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Author Topic: How old should a child be to handle a soldering iron?  (Read 10168 times)

Posts: 2

« Reply #15 on: April 24, 2017, 06:34:32 PM »

Like several that have responded, I too started out early building radios (soldering) and still enjoy it. However, may I share an experience that puts the original question in perspective. For 11 years I was an instructor at a camp for 4Her's that was held during spring break. The kids were all ages elementary to high school. Initially there were around 200 to finally around 400 kids and their adult leaders at camp along with the staff of around 30. The camp was electricity and electronic based. My part was with two electronic projects which the kids and their leaders had to build. One was a Radio Shack VOM kit and the other was a temperature sensor that connected to the VOM. This later project was of my design and featured point to point wiring. All kids and leaders in each camp session built both kits. We taught some basics, discussed safety in using a soldering iron and other tools, and then they went to work. The staff carefully watched over the build process encouraging and answering questions. The staff promise was that if an individual completed their kit, that they would leave with it working properly even if the staff had to troubleshoot, which in some cased meant a complete rebuild. We made sure that before each kit was initially used that it was checked for obvious issues. If it didn't work only the changes needed for it to work along with any safety issues found were made. We didn't try to pretty up the wiring. With the exception of a very few kits each year where the individual made no effort to complete the kit, all kits left camp working. Over 11 years some consistent observations were made. The young kids were the most eager to build the kits. They rarely made mistakes in installing parts because they asked lots of questions if they didn't understand what to do. The majority of their kit problems were due to poor soldering or solder bridges. The high school kids were more interested in talking to each other and they didn't ask questions. Maybe the presence of the younger kids made them reluctant to ask questions. Their kits had lots of misplaced parts and they too had soldering issues. The adult leaders also didn't ask questions but many of them completed their kit with minor soldering issues. However, each year there were several adults that spent the whole class time complaining about how difficult the two kits were for kids to work on and that it was dangerous to allow the kids to use a soldering iron and wire clippers. The young kids, after completing their kits spent the rest of the week talking about how much fun they had. If you talked to an older kid in private, some of them actually said they enjoyed the projects. During the 11 years, no one was ever seriously injured. Yes, a few briefly found the hot end of the soldering iron but most were very careful. Bottom line, get kids involved early, teach them proper use of all tools, be present to oversee them working and to answer their questions. It will be something that they will remember for years to come. And, we probably will gain more that a few hams in the process.
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