One of the most often asked questions from children and adults alike is “how does it work?” and reverse engineering is the 1st step in the journey of finding out. In Little World, we recognize that fundamental engineering skills are learnt when taking apart, looking inside and putting back together objects from the home. It is truly the best way for young children (especially those kinesthetic learners) to understand what makes things do what they do.
Reverse engineering is taking apart an object to see how it works in order to duplicate or enhance the object. The practice, taken from older industries, is now frequently used in computer hardware and software design.
In our Tinker Space, we have placed several old laptops, keyboards, computer mouses (mice?), monitors and calculators. A few appliances that would be good for beginners include, clocks, radios, telephones, and electronic toys. Along with these we have placed a range of different types of tools, real tools, which children have the freedom to choose and use responsibly and safely. Through trial and error, children discover the correct size pliers or wrench to choose, the correct shape screwdriver to use, the correct force to exert on a wrench. As they disassemble, the children collect, organize and sort the screws, nails and various other pieces that hold the machine together.
The discussions and dialogue that arise from this activity is so important and actually quite amazing. Learning the names of the pieces, linking functions, research more about circuitry, even as simple as classifying materials used. Measuring wires and cables, identifying the colours found inside the computer, observing patterns in the use of different shaped screws. Magnetic tools, using flashlights to help see, identifying differences and similarities between parts. The options for extended learning are exhaustive and children feel a real sense of purpose when deconstructing items that are normally off limits!