don't laugh (4, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621931)

Young boys(and, okay, maybe some young girls) like to burn stuff.

It all starts with the magnifying glass and the ants, then it moves on to dousing G.I. Joes in lawnmower gasoline. Later, when they get older, firecrackers come into the mix.

Lord help you if you hand-load your own ammo: gunpowder(a mix of fast-and-slow burning ^_^ ) and primers, with some match-heads all poured into a metal can creates a louder and much more exciting(read: dangerous) projectile than an Estes rocket. Speaking of Estes rockets, screw the rocket and put just the engine on the pole.

Oh crap, I'm guilty of terrorism for posting that. Who's that knocking at my door?

Re:Don't laugh (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622019)

Can't do a lot anymore today. My dad used to build his own explosives. Even I got away with building a (working) flame thrower. Doing either of this today will at the very least land you on some governmental list (and not the nice kind), if not in jail.

If you can get your hand on the substances needed at all anymore. Regulations of explosives has really gone berserk, they now argue whether to outlaw ASA (ya know, the aspirin) because it can be used to create TNP.

Re:Don't laugh (1)

Authoritative Douche (1255948) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622247)

If you can get your hand on the substances needed at all anymore. Regulations of explosives has really gone berserk, ....
AquaNet is available at many a Rexall still.

Re:Don't laugh (1)

penguin king (673171) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622279)

Given that making aspirin [wikipedia.org] from salicylic acid [wikipedia.org] is childs play for anyone with half a brain (I tutor undergrad chem labs, so I believe that statement is accurate) banning aspirin because it can be used to make TNP [wikipedia.org].

But then I guess if people had brains they wouldn't make the stuff or start from aspirin given other materials would be quicker and easier...

Re:hmmm (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23622343)

What's with all the explosives? Do something harmless, like make some boards with blinking lights and attach them to bridges. What could go wrong?

Re:hmmm (1)

gadabyte (1228808) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622369)

What's with all the explosives? Do something harmless, like make some boards with blinking lights and attach them to bridges. What could go wrong?
oh come on, who modded this down?

+funny if i had any mod points...

Most importantly (3, Insightful)

Leibel (768832) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621775)

Kit it out with stuff that you're passionate about. Only then can they get your passions...

Re:Most importantly (5, Insightful)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621821)

Hmmm ... I have to disagree. First find out what they're passionate about (if anything at this age). If they're young enough to be undecided, then you can go with what you like--but be prepared to completely change course if they discover something else.

My dad is an industrial engineer, so I got the whole math/science schtick, with a Heathkit computer and lots of stuff to build. However, when I turned 10, I turned on to music. Music is still a passion of mine ... but unfortunately, Dad didn't understand how I felt about it, so he was still pushing for the hard sciences. I never even learned to read standard notation, much less the music theory I wanted to take in high school.

Needless to say, this caused some friction, and to this day my passion for music is a lot greater than my knowledge for music.

Re:Most importantly (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23621903)

Hmmm ... I have to disagree. First find out what they're passionate about (if anything at this age). If they're young enough to be undecided, then you can go with what you like--but be prepared to completely change course if they discover something else.
so basically you have added nothing new or useful to the dialogue.....

My dad is an industrial engineer, so I got the whole math/science schtick, with a Heathkit computer and lots of stuff to build. However, when I turned 10, I turned on to music. Music is still a passion of mine ... but unfortunately, Dad didn't understand how I felt about it, so he was still pushing for the hard sciences. I never even learned to read standard notation, much less the music theory I wanted to take in high school.

This entire whine is YOUR fault, not your Dads. Science and music are not mutually exclusive.

Needless to say, this caused some friction, and to this day my passion for music is a lot greater than my knowledge for music.

You mean your knowledge OF music. Sounds much like your knowledge of English. You sound like a whiny emo type. Not the best type to be giving advice...

Re:Most importantly (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622035)

That's pretty sad. Standard music notation was part of the standard school curriculum for us.

Re:Most importantly (1)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622099)

AC was trolling, but in one sense he's right--I could have still gone ahead and gone after what I wanted. But it's cool--I've got some songs out on the internet, and I still have fun with the tech stuff.

Re:Most importantly (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621855)

Ha, that's rich. It's like the proverbial parent who tries to live out their OWN dreams through their quite-possibly unwilling children. That being said, would you feel bad if your kid eschewed everything educational and became a star athlete? Not much geek cred, but they'd be better-able to support you in your old age ;)

Re:Most importantly (3, Insightful)

Leibel (768832) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621999)

Well, I presume since they asked Slashdot, it was because his kids didn't answer. Young kids needs guidance, and the obvious thing for parents to do is to give them their values and let the kids work out what is right and wrong in their own time. A kid doesn't know what's out there until they've seen it. As a parent I have the benefit of experience that my kids don't have. I should share those experiences with my kids. As they get older and learn, they can then choose whether or not they want to accept my values, and I will support them whatever they decide.

Re:Most importantly (0, Troll)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622229)

I honestly thought you were joking...not because I think it is bad to share your passions with your children, but because you were so earnest and one dimensional about the way you said it.

Re:Most importantly (5, Insightful)

Brother Fade (860480) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621935)

Since my mother took us in the divorce (age 13), I did my hobby stuff on my own, on my school desk on weekends and in cold weather, and out on a balcony during warmer weather. She encouraged it, but couldn't really add much. When I later had two rooms, I kitted out the second room with a 'workbench' (old door on two saw horses) and some of my father's old tools that he had left behind.

