My personal fascination with electronics and technology started at a very early age when Santa brought a simple electronics experimenter kit one Christmas Eve. All the components were laid out on a board and each one had small wire springs for terminal contacts. The instruction book included diagrams showing how to hook up the wires to complete each circuit.
I can't remember all of the experiments exactly, but I do know there was a switch triggered burglar alarm, some light circuits, and a crystal radio, among others. The 'radio' used a rough crystal with a cat's whisker probe with no application. Luckily we were living in Southern California at the time with at least one 50,000 watt broadcast radio station that I could pick up.
I was very intrigued, and pleased, to discover Andrew Alter, a leading humanoid robot designer, Mech Warfare organizer, and RoboGames champion, explaining the Electronic Brick Starter Kit, since it shows that the same basic approach is still very much in use today.
In some ways, the Electronic Brick approach isn't particularly unique. Some readers may, correctly, point out that everything it does can also be accomplished with a basic electronics breadboard. All you have to do is layout the components on the breadboard and connect up the circuit using wires.
While I agree, in principle, the beauty of the Electronic Brick approach is that it eliminates the breadboarding and connecting part of the process. If you are prototyping a new circuit design, or experimenting with different component choices. the breadboard would certainly be the way to go.
On the other hand, if you want to learn about a specific component, or sensor, without having to fuss with circuit layouts, polarities, loose connections, or wires that pop out of sockets, then the Brick system seems perfect.
For example, earlier this year I participated in a local Arduino starter course. The instructor was very knowledgeable, and within a few hours he had everyone comfortable with the basics of programming and interfacing the Arduino to the outside world using switches, LEDs, and a low cost servo. Still, at least a good third of the time was spent explaining the breadboard concept, debugging circuit connection errors, and other similar exercises.
Getting novices, of any age, hooked on anything new, even technology, works best when it builds on a series of small successes. This is especially true in a classroom environment where time is always very limited. A teacher often has to deal with a large number of students and is working against the clock.
Eliminating the nonessential tasks so that the students can focus on the key material to be learned increases the possibility of them being successful. The more success they experience, the more likely they are to become hooked and want to try more and more. And, once they are hooked they will have the confidence and motivation to tackle more difficult projects that require breadboarding.
(Via Electronic Brick Starter kit.)