We’ve been reading Nick and Tesla’s Super Cyborg Gadget Glove with some of our classes virtually every year since the first copies of the book rolled off the presses. It’s a fantastic STEM-themed YA mystery novel. What makes it (and the rest of the books in this series) really stand out from the crowd of superficially similar volumes are the hands-on maker activities (parts lists, instructions, and illustrations included) which the authors have embedded in the narrative.
Every time that we’ve tackled this story, we’ve given making the gloves a go, with varying levels of success from one year to the next. This time around, we’ve tried something new (for us) and a bit radical: furnishing each student with a kit containing everything that they’ll need to assemble their glove, including extras and spares, and challenging them to undertake the four glove-modification projects independently! The image that tops this post is a snapshot showing a portion of the inventory and tip sheet included in one of this year’s batch of kits.
Every student’s box includes all of the parts that they’ll need, divided among bags labeled F1, F2, F3, and F4 (for “Finger #1”, “Finger #2”, and so on). But that’s not all, as you can see in the photo below! The highlighter, when uncapped and dipped into a bowl of water, furnishes the “invisible ink” integral to the fourth activity. The spool visible to the right of the roll of electrical tape holds approximately three meters of single-core wire on that spool, much more than needed. We’ve also included a couple of extremely useful tools.
We knew from the outset that rounding up and packaging the parts (stuff like white LEDs, a piezo buzzer, and a voice recorder and playback modules designed for use in greeting cards) wouldn’t be enough. We’re hoping that we may be able to nurture an interest in electronics in the minds of some of the young people within this cohort of students. That meant going a bit further.
No strangers to hobbyist-level electronics ourselves, we appreciated how frustrating conventional, barebones “manual” wire strippers might be for some of our students to use. Even within the wide array of automatic wire strippers available nowadays, some designs and some brands are better than others. Each of our Nick and Tesla readers this year got their own brand spanking new pair of one of the same models of auto strippers that we’ve been using for years ourselves. They also lucked out in the pliers department. Every kit features a pair of nifty, spring-loaded needle nose pliers. We know from experience that the model we’ve supplied stands up to years of use and abuse and its built-in wire-cutters (the cutting edges at the base of the jaws) do a superlative job of snipping through large-gauge wire (note: the larger the gauge, the thinner the wire) and insulation.
Some sort of container was obviously necessary, both to enable each of our young makers to carry their glove and the tools and materials necessary for on-the-spot repairs and modifications, both during this read-through and afterwards, everywhere with them. And it goes without saying that every young maker needs a first toolbox! In the end, we hit on a practical and very satisfying solution: upcycled surplus cordless drill cases. The ones we sourced are rugged and completely invulnerable to rust — even the pins in the hinges are PP!
The kits have all been distributed and we’re looking forward to seeing our students’ Super-Cyborg Gadget Gloves take shape!