Give them some catalogs (Edmund, Estes, Allelectronics, Smarthome, etc.) and see what floats their boats. I think I'd try and start them with something that sparked their interest, and in the course of exploring with them and 'guiding' their early efforts, I'd answer their questions about the hobbies I was passionate about. I joined a local model rocketry club in 9th grade, and attended meetings a few times a month. We were involved in regional competitions - parents took turns schlepping us around to weekend meets a few times a year.

At a minimum, you need a hobbyist (clean) jawvise, flat and sturdy cutting surface, setting gluding surface(s), someplace to sand stuff, good lighting. Basic tools, like X-Acto handles and blades, steel rule, smallish drivers. Over time, I added a Dremel and specialty tools I saw others using. For electronics tools, a low-wattage soldering iron, a DVM, needlenose pliers, hand tools, desoldering tools, and some fun kits to start. Even before the kits, something simple to practice soldering and desoldering, to learn how not to fry components (always my gumption trap).

Re:Most importantly (5, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622065)

"...I did my hobby stuff on my own..."

That's key. Even though parents know what's "best", a lot of being young is exploration unhindered by authority breathing down one's back. Doing stuff with mom or pop can be fun, but there are constraints. Some children don't want to be babied but it helps to have a parent in the know if a question does arise. YMMV.

Re:Most importantly (1)

RockModeNick (617483) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622169)

My dad handled this really well. I'd come up with what I wanted to do, and he'd show me how it was done. Then, I'd try variations on my own as I got more ideas.

Re:Most importantly (4, Interesting)

John3 (85454) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622091)

Tough to tell if that will work or not. Sometimes kids avoid what their parents are passionate about. I know this definitely happened with music.

My daughter liked K'Nex and Lego, so I bought Mindstorms and she loved it. However, I let her work on it herself and only jumped in when she needed help. This year she designed a robot for a competition and asked for some help. I own a hardware store and I'm pretty handy with tools and building "stuff" and we actually put together a cool robot. Came in sixth out of ten, but she did most of the design and testing with me helping with the construction (especially the cutting and drilling).

He's a stupid breeder (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23622261)

His passion seems to be knocking up women so they squirt out more kids to ruin the world.

Maybe the important thing is to teach the kids, now that they can't be put back in the jar, to learn how to be more creative with their lives than just going around breeding and putting a burden on the rest of us who don't. Unfortunately it sounds like daddy is too stupid to teach them that.

RepRap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23622297)


Edmunds is around. Online too (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23621823)


Sorry I had to post as AC. The "Hardware" section apparently doesn't accept my login*.

There's also http://scitoys.com/

My favorite: http://amasci.com/



*(It's slashdot's problem, not mine. I can log into other sections)

Capsela (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23621843)

Depending on the ages in question, these are great toys:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsela [wikipedia.org]

They have little plastic spheres containing motors, reduction gears, worm gears, etc. You can build stuff from their designs, but it's even more fun just to build things of your own imagining.

Re:Capsela (2, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622089)

I had a set of those as a kid. I seem to remember it being a lot of fun. The problem was that I only had a small set, and it was quite limited what I could do with it. I find that to be the biggest problem with any of these construction toys. They get really expensive. I was just at Toys 'R us this weekend, looking at legos for the kids, and it was $20 for a (roughly) 10 inch x 10 inch flat floor-type piece. I think that's kind of the reason I got into computers. Once you had the initial computer (which was expensive at the time), you had everything you needed.

Frikken cool. (3, Funny)

rbochan (827946) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621865)

Are you interested in adopting a 38 year old?

Re:Frikken cool. (4, Informative)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621919)

Are you interested in adopting a 38 year old?

Isn't there a name for that? Isn't it called "marriage"?

(disclaimer: It's a joke. My wife's actually pretty cool, and no she doesn't read slashdot)

Lego (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23621873)

Legos absolutely for sure. The simplicity of the blocks and parts allows (forces?) you to think big picture. All of the others are great too, and you usually get into the details more. Legos.

Egads Man (4, Funny)

Cylix (55374) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621887)

Buy em anything. Anything except from that catalogue. The prices are rather horrid.

Me, I say give em a can of coke and some pop rocks.

Now that is entertainment for hours.

Follow it up with a bowl of rice crispies.

Each time they ask why these things do what they do... lie... lie a lot and change it each time.

Oblig. Calvin and Hobbes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23622165)

Calvin: "Why does the sun rise in the east and set in the west?"
Calvin's dad: "Solar wind."
Calvin's mom: "Dear!"

Re:Egads Man (3, Interesting)

plantman-the-womb-st (776722) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622237)

You hit it on the head. When I was a kid no one would tell me why the vinegar made the baking soda go all foamy, so I had to find out myself (used to love the library trips when I was a kid). Oddly, I just mentioned the coke and poprocks thing to my wife, she knew *what* they did but not *why*. I think I know what my toddler is getting for his second birthday now.

"A long time a ago son, the poprocks ambushed the coke tribe at the Valley of the Overflowing Beaker, since then..."

What did your dad do? (4, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621891)

Not to put too fine a point on it, but there was a time where the majority of workers were involved in actually using these tools, and so it was normal to have an old set of them around the house. Nowadays, with globalization pushing most manual labor out of first world countries, high school kids who take metal shop are more likely to be familiar with manufacturing than their parents.

We live in the kind of world that Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick used to write about, where kids think meat comes "from the supermarket" cause they've never been on a farm and think cars are made by robots with no human hands involved.

Many young inventors are shocked to discover that you can't just design a part using CAD-CAM and email the design off to a factory in China to be mass produced.. that often even the most sophisticated computer controlled milling machine produces parts that you have to get out a file to finish.

Re:What did your dad do? (4, Interesting)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622151)

the only reason cars arent 100% robot made is because in some steps humans are cheaper than building more robots. And that just refers to assembly, pretty much all the fabrication has no humans involved. Though so you know people wouldnt do any milling in most places... They run a laser across all products to check for deformity... if there is any they just get rejected and recycled. So no humans involved there. And to be honest you should be able to email cadcam designs and get the product back.... i worked in a place that milled wood products and you could put your own designs in after hours so long as they matched the capabilities of the machine.... and boss didnt catch you.

Re:What did your dad do? (2, Interesting)

kaizokuace (1082079) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622375)

well, not only because its cheaper that to get some robots for certain tasks but for some car companies the customer pays a premium to have a hand made car. Ferrari has a lot of people involved in the process of manufacturing. The honda NSX was hand made throughout its lifetime.

Re:What did your dad do? (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622227)

Many young inventors are shocked to discover that you can't just design a part using CAD-CAM and email the design off to a factory in China to be mass produced.

Sure you can. [emachineshop.com]

Re:What did your dad do? (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622313)

hehe, fine, try to build me a turbopump.

When your parts come back different to your spec, try to get a refund.

Older kids build stuff - R/C aircraft, telescopes (5, Informative)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621895)

Get them into remote control aircraft when they're old enough. It's not a cheap hobby, a few hundred dollars to get into it, but you get to learn about:

- Combustion engines
- Mixing fuel (some chemistry)
- Radio gear
- Flight dynamics
- Assembling and building, where care is needed to avoid major mistakes that would render the model unflyable
- Woodwork and metal work (and you'll aquire the tools for these if you don't already have them)
- The importance of measurement in the real world
- Importance of safety and developing good practice and procedure to make things safe

If you go with the above, make sure you join a club and practice on a simulator as it does take quite some time for most people to get the hang of controlling a plane and nothing will cause a child to lose interest quicker than a toy that takes a month to build and breaks (crashes) in under a minute. It's definitely harder than r/c cars which don't fall out of the sky if you slow down too much, aren't affected by the wind etc. (In fact petrol engine cars - not the $10 toys - are a simpler alternative with less of a learning curve BUT there isn't as much reward either).

Also when they're old enough, you could get them to build a dobsonian telescope. It's not particularly difficult, and you can choose to do it from components. Again you learn about woodwork and metal work, but also add optics and astronomy to the mix.

The point is that while the above are in a sense toys, in another they are not. You have to be rigid and disciplined because you are creating a real working piece of equipment where tolerances are important. Kids unfortunately grow up in a schooling environment today where they are taught whatever they do will be just fine. Great for the child's confidence, but the trouble is that's not how the real world works.

These hobbies aren't something they can't be left to do unsupervised - you'll actually have to learn yourself and help teach them. You might even end up doing classes together (telescope making), or taking tution together (learning to fly r/c). It does require that the child can follow direction, has some patience and doesn't just lose interest in a week. They also have to be interested in the end product or they won't want to do it.

The other thing that should be obvious to people here if you like the idea of building things together is to teach them to build a computer from scratch. That's actually a practical skill they can use whether or not they wind up in IT.

Re:Older kids build stuff - R/C aircraft, telescop (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621993)

You should probably mention that the initial investment can reach the 1000 bucks easily. Unless you want some equipment that gives you more troubles than fun.

Don't get me wrong, I like RC planes and it's a great hobby, my dad's the prez of the local club and we spend a good deal of my (and his) spare time there together. It's basically the only thing we have in common (him being a die hard conservative non-technical bureaucrat, me being a liberal computer geek... there ain't much we agree on but model planes), but be aware that it can be very quickly very expensive and time consuming. Not to mention that I wouldn't recommend it as a hobby for children under 12. It can be quite some time until you can handle a plane that is really "fun" to fly, the trainer planes certainly ain't much fun. :)

Re:Older kids build stuff - R/C aircraft, telescop (2, Interesting)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622209)

I agree that it can get very expensive very quickly.

I don't agree that a trainer certainly isn't much fun to fly. I had a Worldstar 40 ARF. Large plane, very stable. Been in the hobby for a couple of years and only just recently crashed it for the first time - unfortunately a total loss of the airframe. (Crashed doing inverted spins, almost recovered but stalled coming out and fell right back into a spin). I was definitely pushing the limits with that plane, but basic IMAC was certainly doable, and it was a lot of fun to fly. I've been busy building planes since (I got given the Worldstar second hand by my wife's family who've been into it for years. I had to learn to build after learning to fly).

I loved that Worldstar, even though in some ways I'd outgrown it. I'm in the middle of building another one anyway. The one I had was modified with better control rods so working out how to do that properly has slowed me down a bit since I refuse to put in balsa rods. I've completed 3 other ARF aircraft in the meantime.

