Most US eighth graders have taken apart a gadget to fix it or see how it works

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Buncha criminals is what they are.


I wouldn’t expect that number to have changed much relative to previous years. 'Tis frequent that some beloved toy or another breaks down and proves to be irreplaceable for one reason or another, isn’t it?

Of course, on the one hand, things are probably a lot more difficult to crack open than they once were. On the other hand, Youtube instructional videos have never been more plentiful.


Having the right mindset is key, and is somewhat difficult to teach.

Just remember that everything you own was assembled in some factory somewhere, and there’s a good chance a human was involved. Unless they glued it shut (which is fairly rare), then you can reverse the process to open it back up. Figure out how they put it together and you’ve solved the puzzle. 90% of that is just looking for some screws you can take out, or failing that finding a seam that you can gently pry apart. Nothing you own is magic. Nothing was assembled by a wizard. Nobody built some weird robotic contraption to put a screw in someplace that human fingers can’t reach. All you gotta do is figure out what part was installed last and take that off then repeat until you’ve found the broken bit.


My second-grader’s school has “take apart day” - all second grade students bring in an old machine or electronic device and take it apart to see what’s inside. I volunteered to help, and they were so excited to take stuff apart. I’d love to see students “dissect” electronics at least as often as they dissect animals. (do they still dissect animals in schools?)


I’d be interesting in seeing the definitions list in their methodology section…


for me it was an old Nikko RC car.


For me it was the Froghopper. they were cheap but fast and always ended up losing their front spoiler to some colision or other upon which i would replace them with Meccano studded with bolts… It wasn’t something you wanted crashing into your ankles I can tell you. tycoturbohopper0031


As is having the right set of pentalobe drivers, spudgers and soldering equipment. But I digress…


My local library has “Take It Apart Tuesdays” as well as “Franken Toys” during the holidays (Halloween this year and Christmas potentially next year too.)

My eldest was way too young to attend (preschool), but the workshop leader said it was ok to watch and participate as long as I did all the heavy work. My kid loves it, and we dropped the unofficial age limit down to preschool. We also bring our own tools, so we don’t inconvenience the other parents, some of whom were quite put out that we were taking up two seats, as it should be as it’s not day care and parents are requested to attend with their kids.

We take things apart regularly. If you aren’t taking apart broken or old equipment with your kids, you are missing a golden opportunity to let them learn on their own.

I recommend old hard drives to start. I loosen the screws and then spin them back on, and then let my kid loose with scraper and drivers. There is nothing like the wow sounds they make when seeing the spindle and jewels (platters) of a hard drive. Plus when it is all done, there is copper wire and magnets (strong enough to pinch) to work with later. It all goes to get recycled at the ewaste center afterwards, and they have a program to work with the equipment that has already been taken apart.

I can’t answer all the questions my now kids have about equipment, and I regularly say, “I don’t know” and “I think this does x, but it may not”, and this is really important too. My kids have to know I am not an expert in all things, and trust building is a constant process. I trust them to hurt themselves while taking things apart. I also trust them to do their best to be safe.

I do check capacitors or anything that looks like a large capacitor before I let my kids explore an object. Then again, I have a scar from my teens on my hand from having a scalpel plunged through my hand as I accidentally made contact with a high voltage capacitor. I was using the scalpel to remove tape and glue from a circuit board. Lesson learned. (My mother lectured me the entire time we went from shuttered urgent care office to shuttered urgent care office. She never once suggested I stop, but she did say I would be the death of her.)


There’s something to be said for a kid’s first tool set.

Let’s see…
Screwdrivers (000-1 Philips, smaller flat heads, Jewelers) or 4mm hex bit set (including pentalobe, tri-wing and other “security” bits)
Diagonal cutters
Hammer (give later after they have a big arsenal, so the kid doesn’t fall into the “everything looks like a nail” trap.)
Socket wrench? Nah, maybe 1/4" hex nutdrivers
Eye protection
Nitrile gloves
Jeweler’s loupe or magnifying headset (though it doesn’t matter so much for kids)
Good lights and flashlight
Various pry tools: guitar picks, shim steel, paper clips, etc.
Soldering iron/station, solder sucker or wick
Volt meter
Hobby knife
Cutting mat

The list can go on and on.


Most US eighth graders

Tomorrows leaders!


I had the Bandido, which came in kit form but was pretty easy to assemble.

I found it at my parent’s house a few years ago and tried to give it another run (salvaging a battery pack from another model), but the plastic axles had gotten crispy with age and immediately snapped. The parts are long gone and the idiosyncratic sizes meant there were no replacements to be found. This was before 3D printing too. If my parents still have it it might be possible to get it running again, but I kind of suspect the plastic gears in the gearbox will fail in the same way once the axles are replaced. Probably not worth the effort.

However, the Sophisticated Lady I have still works fine. Balsa and Mylar apparently survive better than whatever cheapass plastic Cox uses. Mine wasn’t the exactly model listed here. The wings and tail assembly were not pre-built in my kit, you had to line up all of the spars on a piece of paper and glue them into place before covering with monokote. The kit was just a bunch of sticks, a manual, and some large sheets of 1:1 scale drawing that you placed the parts on when constructing. Much more involved than the Bandido but still within the realm of reason for a teenager.

That article lies about the sturdiness of the tail. Land it rough once and the default design turns to mush. I had to rebuild it almost immediately. The flimsy plastic cockpit didn’t last long either, but was easy enough to replace with a balsa bit.


We have 3 Traxxas pre-builts in our house:
and a Nitro Jato:

I also have a cheap ECX for my youngest to bash around with:

I also have the Tamiya Rising Storm that I built and then upgraded the hell out of:

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“In 2018, fifty-three percent of eighth-grade students reported that they believed they could perform a variety of technology- and engineering-related tasks such as taking something apart to fix it or see how it works.”

I believed I could do a lot of things in 8th grade too.


Putting back together was the hard part.

I attribute all of my hands on confidence back to a giant box of lego.
I also enjoy reading instructions, I think that also came from lego but was honed with model airplane building.



Bone saw
Needles and needle holders





Never underestimate the satisfaction that can be had by going “full Office Space” on a recalcitrant piece of equipment. :sunglasses: