Taking a look at the next robot we want to tackle brought up a nice learning opportunity. The project we decided to build has a nice circuit diagram to explain how it all goes together. Not surprisingly, this didn't mean much to Alex. So, I explained how the diagram can be used to flatten out the design and show how current flows through the circuit. This can make it easier to see where you might have a problem or could make an improvement. It also helps others look at the design and understand it easier.
I spent a little while checking out other online resources for understanding circuit diagrams that I could share with Alex, but I couldn't decide which to use. I found great stuff, but they were more advanced than I thought he needed just yet and not too fun for a youthful read. So, I took some inspiration from “How to Read a Schematic” on sparkfun.com and a couple of other glossary pages like this one to make up some circuit diagram flashcards.
Each card has a symbol on it and the reverse has the name of that component. They're still pretty basic and can be improved greatly by adding more information about the component and what it does. This set includes the components we'll be using in one of our upcoming projects and we can add more as our projects use more and different things. The idea is to give Alex a look at these components early and then present them to him in the project diagram. He'll be better equipped to identify them and ready to take the next step of learning how they work together to pass that cool little current around and around to make a robot do something awesome.
I was pleased to see him sit down with his younger sister and have fun going through them as they both memorized the cards and quizzed each other. Yes!
Take a look at one other resource I found at The Physics Classroom on Current Electricity that covers current and electronics, too. It walks you through it progressively with little quizzes at the bottom of each page. Good stuff!