Re:Older kids build stuff - R/C aircraft, telescop (2, Informative)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622235)

Other things to note are that:
- Because it's expensive, the time and money are both spread out over time
- As another poster noted, no need to start with R/C. Rubber band power and gliders are a gentler, cheaper entry into the hobby.

Still some parents will spend that $1000 on toys without giving it a thought.

Re:Older kids build stuff - R/C aircraft (2, Interesting)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622177)

Yep, sounds a lot like my childhood!

Need not dive in to the expensive airplanes right away... I built a rubber-band powered, balsa wood and tissue paper Spitfire (~$20 + ~$40 of basic wood tools, baseboards, and paints) and then a 2 channel R/C glider (~$60 + ~$100 for the radio) as practice for the 4 channel gas powered trainer (~$100 kit, ~$100 engine, and shared the same radio as the glider). It was very educational, gave me a lot of time to work on my woodworking skills, and was quite motivational and therapeutic (I'd often start working on them in the mornings before school, so the glue could set during the day, and it was quite relaxing to spend time sanding and filing late into the evening).

Actually spent much more time working on the cheap rubber band airplane, since it used more old-fashioned but cheaper construction methods.

I eventually made it through an aerospace program at an ivy league school. My grades were quite threatened by my side hobby of playing with computers. The irony is that my entire professional career has revolved around doing reasonably fun stuff with Linux & Windows on pretty nice computer hardware, and I pretty much only get to play with aviation things for fun on the side. As a minor consolation, at least I'm doing computer stuff for an aerospace company. :P

Re:Older kids build stuff - R/C aircraft, telescop (1)

Yaldabaoth (649550) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622603)

Heh, I was going to post this exact thing. Balsa wood, glue, tissue paper, and Bernouilli's Theorem will go a long way and probably won't land you on a government list. As for reminiscing about activities that *will* get you on a list, I used my "learn about electronics" kit to make hydrogen and then set it on fire. I also used to power it with a voltage convertor I salvaged from an alarm clock in lieu of batteries ...

Away from the house (1)

jlindy (1028748) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621897)

I'd build it well away from the house, and constructed from reinforced concrete, and don't forget a good fire suppression system (the one you build for the kids won't need to be so robust).

Safety First (1)

Geak (790376) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621901)

Whatever you do, safety should be a prime concern I'm sure. You probably don't want some heathkit burning down your house cause it was wired incorrectly. Use GFI plugs - LOTS of em, make sure the electrical is all properly grounded, have fire extinguishers handy, first aid kit, a phone to call 911 from, and maybe a halon for when they misbehave...

something important seems to be missing from your (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23621923)

Somewhere on this globe, every ten seconds, there is a woman giving birth to a child. She must be found and stopped. -- Sam Levenson
"They" had shop class when I was a kid. We built
electric motors, crystal radios, and all sorts of
things. We learned safety rules, and how to use
machines that cut and shaped wood and metal. We
learned how to read drawings, and follow instructions. When you know the basics, you do
whatever you want to do with any "kit" thrown
at you.
What can your kids do with raw materials?
Can they fabricate something from sheet, rod,
Can YOU?
Sounds like your Daddy had more money than time
to spend with you.
What are the basics of thinking for yourself?
What are the basics of problem solving?
Ask yourself: Should *I* have had children?
No, really!

Give them... (4, Interesting)

rakzor (1198165) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621929)

...a computer running Linux to experiment on.

Re:Give them... (2, Interesting)

colmore (56499) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622363)

Nah, Minix, and simple reference implementations of things like compilers and shells.

The linux kernel is a lot for anyone to take in. It would fill a hefty shelf with technical docs. Minix can (and is) be explained in one book.

Better something they can pick apart.

(duh) (1)

luckymutt (996573) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621933)

I would: let them have the run of his wood shop, and kept up a steady stream of Lego kits, Estes model rockets, chemistry sets, Heathkit projects, and other fun science stuff from the Edmund Scientific catalog

Re:(duh) (2, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622527)

I would: let them have the run of his wood shop, and kept up a steady stream of Lego kits, Estes model rockets, chemistry sets, Heathkit projects, and other fun science stuff from the Edmund Scientific catalog

The problem with this approach is that Lego kits are all pre-fab models these days. Model rockets are not really a city friendly hobby. Chemistry sets either don't exist, or don't have any of the really fun chemicals anymore. And Heathkit no longer makes kits.

Everything is being dumbed down. My parents bought me a 50 in one electronics kit, the kind with the springs that you clip the wires into. I was too young to understand what "forward biasing the collector-base junction of the transistor" meant in the section that explained how the circuit worked. Years later I acquired a 200 in one kit. Unfortunately, they had already dumbed down the instruction manual by removing the circuit explanation. I wish I could find the manual for my old 50 in one, because I'd love to learn how these circuits work.

Sounds like a good idea (4, Informative)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621945)

I would reserve a place in the basement (assuming it's dry) or attic and build a configuration of work benches along the wall. If the walls are unfinished, I'd put up drywall to make it more homey, and make sure it's well lit and maybe buy one of those magnifying glasses with the light. Place power outlets on the back edge or nearby so you could have a computer lab section, a model building section, and an art section. Whichever you're into. If you have a computer lab, I might consider not hooking it up to the net so your kid won't be surfing YouTube or IMing friends on chat all day. You could also get into model train building or more artistic stuff. Buy some metal shelving to store the project kits and supplies.

