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Disclaimer: Hacking means to take something apart and re-purpose it, change something about it, or just to learn about how it worked.  Hacking is not in reference to “hacking” a computer network/system for the purpose of doing illegal activity.  Hacking could be viewed as constructive destruction…

Our son is a serious hacker, maker, and tinkerer.  He started taking apart things around age 2.  He got a hold of a screw driver and took apart buzz light year.  From there it just continued.  At age 4 he started asking for broken toys and appliances as presents.  And we have encouraged this to this day.  He has displayed his hack creations at Mini Maker Faire two consecutive years.  He already has ideas for next year.  This post is dedicated to all the hackers, makers, and tinkerers like my son!

Hacking will lead to making and tinkering.  One can learn way more from taking something apart and building something new.  We view it as a cross of art and science with real life applications.  If you have never done it with your child, please do it!!!!

Thanks to our sons interests and passion we have taking apart the following: old cathode ray tube  TV, old computer monitor, lots of computers of various brands, lots of laptops of various brands, blender, coffee grinder, lots of vacuums of various brands, veterinary x-ray reader, medical pumps, pool pumps, VCR, cassette player, DVD player, walkman, mp3 players, iPod, lots of cell phones of various brands & ages, old fashioned phones, remote control toys, unlimited kinds of toys, electronic keyboards, car stereos, lots of various brands and kinds of speakers, projectors, and more.  My son recycles what can be recycled (various plastic and metal), properly does electronic disposal for parts that can’t be used, and hacks usable motors, speakers, gears, and LEDs.  He has wired fire alarms to play mp3 players.  He has hacked toys so they can play music or have a microphone hooked up so he can talk through them.  He runs motors and LEDs directly off batteries.  At 5 he built his Lego dinosaurs an air conditioning and sound system by using an old computer fan, 9v battery, snap circuit kit, and an mp3 player.  At 6 he built a marble run with old vacuum accessory parts, battery running a motor to give speed, and plumbing insulation. At 7 he made circuit art for his bedroom and bathroom (painted canvass and then glued on various components he liked the best).  At 8 he built an endermen speaker by using an old computer speaker, op amp, iPod, and battery pack holder from a remote control car.  Last night he wired up the endermen speaker to a digital converter box and projector so we could watch PBS on our living room wall without having to turn on the TV.  This is why hacking, making, tinkering is awesome!  It inspires learning, passion driven learning.  You won’t see this kind of learning in a traditional school, so do it in your home or find a makerspace near you!

To get ideas for projects you might want to check out MAKE magazine and Maker Faire websites.  Lots of cities host Maker Faires.  Make also has a youtube channel, books, and kits of electronic parts galore.  We are spoiled with a local store called EPO (electronic parts outlet).  My son is on a first name basis with the owner and one of their workers.  He’d live there if he could or at the lego/robotics place in town called Techno Chaos (another supporter of Making, hacking, & tinkering).  Adafruit is another company we’ve ordered things from.  And for less electronic intensive hacks, there is a website called DIY.org that is loaded with all kinds of make ideas of which are more low tech.  Seriously, don’t be afraid of taking things apart.  Only reminder is wash hands thoroughly afterwards!  And, dispose of the parts properly (we have a local metal recycling place that takes the copper & aluminum).  Lastly, have fun hacking!