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Is it safe for kids to take apart electronics?

Discussion in 'Electronic Repair' started by momwithtools, Feb 11, 2005.

  1. momwithtools

    momwithtools Guest

    For an elementary school project, I'd like the children to take apart some
    old electronics to get an idea of how things work, what goes into each
    product, etc. My question is: Are there certain electronics or appliances
    we should stay away from because of chemicals or something else that would
    be unsafe for the children? Please advise.
    Thank you!
    Mom With Tools
     
  2. NSM

    NSM Guest

    Cut the plugs off first. Anything with a tube is bad.

    Generally it's not a good idea IMO. Stick to books. Lots of sharp edges etc.
    inside things.
     
  3. N Cook

    N Cook Guest

    ..com...
    One of my electronic hints on
    http://homepages.tcp.co.uk/~diverse
    is the following , most safety factors covered but I'm sure there
    are more eg kid with hacksaw sawing into a power
    transistor and eating the Beryllium Oxide as Sherbert Lemon

    Something to keep a kid occupied on a wet weekend
    Obtain a dumped VCR (older the better) and get little Johny to take apart
    to the last screw and washer.
    Safety note cut off the mains lead should he think of powering up,
    powerful magnets inside so could nip fingers also sometimes
    strong springs that need to be released carefully and some
    screws and circlips may be beyond strength or dexterity of a kid.
    Interesting bits to be found inside that can be instructively re-used.
    Motors and solenoids usually about 12V,pulleys,belts and cogs.
    Often a compact reduction gear train attached to one motor.
    Infra-red LED transmitter and reciver.
    Dew sensor (humidity) usually Aluminium plate screwed onto the base
    of the video head assembly - holding usually white ceramic with dark grey
    square on it or green epoxy lump with 2 wires coming from it.
    Put on a DVM and breath on it.
    Inside the capstan motor often 3 Hall effect sensors that would
    need desoldering. Put about 5V on the pins that were paralleled
    together on the pcb. Or find pair of pins with DVM diode
    test with low forward drop in either direction to find the
    power pins (assuming 4 pin variety). Monitor the voltage
    between the other 2 pins with moving magnet.
    Observe the video heads under a kids microscope and imagine
    how those turns of fine wire are looped through that tiny hole.
    Count all the bits and pieces that make up a VCR
     
  4. Bob Shuman

    Bob Shuman Guest

    It depends on their ages.... I recall spending many an afternoon taking
    apart junker TVs and radios (and lawnmowers, etc.) that I found in the
    garbage during Spring clean up. I did this in my parent's basement and
    garage. It led me to experiment with the components I salvaged and
    eventually led to electrical engineering and computer science degrees. I
    still love to fix stuff and see how it works ... to my wife's dismay, I even
    still pull items occasionally from the neighbor's trash pick up and in some
    cases even return them to them working again.

    Go for it if they are old enough not to get hurt. Just make sure you know
    and warn them about any hazards.

    Bob
     
  5. TCS

    TCS Guest

    Don't forget to warn the parents.

    The only thing more dangerous than a programmer with a soldering iron is a
    10 year old with a set of screwdrivers and an interest in seeing the insides
    of everything.
     
  6. John Bachman

    John Bachman Guest

    The answer to your subject question: No! It is not a safe project.

    That being said, there are many of us who did exactly that in the
    basements of our homes, spawning interesting and lucrative careers.
    It was not a safe activity there either, but who would be at fault?
    Us that is who.

    In your situation who?

    My advice is to find another way to introduce your students to
    electronics. How about a hands on description of how video games
    work?

    JMHO

    John
     
  7. Ken Weitzel

    Ken Weitzel Guest

    And check with the secretary treasurer of the school board...
    make sure there's (number of kids * millions of dollars) worth
    of insurance in place.
     
  8. hemyd

    hemyd Guest

     
  9. Luca T.

    Luca T. Guest

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    Hash: SHA1

    momwithtools wrote:
    | For an elementary school project, I'd like the children to take apart some
    | old electronics to get an idea of how things work, what goes into each
    | product, etc. My question is: Are there certain electronics or appliances
    | we should stay away from because of chemicals or something else that would
    | be unsafe for the children? Please advise.
    | Thank you!