Try to add some design elements to the area by painting with colors or maybe a mural. You could paint the mural with your kids for more fun. You can add wall hangings, tapestries, medieval collectables, gel lamps, electronic knick knacks, and mood lighting to make it cool. Buy a nice radio and speakers so you can have music playing, but keep the TV and Wii/Xbox out of that room.

I would also consider putting in a sofa and nice cushy chairs so you can have a reading section. Place that near a window to let the light in.

FIRST Robotics (3, Interesting)

rczik (254081) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621951)

As the coach of a FIRST FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge - for high school kids) team I can say that FIRST is a FANTASTIC way to help your kids "Geek Out". As for building out a lab, that's the beauty of FTC. You don't need the big equipment (or money) that you do for FRC. Just some hand tools, maybe a drill and some room to design, build program and test. A large room, 15x15 is more than enough. For the 2008-2009 season FIRST is going to a new kit. Total expected cost should be about $1k.

For younger kids FIRST Lego robotics is the way to go.

Either way it's great to see the kids get involved, geek out in a social way and have lots of fun.

I highly recommend it.


Ask your Children First (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23621955)

Building a LAB for the kids to learn in is a nice idea but "what does the child really like"?
  If you build a LAB based on what you" like, or what you think the child should like" a situation could arise were the child feels they are being forced and they rebel. So ask them "what do you enjoy doing" and use that as a guide so both you and the child feel as though you are getting something out of the experience. Good example, I liked electric motors, so my parents bought me a lego electric train set and lots of other things with motors in kits.

transistors resistors and micro controllers (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23621973)

breadboards, chucks of wires, gears, any old bits of junk and spend time *together* deciding what improbable circuit on the internet you will build

If anything this will teach them that just 'cause its in "print" in aint 100%...

At best it might just get them modifying other peoples circuits changing bits of code etc...

Creativity loves junk... (3, Informative)

Gertlex (722812) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621977)

Make sure they know how to use the basic tools... (basics include soldering iron, dremel, exactoknife, glue, drill) Make sure they know how to improvise with what tools they have (witness me stripping wire with teeth or exacto-knife)

The type I think you're thinking of is me. And It seems to be rare outside of /. ... Though the two guys like me that come to mind also have the same first name x_x

As for furnishings? Maybe that's something the kid will know themselves. I'm 20, and it's really only in the past few years that I've started salvaging stuff from broken stuff (saving that stuff from being thrown out, of course) and building cool stuff...

So *give your kid the broken stuff in the basement for his birthday*... cd player/radio boombox, VCR, electric blender, broken plastic containers for raw material...

Re:Creativity loves junk... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23622307)

Make sure they know how to improvise with what tools they have (witness me stripping wire with teeth or exacto-knife)
You mean to tell me there are TOOLS SPECIFICALLY for stripping wire? Hot damn, you just saved me my huge annual dental bill!

Sounds like you're the most qualified to answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23621981)

Stop asking the unwashed masses

Slightly OT, but I have to say it (4)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 5 years ago | (#23621985)

Thank you kdawson for all those links. I didn't even know most of those companies were even in business today. And seriously - I loved every single one of those when I was a kid.

I've bookmarked them all for my son for when he's ready. Can't wait to launch rockets, or look at stuff under microscopes, or look at the moon with a telescope with him.

Lego Mindstorms NXT (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23621987)

Check out the NXT Step [blogspot.com] blog. Definitely the best tinkering toy ever created, all kinds of crazy stuff you can do. Full disclosure, my mom is one of the contributors there. She went from reading the blog to help her husband help their son, as she had time on her hands, to designing robots and even writing her own book. (It is very surreal to see your mother with no engineering education or experience get published by O'Reilly for a book on building robots...awesome, but surreal, I'd be proud of her if I had anything to do with it!)

Robots and mechanical engineering aren't really my thing, but my best friend's kid is going to to be getting a lot of Lego this Christmas.

Gawd.. (2, Interesting)

moogied (1175879) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622003)

This is a fundamental flaw in today's science fields. I see it time and time again. People become so caught up in the "high" tech. Never bothering to learn the roots of it.. don't get them a lab. Don't get them a kit. Get them a damn book. Then get some resistors, IC's, diodes, ETC. Let them learn eletronics that way. Chemistry?? Same approach. Let them learn how to do everything, I gaurentee that the kid who knows the roots of everything will forever be better then the guy can write the Java code for a robot.

Sounds like my childhood, pretty much.... (4, Insightful)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622007)

Legos, model rockets, heathkits, and chemistry sets were all big influences (and my son and I STILL launch model rockets).

A good low-cost way to develop mechanical skills and encourage curiosity about how things work is a basic set of hand tools and a pile of discarded appliances/electronics. Let the kids tear them apart, and maybe even find out what failed. If you are lucky enough to get hold of older electronics (before VLSI/ASICs took over), you can even scrounge enough useful parts to build your own circuits.

I trashpicked TV's for years as a kid, and eventually taught myself enough about electronics to fix and resell most of them, earning enough money to buy my first real set of electronic test gear (mostly Heathkits),and land a summer job as a bench tech at a local TV repair shop while most of my peers were flipping burgers or delivering pizzas.


Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622015)

Fischertechnik kicks butt on all other kinds of building sets. Engineering professors use it at universities to built robot prototypes. Until you actually get your hands on some Fischertechnik kits and start building things, you won't appreciate the difference... but it is a huge difference.

