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Foundry Files

Snapping into Action with Snap Circuits Kits

Times have changed and so have learning processes. Before, the study of science was relegated to those that could master abstract concepts, involving lots of memorization and the drudgery of learning math. In reality, the advancement of science has only been possible by observation and good old fashioned trial and error. What is known in pedagogy as kinesthetic learning (hands-on learning) is the main concept behind the Snap Circuits kits that organizations around the world have been successfully using to introduce curious minds to the creative world of electronic circuits. After about 10 years of mentoring young students and reaching about 10,000 children in all regions of the world, we have found that the resilience and ease of use have made Snap Circuits the platform of choice.

It is hard to match the creativity of a five year old and there is a huge opportunity to provide venues for channeling and fostering the young, talented mind. It is important to make the learning process “fun” while building knowledge and self-esteem. Snap Circuits allow children to get the satisfaction of seeing their circuits in operation immediately after building them. Sometimes there is some troubleshooting involved which adds to their learning experience while building their confidence to tackle more advanced circuits.

A Bit (or Byte) of History

At the time that I started mentoring students with Snap Circuits at IBM in 2006, we were looking for creative activities that could convey to students what an electrical engineer does on a day-to-day basis. We started using the kits with local schools during Engineer Week visits, then expanded to the week-long camps we hosted for girls during the summer.

Since 2008, I expanded my involvement in mentoring to the IEEE’s Electron Devices Society (EDS) and, with the organization’s support, have been working with a number of engineers to inspire young minds through a worldwide mentoring program called EDS-ETC (Engineers Demonstrating Science: an Engineer Teacher Connection). Formally introduced in 2010, the program was designed with the help of volunteers from the Rochester, Boise and the Mid-Hudson Valley Chapters in New York. These dedicated volunteers ran initial evaluations working with their local science teachers ranging from the fourth through twelfth grade levels. In the first phase of the project, Snap Circuits kits were made available to chapters in the United States.

Shortly thereafter, the program was expanded to EDS chapters throughout the globe with participation from all IEEE regions, where local EDS chapter student members have been actively engaged. Now, the only requirement for chapters to receive kits free of charge is that they submit a plan indicating how they intend to use them. In 2015, more than 9,000 young students participated in over 130 events around the world

Engineering a Difference

The main goal of the program is to enable chapter members to visit local schools and host events designed to engage young students in the field of electrical engineering. By utilizing easy-to-use Snap Circuit Kits, students learn about electronic circuits using a “hands-on” approach to experience the exciting and creative field of electronics. We hope to encourage them to consider electrical and electronic engineering as a career. This versatile tool, along with EDS volunteers’ enthusiasm and expertise, has been used to demonstrate the many applications and motivate young students into the exciting electron devices field.

In order to make a difference in the world, we need to start by working within our own communities and local schools. We need to partner with local government and industry to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists that will work to solve the most pressing challenges we face in the world – clean water, wind/wave/hydropower, photovoltaics/solar cells, managing waste, geothermal, energy crops, energy harvesting, health care and many more. There will be plenty of work for the next generation of engineers. The technologies that advanced manufacturers develop and deliver to their customers will shape the future. We all need to contribute in order to keep the pipeline of engineers going by sharing our knowledge with the young minds that will ensure a bright future for our planet.

Get involved today!

Check with your employer to learn about available education outreach programs. Organize a maker faire or team up with local teachers and co-workers to get a mentoring program started.

Snap Circuits kits are a great way to get students of all ages engaged. Other options include Raspberry Pi™, Arduino™ and more!

Click here for additional information about the IEEE EDS-ETC program and to view a related video.


About Author

Dr. Fernando Guarín

Dr. Fernando Guarín is a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at Global Foundries in East Fishkill NY and also Adjunct Lecturer at SUNY New Paltz. He retired from IBM’s SRDC after 27 years as Senior Member of Technical Staff. He earned his BSEE from the “Pontificia Universidad Javeriana”, in Bogotá, Colombia, the M.S.E.E. degree from the University of Arizona, and the Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University, NY He has been actively working in microelectronic reliability for over 35 years. From 1980 until 1988 he worked in the Military and Aerospace Operations division of National Semiconductor Corporation. In 1988 he joined IBM’s microelectronics division where he worked in the reliability physics and modeling of Advanced Bipolar, CMOS and Silicon Germanium BiCMOS technologies.

Dr. Guarín is an IEEE Fellow, Distinguished Lecturer for the IEEE Electron Devices Society, where he has served in many capacities including; member of the IEEE’s EDS Board of governors, chair of the EDS Education Committee, Secretary for EDS. He is now the EDS President-Elect 2016-2017.

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