High Tech Discovery Tour

After an unexpectedly successful first edition of the High Tech Discovery Tour at Almelo, this year’s edition has returned with a similar recipe.

Twelve tech companies at Almelo opened their doors to the public, and Benchmark Electronics participated as well this year around. Well, sort of, as only the lobby was open to the public. Here various products were displayed that were developed and/or produced at Almelo, hardware production methods were explained, the site’s history was delineated, and children could conduct several experiments.

The event is actually mainly aimed at children, to show them how fun and exciting technology can be to offer context and inspiration for possible future studies in tech. Compared to other sectors the technological sector still has a rather negative image, not to mention the gender gap, that it can’t seem to shake off. It’s a tangent I won’t further elaborate on, though most certainly deserves more attention.

Due to a lack of budget I’ve had to improvise to put together a fun set of experiments for kids. Ideally the experiments would be somewhat representative of Benchmark’s activities rather than be a collection of unrelated little science experiments. I’ve been scavenging the department for parts left over from old projects (representative of Benchmark: check) to see if I could concoct something with those parts.

The parts I scavenged were ideal for preparing wire loop games. A large scale version making use of the logic function of a Fluke 115 Multimeter would be at the centre of it. A bit of leftover foamboard, some playful artwork, and some welding wire, all in conjunction with the multimeter, would form the main impromptu wire loop game.

For the kids I prepared small versions by creating foam board post cards containing instructions describing the experiment. They’d receive a bit of copper wire which they could bend into the shape they wanted, and then stick the ends in the sides of the foam board. The shape would complement the drawing they could make on the post card with conductive ink, which would double as a basic electric circuit. Finally, a small lithium battery and a rigid metal loop with flexible wire would be added to their post card to complete the wire loop game.

As example, and as inspiration for the kids, I drew a plant pot on a post card, and made a flower shape out of copper wire. The flower forms the wire loop game, and the plant pot the electric circuit. The experiment touches all facets of multidisciplinary product design, from sketching to prototyping, stretching their design beyond the demarcated post card shape, integrating functionality with aesthetics.

Children loved being able to craft, and I saw the most wonderful creations pass by: a face drawn on the post card with the copper wire being used to form a crazy hairdo, a tree sticking out from the forest, a robot with an antenna on its head and wires as arms, an elephant with large ears, and more. Their creativity and enthusiasm knew no bounds, which was great fun to see. Perhaps (and hopefully) this day has helped spark their interest in technology.


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