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This is a solder-together kit for studying the electrical impulses of cockroach neurons. The online instructions are excellent, with videos and plenty of clear photos of the assembly process. My 8-year-old daughter identified and inserted all the electrical components into the clearly marked printed circuit board through-holes, and I did the soldering. She asked me about the function of resistors, capacitors, timer chips, etc., and I felt she got a lot out of the activity.

But when it came time to pull a leg off one of the cockroaches ($10 for a set of three Blaberus discoidalis) and insert electrodes into it, my daughter objected. She had already named the bugs and enjoyed feeding them apple slices and petting their backs with her finger. I told her that the instructions indicated that cockroaches’ legs grow back, but she put her foot down. Now we have three pets and a gadget that produces Geiger-counter-like sounds when you touch the electrodes to your fingertips.

Mark Frauenfelder

Mark Frauenfelder is the editor-in-chief of Make magazine, and the founder of the popular Boing Boing blog.


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