    What age?

    Bye,
    ~ Luca
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    Comment: Using GnuPG with MultiZilla - http://enigmail.mozdev.org

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    =rR17
    -----END PGP SIGNATURE-----
     
  10. hemyd

    hemyd Guest

    There are also electronic kits for children. A discussiob on a circuit board
    is (in my opinion) woth more than pulling it apart. Pulling a component
    apart will usually not indicate to a child how it works.

    I recall as a 6 year old 'dismatling' an old capacitor. I expected to find
    some magic mechanism inside. All I found was strips of some metallic foil
    and yucky stuff. Didn't teach me anything about electronics - until I was
    'bitten by the bug' 15 years later.

    Henry.
     
  11. Consdering the things kids get into without high tech, that's kind of
    a limiting approach.

    Sure, there are sharp pieces of sheet metal and tensioned springs but
    with supervision, such an exercise can be fun and safe.

    Would have been happy following your own advice? :)

    --- sam | Sci.Electronics.Repair FAQ Mirror: http://repairfaq.ece.drexel.edu/
    Repair | Main Table of Contents: http://repairfaq.ece.drexel.edu/REPAIR/
    +Lasers | Sam's Laser FAQ: http://repairfaq.ece.drexel.edu/sam/lasersam.htm
    | Mirror Sites: http://repairfaq.ece.drexel.edu/REPAIR/F_mirror.html

    Note: These links are hopefully temporary until we can sort out the excessive
    traffic on Repairfaq.org.

    Important: Anything sent to the email address in the message header above is
    ignored unless my full name is included in the subject line. Or, you can
    contact me via the Feedback Form in the FAQs.
     
  12. momwithtools

    momwithtools Guest

    Thanks for all the responses. More warnings than encouragement,
    unfortunately. Can anyone think of an appliance or electronic you would
    recommend the children take apart? Maybe one you consider "safe"? Sounds
    like TVs are definitely out of the picture (no pun intended!).

    Thanks again for all the great responses!
    Mom With Tools
     
  13. NSM

    NSM Guest

    No, but it wasn't a school supervised project, and back then we thought
    carbon tet was ok to breathe! We've learned a lot since then.
     
  14. NSM

    NSM Guest

    You'd be better off to invite someone with the skills to do a show and tell
    for you.
     
  15. Right, basically stay away from TVs, CRT monitors, abd microwave ovens.

    The primary dangers from others devices are sharp sheet metal, and maybe
    a few springs. Most equipment doesn't really have dangerous chemicals
    as long as the kids wash their hands after handling the stuff. But
    there may be plenty of just plain dirt and dust in used equipment.

    Tape recorders and players, CD/DVD players and CD/DVD drives, boomboxes,
    talking toys, remote controlled or motorized toys, and so forth should
    be low risk. Things with motors will certainly be more exciting than
    stuff like receivers without moving parts.

    I agree that if they are too young, better to have someone do the taking
    apart while explaining each part. But once they are handy with a screwdriver,
    it will be difficult to prevent a curious mind from exploring....

    --- sam | Sci.Electronics.Repair FAQ Mirror: http://repairfaq.ece.drexel.edu/
    Repair | Main Table of Contents: http://repairfaq.ece.drexel.edu/REPAIR/
    +Lasers | Sam's Laser FAQ: http://repairfaq.ece.drexel.edu/sam/lasersam.htm
    | Mirror Sites: http://repairfaq.ece.drexel.edu/REPAIR/F_mirror.html

    Note: These links are hopefully temporary until we can sort out the excessive
    traffic on Repairfaq.org.

    Important: Anything sent to the email address in the message header above is
    ignored unless my full name is included in the subject line. Or, you can
    contact me via the Feedback Form in the FAQs.
     
  16. I suspect for many here, they were young when they get interested
    in electronics. But as the decades go by, they lose track of that.

    I passed the test for a ham license in elementary school, though
    it was in June so I wasn't technically licensed until I was finished
    with grade six (and here, that's when elementary school ended).

    That was right on the cusp of tubes disappearing, so later that year
    I did have plenty of tube equipment to play with.

