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Our family reunions have become quite an affair now that my mother can tally 21 grandkids. Aged from 1 to 20, keeping them busy is a challenge. At last year’s reunion I brought a small LED craft project for the little kids, but I needed something more challenging for the older ones. Luckily, I came across this Game of Life Kit.

The Game of Life, as proposed by John Conway in 1970, is not really a game, but it’s fun to watch. From an initial pattern on a grid, it dictates simple rules that govern the life or death of each square. Through successive iterations, amazing shapes evolve, and the larger the grid, the more elaborate the patterns.

At the reunion, I pulled kids aside two at a time, gave them a brief lesson on soldering, and then let them try their hand at it. Then, as each kit was finished and tested, we attached it to the boards that were already assembled, where they communicated with one another, allowing more elaborate patterns to form. We wound up with ten boards all working together, and the assembly was as mesmerizing as the campfire. As each family prepared to leave at the end of the reunion, I gave each kid their board to take home.