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Back in December, we posted a piece about Lucas, a six-year-old who’d learned how to solder and made a battery-powered guitar amp for his grandmother for Christmas. Six might be a little young for most kids to handle a soldering iron, but each person is obviously different (and you likely know what your kids can/cannot handle).

At one of the Maker Faires, a kid asked me if he could build the Solarbotics Herbie that’d he’d just bought in the Maker Shed, as I made up some Mousey the Junkbots. He was maybe 9. He’d never soldered, he was fidgety, and he kept nearly dropping the iron, nearly burning himself, soldering-desoldering-resoldering bad welds — I was on pins and needles the whole time. He finished the bot a lot faster than I’d finished my first Herbie. He put in a battery, turned it on, and it took off with a shot. It worked! I was stunned. He’d built his faster than I had and I’d had to resolder at least one connection and futz with my whiskers. So, never underestimate kids.

At the same time, be reasonable, use common sense, and BE SAFE. When we posted Lucas’ project the first time, readers were quick to correctly point out that it was a big no-no to have a 6-year-old (or maker of any age) soldering without safety glasses on. His dad admitted it was foolish — no excuses. And Lucas did get a nasty little iron burn, which he shows off in one of the pics in the Flickr set. Such burns do come with the territory, at any age.

Six year old with a soldering iron

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Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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