(Note: Post updated on 3-19-16.)
Makerspaces are hot, and many educators are constantly looking for recommendations on what tools to get for their students. I’m so excited to see so many teachers and librarians working on grants and proposals to get Makerspaces in their schools. Instead of constantly writing 140 character posts on what tools I recommend for makerspaces, I thought it would make more sense to put together a series of posts. These posts are divided into four parts: Electronics (this post), Engineering Tools, Technology/Robotics and DIY/Crafts.
NOTE: Before you get started buying up tools for your makerspace, make sure you take the time to plan and ask yourself these 5 questions. You want to create the best space possible for your students with the tools that work best towards your goals for the space.
Disclaimer: I have not used every single tool I recommend here. Many of them are in my makerspace. Those that I have not used I have recommended here based on the experiences of my peers. Also, please not that prices are constantly changing; these are current as of the update of this post)
Awesome Electronics Tools for your Makerspace
- MaKey MaKey $49.99 – If you haven’t seen MaKey MaKey yet, stop what you’re doing right now and go watch this video. Did you watch it? Okay, good. MaKey MaKey is a simple plug and play device that can connect to any computer with a USB port and in turn make anything conductive into a key. Banana pianos, play-doh video game controllers, the possibilities are endless and super cool. It’s very easy to start out with and works with all age levels. For those who want to go more in depth, it pairs beautifully with Scratch programming.
- Elenco Snap Circuits (750 piece kit with case, $127.99) – We have this set in my middle school library and they have been hugely popular. It’s fairly easy to follow along with the diagrams, snap together the circuit pieces and create all sorts of electronics – the most popular ones at my school are fan shooters, radios and blinking lights. There’s room to go more in depth about how circuits work and to create your own circuits as well. My only issue has been that they aren’t indestructible – we’ve had a few LEDs burn out, and a few pieces have gotten broken, but I feel that’s a given with almost any tool that you leave out for students to tinker with. My students love them and with so many parts, there’s tons of project possibilities. They work for upper-elementary and middle school age, and I have a feeling that high-schoolers would find them fun too.
- Squishy Circuits Kit $25 – Check out AnnMarie Thomas’ TED talk for a great intro to Squishy Circuits. Squishy circuits are some of the simplest circuit kits out there – you simply mix up a batch of conductive play-doh and a batch of resistant play-doh, hook up batteries, LEDs, fans, etc, and make circuits. Perfect for introducing little kids to circuits – and the big kids love them too. It also adds an excellent arts component to electronics – kinetic, electronic art sculptures. Hello STEAM!
- Soft Circuits – One super fun way to learn about circuits is to sew them with conductive thread. Check out Leah Buechley’s amazing book, Sew Electric, for more ideas and resources.
- Take Apart Tech Station – While not necessarily a product that you buy, a take apart tech station is a wonderful thing to have in a Makerspace. All it takes are some basic tools, some garage sale electronics, and a little bit of supervision, and students can start discovering what the insides of electronics look like. One piece of advice – cut of the power cables to avoid any accidental shocks when students decide to plug in that torn apart toaster.
These are magnetic circuit sets that connect together to create all kinds of combinations. Check out Ayah Bdeir’s TED talk on them for a great introduction. These sets are fairly intuitive and easy to use. There are diagrams available for basic creations, and it’s pretty easy to come up with your own inventions too. They’re a bit on the pricey side, but are well worth the money. Plus, you can get them through DonorsChoose by using Amazon as your vendor.
- littleBits Gizmos & Gadgets Kit $197.48 – I LOVE the Gizmos & Gadgets kit because it includes great accessories to help your students get creating.
- littleBits Synth Kit $130.99 – Who says that science and music can’t work together? This kit is super fun.
- littleBits Arduino Coding Kit $78.27
- littleBits Workshop Set $1,791 – This kit is fabulous for supporting large groups of students, and comes with a tacklebox carrying case.
Kits for Individuals/Small Groups
- Circuit Scribe Maker Kit $75.99 – Why just play with circuits when you can DRAW them? This kit includes a notebook, circuit ink pen and lots of components. It’s more of a one student at a time kit than a group tool. I’ve seen schools start circuit clubs before through DonorsChoose where they get one kit per student.
- Chibitronics STEM Starter Kit $94.70 – With this kit, students can learn how to make circuits with stickers. Like the Circuit Scribe kit, this works better having one kit per students or small group of students.
Is there an electronics tool I missed that you love? Leave a comment and let me know.