World of Warcraft accounts. (0)

thereofone (1287878) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622039)

Instills real world skills such as meaningless grinding for material possessions which depreciate immediately after acquiring them while jockeying for position through brown nosing. Also carries a limited guarantee to dull any creative urges or excess socialization!

Lego Mindstorms (3, Informative)

lightversusdark (922292) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622047)

Computers are central to our future, the next generation should view programming skills as like the ability to use a screwdriver or drill. Sites like MySpace are already establishing basic (mis)understanding of HTML and JavaScript across non-programmer types.
I have always thought that Lego was the best toy for children. The Lego Mindstorms [wikipedia.org] kit includes USB and Bluetooth capabilities, amongst a hell of a lot of other cool stuff.
I think it would be a great thing for a young kid to have. That and a fabricator.

Some of EVERYTHING (2)

CharlieG (34950) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622063)

I have a bunch of my old 150 in 1 and 300 in 1 kits (have to get my kids a bit more interested)

I also have a bunch of prototype boards, OScopes etc

That and a Full sized lathe and Mill. We will be doing a "rebuild my 8" Dobsonian scope into a truss tube dob" this summer (probably)

creators' planet/population rescue kode for kids (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23622067)

actually, it was written primarily for their benefit (so they'd still have a home after we're done trying to wreck the place). no gadgets required. the lights are coming up all over now. see you there? conspiracy theorists are being vindicated. some might choose a tin umbrella to go with their hats. the fairytail is WINDing DOWn now. let your conscience be yOUR guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. there are still some choices. if they do not suit you, consider the likely results of continuing to follow the corepirate nazi hypenosys story LIEn, whereas anything of relevance is replaced almost instantly with pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking propaganda or 'celebrity' trivia 'foam'. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.


is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.


dictator style micro management has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & softwar gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster. meanwhile, you can help to stop the bleeding (loss of life & limb);


the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US. any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'. the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption. fortunately there's an 'army' of light bringers, coming yOUR way. the little ones/innocents must/will be protected. after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit? for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available. 'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet, & by your behaviors. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable. some of US should consider ourselves somewhat fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate. it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc.... as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis. concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order. 'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US. gov. bush denies health care for the little ones;


whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids;


& pretending that it isn't happening here;

all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles. talk about reverse polarity;


Half of the innocent stuff I did as a kid... (5, Interesting)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622081)

Is probably illegal now.

I doubt you can even buy the same science kits anymore.

My brother and I had hours of fun doing all sorts of "science", but it usually ended it burning or blowing up something.We probably took years off our lives hacking out great clouds of purple smoke from god knows what... but it usually involved sulpher and potasium chloride, and magnesium (gotta let the retinas get some fun too - no use ruining just your lungs.)

We did eventually develop an appreciation for goggles, ventilation and gloves.

Back then, the cops would just say "don't launch rockets in your yard anymore" and that was it.

I also remember carrying .22 rifles thru suburban San Diego, on the way to a gravel pit for plinking. Only once were we stopped by a sheriff, who admonished us to make sure those weapons were unloaded and to go home.

This was all just a couple of years before Brenda Spencer of "I Don't Like Mondays" fame. Talk about ruining it for the rest of us.

I think we even had some Jarts.

If we did that now, we'd be surrounded by SWAT and branded terrorists. Same stuff, different perceptions.

Oh yeah, Get off my lawn!

Re:Half of the innocent stuff I did as a kid... (1)

carlzum (832868) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622315)

To adolescents, mischief is the greatest motivation for learning. Game cheats and innocent hacking kept me at a PC in my preteens. Explosions and bad smells prepared me for high school chemistry. Let your kids tinker and use their creativity at home and they'll have confidence and passion in the classroom.

Re:Half of the innocent stuff I did as a kid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23622543)

Actually never heard of Brenda Spencer, but looked her up on Wikipedia.

I guess she played too much Pong or something.....

My dad and grandfather did that posthumously.. (4, Interesting)

the_rajah (749499) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622131)

They were both dead by the time I was three in 1949, but between them they left a few boxes of electronics parts, a Hallicrafters shortwave receiver and a nice pair of WW2 headphones. My dad was a radio operator in the Air Corps who opened a radio repair shop after the war, but passed away from cancer almost before getting it started. My grandfather was a tinkerer in his spare time with a variety of interests.

By the time I was ten, I was listening to the shortwave radio and learning about ham radio by reading about it. The librarian noticed that I was checking out books about radio and introduced me to her brother, who was a ham. I passed my first FCC test the next year and have now been a ham 50 years. Because of this early influence, I also pursued an electrical engineering career that has been very good to me.

My point is that it only takes a nudge to see where interests lie. I was very lucky that my family went with the flow and encouraged me. The times are different now, but the principle applies.

Vex kits, lego league, software (1)

story645 (1278106) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622175)

Vex kits [vexrobotics.com] are expensive, but will teach your kids about everything. A cheaper option is just going to radio shack and buying a bit of everything (breadboard, LED, resistor kit, some wire). I'm at IGVC [igvc.org] (Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition) and well that's what everyones robot mostly is anyway.