    I think taking apart things has a tendency to demistify things. Not
    so much in learning, but with everyone so afraid of electronics, a
    certain familiarity with what's inside changes that at least a bit. But
    random taking things apart isn't likely to be useful, unless those doing
    it have an interest (and a limited bit of knowledge so some of the things
    are identifiable) or the adult (given that this seems to be a school project)
    has taken the time to get some grounding so they can point out what's what.

    If someone is really concerned about safety, they could either strip out
    the switching supplies in those VCRs, or restrict the project to battery
    operated items like cassette players and portable radios.

    Michael
     
  17. I disagree. Taking things apart was one of the major starting
    points for me in learing about electronics (I started when I was about
    five or so).

    Properly supervised, and taught to use the correct tools and
    procedures, such activity could be very beneficial in later life, and
    not just for electronics. General mechanical knowledge of
    disassembly/reassembly teaches logic, hand-eye coordination, and
    (perhaps most importantly) safety in what NOT to do!

    My suggestion would be to hitch up with the local amateur radio
    club. A listing of such can be found at http://www.arrl.org -- I would
    wager they could come up with an easy way to merge their introductory
    program to yours.

    Happy hunting.


    --
    Dr. Anton T. Squeegee, Director, Dutch Surrealist Plumbing Institute.
    (Known to some as Bruce Lane, ARS KC7GR,
    kyrrin (a/t) bluefeathertech[d=o=t]calm -- www.bluefeathertech.com
    "If Salvador Dali had owned a computer, would it have been equipped
    with surreal ports?"
     
  18. Asimov

    Asimov Guest

    "momwithtools" bravely wrote to "All" (11 Feb 05 17:50:25)
    --- on the heady topic of "Is it safe for kids to take apart electronics?"

    mo> From: "momwithtools" <>
    mo> Xref: aeinews sci.electronics.repair:10246

    mo> For an elementary school project, I'd like the children to take apart
    mo> some old electronics to get an idea of how things work, what goes into
    mo> each product, etc. My question is: Are there certain electronics or
    mo> appliances we should stay away from because of chemicals or something
    mo> else that would be unsafe for the children? Please advise.
    mo> Thank you!
    mo> Mom With Tools

    The lead (Pb) on circuit boards is very toxic to children and can lead
    to brain damage resulting in developmental retardation. Some
    heatsinks have highly toxic beryllium oxide insulators which can be
    dangerous if broken or scratched. Be sure they always wash their hands
    well. Any cuts or scratches must be thoroughly flushed clean in
    addition to disinfection. There are new studies implicating common
    plasticizers (phtalates), which may cause reproductive abnormalities,
    repressed immune system. It has been found that these are breaking
    down in the environment into more toxic forms instead of dissipating.
    Never let children chew on plastic pens, wire insulation, parts, etc,
    which tend to leach such plasticizers. There are many unknown circuit
    cleaning compounds which trace amounts may have deleterious effects.
    The list is long but I'll probably get flamed for just these few...

    A*s*i*m*o*v
     
  19. TimPerry

    TimPerry Guest

    Unfortunately disassembly of most modern electronics give no real clue as to
    how or why it works. is all little black blobs soldered to pc boards.

    Old real to real recorders or VCRs have enough mechanical gizmos in them to
    make it interesting.

    An older radio receiver with slide rule tuning might be fun. (restringing
    one is a fading art)

    Cassette decks have a lot in the way of gears and motors and clutch
    assemblies.

    Older car radios (if you can find any) with the mechanical pushbuttun
    tuning... (remember pulling out to set the preset?)

    old computers. how many 286 Leading Edges or Epsons are there laying
    around? you cant tell much but you get the idea of how ISA cards go in and
    out of slots.

    I'd estimate dismantling this stuff, as long as its not plugged in, is safer
    then skateboarding on the half pipe.
     
  20. N Cook

    N Cook Guest

    I must have been about 7 when I got my first 240V electric shock.
    Bedroom light switch was a push/push switch on the end of a
    vertical cord from the ceiling. I must have thought it was safe
    to unscrew the housing on this switch , when the light was off, to see
    what was inside.
     
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