One of my original rules for this blog is "keep the personal to a minimum." I'm going to write a few lines about my sons, but I think this post also applies - in a broader context - to anyone who has kids (or nieces/nephews) with an interest in engineering.
I'm sure that thousands of pages has been written about the "science crisis" in America, and the shrinking number of children who become interested in science and pursue it as a career. I am not about to offer my two cents on why it is happening or even whether it is real. And I'm not the sort of father to push my kids into the same field as I. But I do have kids who are interested in science and, like other fathers, I want to encourage them to learn. So I'm going to write a few paragraphs about that.
For Christmas both of my boys got electronics kits. They've been interested in opening up some of the toys they have to see how they work, and asking me lots of questions. The younger one got a Snap Circuits set. It's kind of a cross between legos and electronics. So far he really likes it.
My older son got an Electronics Learning Lab. He played with it some when he first got it, but the jury is still out on whether he likes it. The manual for it is written by Forrest Mims, and while I like his work and have a couple of the notebooks he has written, I'm not sure if his style is suitable for kids learning electronics.
On the flip side, I liked this kit when I first saw it - it reminded me of the breadboard setup when I had my first electronics class in college.
A couple of years ago my older son joined the Robotics club at his middle school. They participate in the First Lego League competitions. They use Lego Mindstorms robots to complete specific tasks in a set amount of time, they research a specific topic and present their results, and they learn. My son has enjoyed it a lot, plus he was actually excited when I showed him some of my LabVIEW code, since the Mindstorms use a simplified version of LV for their programming.
So, there's a few ideas for anyone who has kids that are interested in electronics and science. Hopefully they're useful for you.