Seconding lego mindstorms, and get your kids into lego league-it's a great, fun experience for younger kids and a nice intro to robotics. I'd especially push that if you've got girls-get them into it early and get them comfortable around boys and a machine shop or they'll end up stuck with the pr and painting (maybe software if they're good) jobs even if they get into robotics.

Also, have them build their own box to run computer code-lego and microsoft are options to explore, pyro [pyrorobotics.org] if you're dead set on FOSS. Once they've built it, they'll have a lot of fun testing it, plus they learn a lot of coding fundamentals.

workshops (1)

buckadude (926560) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622181)

I too grew up with a workshop that had a bit of everything...from wood working to electrical, plumbing and metal working. The most important aspect of how the workshop dynamic influenced the person I've become is how it related to my daily life. Whatever I was doing in the workshop had a direct impact my life outside the workshop (and quite often vice versa). Kits are great, so are silly projects that have little utility other than the fun of dreaming it up and playing in the shop.... its all about the process and what you can learn that you then take elsewhere. -mahalo

Too bad there's not a game for this (2, Interesting)

Pvt_Waldo (459439) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622211)

Too bad there's not a sort of MMO that lets people do this kind of stuff. It could be pretty fun.

The geek group, opensource lab and learning (1)

Silvano (964351) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622285)

Thats exactly what we are trying to do for the local community at http://www.thegeekgroup.org/ [thegeekgroup.org] Give kids and anyone else the access to tools parts and space to tinker, build and test whatever they want. All for free, sponsored by donations and generous businesses, and our in house computer repair shop, http://www.appliedintel.net/ [appliedintel.net]

Arduino (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23622291)

You might want to try them out on the Arduino (http://www.arduino.cc/), an open source hardware platform, it comes with things like light sensors, LEDs and potentiometers.

It's quick and easy to get started, the components are cheap and loads of fun to tinker with.

vexrobotics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23622295)

I recommend vexrobotics. It's a mix of programming, control systems, building, designing, radio control, etc in a package that's easy to learn but yet very slick. With vexrobotics, you can do just about anything.

Lego or Arduino (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23622301)

Mindstorms or if your kid's a bit older, try arduino and a soldering iron. There's lots of examples and lot's neat-o things they can do with either.

What I would do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23622349)

Your basics are as follows:

- Wood shop
- Metal Shop
- Chem Lab
- Computer / Electronics / Sound Lab
- Paint room
- Engine shop
- Materials Testing Lab

First the wood Shop. I would start by getting basic stationary tools: Table Saw, Compound Miter saw, Band Saw, Drill Press, Router table, Router, Lathe, Air Compressor / Air tools.

Next, I would make sure you have the basic hand held power tools: Cordless Drill, reciprocating saw, Circular saw, Grinder, Sander(s), Rotary tool

And don't forget the hand tools: Hammers, Wrenches, Screw drivers, Sockets and hand saws. Other tools are a bonus, but this collection (along with the appropriate bits) will let you do just about anything with wood.

Metal Shop is a little harder. While much of this is very pricey to buy, they can be built fairly reasonably. Make sure you have good ventilation here. Stick welder, MIG/TIG welder, Hand Held Grinder, Metal Lathe, CNC machine, CNC plasma table, Pipe Benders and Threading kits are a good start.

Chem Lab isn't my area, but I am sure others will fill this one in for you.

Computer / Electronics / Sound Lab. If you are on this site, you should have this one covered, but make sure you have a production server that is off limits for playing, as well as one or more test servers for mucking about with. Some of the more commonly overlooked items include the Oscilloscope, Signal Generator, and a big work surface for your collections of robotics toys (Lego, etc)

Paint room. Fairly easy, but have good ventilation in here. Air sprayers, paint brushes, various paints, etc.

Engine shop. Again, not my area, but a powerful resource for kids to have.

Materials Testing Lab. Electronic Load Sensor, Stress Tester, Wind tunnel, various sensors (wind, temp, humidity, etc)

Hope this helps.

Home Chemistry Lab Book (1)

kenwd0elq (985465) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622383)

How is it that SlashDot readers aren't aware of Robert Bruce Thompson's home chemistry lab book, Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments [amazon.com]? It's designed for high-schoolers or early college students who need some REAL chem lab, not the bowdlerized version that they're getting at school.

Here's a page from the author's "Journal" [ttgnet.com] (he doesn't all it a "blog")

He's also working on a "Home Forensics Lab" book.

VEX Kits. (3, Informative)

Junkyboy55 (1183037) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622405)

I highly recommend a VEX kit. http://www.vexrobotics.com/ [vexrobotics.com] The starter kit doesn't require machining, just bending metal and cutting it with some good scissors. With it they can also learn to program. With the different wheels you can teach them about friction etc. I love the kit and it taught me how to program. If you don't want to program get the EasyC add on and you will be able to use pictures to program your robot and with the provided instructions it will be VERY easy. AND if you want you can even enter VEX competitions and stuff all for under a few hundred dollars and come away with even MORE VEX goodies as they hand out kits and stuff as prizes. You can do anything with VEX with very little knowledge and in the end you will think in a different manner and it teaches you a new way of solving problems. Have your kids try to move a soda can one day, and then purchase some bigger motors and have your kids try to mechanize your lawn mower for even more fun. (I'm doing this right now.) Also if you have any problems the Innovation First Inc. (IFI) staff is great. I have had problems and IFI helped me out. Their forums are top notch and their service is very hard to beat! Try it out, your kids will LOVE it. -Junx

Get with the Times (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23622407)

Estes model rockets are hard to find now, especially with all that anti-terrorism regulation.

Chemistry sets are equally hard to find, with all the regulation and EPA control.

HAM radio, well, that's an option, but the license does have some age restrictions.

Same with anything involving solder, etc.

Why not setup a simple computer and have them learn some java?

It's free, and java is a perfect learning lanaguage. They don't have to learn any of the complex C stuff, and can still code neat little applets.

Or better yet, the LEGO kits include a microcontroller, programmable in a simple point and click language.

Re:Get with the Times (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23622577)

There aren't any age restrictions on a ham radio license actually. As long as you didn't pour the waste chemicals into the ground, you shouldn't have too many problems with EPA so much as you would with chemicals that explode. You can't use them in an urban area, and probably not suburban either, considering you'd annoy the neighbors.

Aside from the commercial "kits"... (1)

skelly33 (891182) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622413)

In addition to erector sets and Heathkit labs and other such that I enjoyed as a kid, one of the things I loved to do was to take apart the store-bought toys, see how they work, and then reassemble them. My dad exploited this by bringing home surplus electronics, printers, fax & copy machines and all kinds of gizmo's rescued from the dumpster at work that I could disassemble.

Turns out that sort of industrial waste is a gold mine of miscellaneous sensors, servo's, motors, gear sets, mirrors, lenses, lasers, actuators, relays, electronic components, shafts, beams, frames - a lot of the stuff that is still useful to me as a well-organized collection of robotics resources. And they were all fun to take apart!

Our government says (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622445)

That if your kids have an "unhealthy" interest in science, computers, robots, and building stuff, you should turn them in to the authorities for reeducation. Knowledge is a dangerous thing, and its acquisition should be discouraged without proper supervision by a DHS officer and a priest.

MAKE magazine, LadyAda, EvilMadScientist (3, Informative)

pmadden (209229) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622469)

Gotta put in a plug for Make magazine [makezine.com], which is a fun read, and full of good projects that anyone can do.

I teach an undergrad course in computer organization (basically beginner architecture), and I've gotten lots of ideas from Lady Ada [ladyada.net] and Evil Mad Scientist [evilmadscientist.com]. We use AVR [avrfreaks.net] microcontrollers, and the cheap-o USB programmers from Lady Ada, to do a bunch of fun and easy projects.

My kids are 8 and 5, and are playing around a lot with LEDs and magnets. I probably won't let them solder until they're teen-agers (lead in solder sucks, but solder without lead also sucks), but they are getting to breadboard some stuff.

And of course, mentos and coke is always a good idea.

Fun Education Resources (3, Informative)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622497)

The owner of the TinkerSchool site - http://www.tinkeringschool.com/blog/ [tinkeringschool.com] spoke at the last Maker Faire http://www.makerfaire.com/ [makerfaire.com] this year in San Mateo(something you should look into attending with your kids, theres also another one in October in Texas)

Anyway, he did a talk on "Make Your Own School" which was about his tinkering school he runs for kids, as well as "the Five Dangerous Things You Should Have Your Kids Do" Both were very informative and common sense. Write him and see if he has any publications you can read.

On his site he had a link to his five dangerous things talk at ted: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/202 [ted.com]

get them a bunch of broken tech (1)

onion_joe (625886) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622563)

get them a bunch of stuff to just take apart. I learned more by taking everything around me apart than I did in 17 years of formal education (US years, here. high school, 4 yrs for a bs, grad school "experimentation")

and once you are bored of just taking thinks apart, perhaps you try to reassemble said thing, and perhaps even fix it!

Of course, I got into some trouble when I was young doing exactly this, and as a previous poster stated, a great deal of what then was considered harmless childhood experimentation would get you (or your "irresponsible" folks) thrown in jail today.

Hey, if you do decide to have kids, teach them a whole lot about rocketry and self-sufficient life support systems so they can help get you to a place where the "adults" aren't so concerned about security and safety of said kids. Since childhood, my Never-Never Land's vector is 90 degrees to the tangent of the circumference of the earth, straight up.

Reading Material is Just as Important (1)

Penicillus (755795) | more than 5 years ago | (#23622573)

What he or she reads is just as important. For younger kids - The Book of Knowledge (if you can find it) has many "how to" articles. For older kids -a subscription to the Scientific American - Yes, it's high level - but a 9th grader can read at least some of it, and the ideas - the Amateur Scientist section of the 70's and 80's - led me to my present (scientific) career.

Do your kids want this stuff? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23622615)

We all want to guide our kids and provide as many tools as necessary but to be honest..
If your kids are not interested in any of this stuff, they will get nothing out of it and you will get frustrated.

I played with Legos, those small electronic kits with the spring terminals, went to HAMFESTs, build stuff with the 555 timer chip, built cabins in the woods, and used to tear apart my bike and put it back together because I wanted too, not because my parents wanted me too.

My parents owned an electronics business and my dad was a jack of all trades and I spent a lot of time with him so maybe I naturally found interest in that stuff as well. Along that theory, my son likes to work on cars and computers as well so maybe kids typically enjoy doing what their parents do but I'm sure there are just as many that actively refuse to do what they parents are interested in as well. If they like hangin' with you, they will probably like doing stuff that you like to do and maybe even when they get to the teenage years.
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