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7th grader loves space & inventions... Help me guide him!


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My 13 year old son loves all things space. He reads books and watches documentaries about all kinds of topics relating to the universe. He also loves to learn about how things work. I give him plenty of time during the day to follow his own interests, but I'm having this nagging feeling that he needs more. I'm not sure what that more is, though.

He might need more direction and instruction. For example, he's talked about entering a contest for inventors, but he's never really invented anything. He talks about solutions to really big problems that exist in space travel, but I don't think he has any idea how to go about finding a solution to any of the problems. I don't have a clue either! 

I think he would thrive if he had the right instruction or tools or teacher, but I don't know how to make any of this happen. I've searched for inventors/robotics/space clubs and online groups/classes, but I haven't really found anything that seems right. I keep coming across contests that teams can enter, but I can't find information about how to join these teams. Most of them are through schools, and there's no way I can start a group because I have no clue how to lead it!

I live in a large city, so I should be able to find what he needs. I'm at such a loss and need help.

What does he need to help further his interest and how do I find it?

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It is totally okay to have an interest and just enjoy reading about it/talking about it. 😉 

2 hours ago, Homebody2 said:

...I've searched for inventors/robotics/space clubs and online groups/classes, but I haven't really found anything that seems right...


But if you think he really does want to do more than just read/watch documentaries on these topics, then "just do it" as the slogan says. You can't really know for sure if it's a fit or not unless you actually try it out.

Call or email the person listed and ask how DS can join. Make it clear you're happy to pay the club dues or contest entrance fee. Show up on the doorstep of the club meeting or the school and ask how DS can join the after school team or club in robotics or engineering. Since you're in a big city, look for a regional Science Fair program and find out how to join. That doesn't mean you have to run the club/team/contest -- just ask who's the advisor, and how to sign up. 😉 

Also, along about March, start looking for kid/teen summer programs, usually hosted by a university or community college -- usually a week long program in engineering, space, robotics, and other STEM subjects. And what about a summer Space Camp experience?

Also, look for community groups "in the ballpark"-- again, he may find he loses interest after a few meetings, but you do have to experiment a bit to find what fits a teen:
- Amateur Astronomy club
- Rocket Launching club
- 4-H Rocket Launching group
- electronics club, or meetings through a local hobby shop

And some "inventor" software:
Minecraft -- make lego-like creations and a whole world
Rollercoaster Tycoon -- very fun game/software for creating theme parks and rides
Kerbel Space Program - fantastic game/software for creating vehicles and completing missions into space
Tinker CAD - beginning/exploration CAD program for turning ideas into blueprints/designs
Code Academy; Code.org; Code Combat; Code Monster; Khan Academy -- learn to code for free

Also, it's hard to invent if you don't get some engineering skills; perhaps some of these might be an at-home starting place:
Make, Do
Tinker Crate or Maker Crate or Eureka Crate
Lego MindStorm
Raspberry Pi projects
electronics kits

Edited by Lori D.
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Thank you so much for all of the advice, Lori! My son is exploring Tinker CAD, and he's loving it. You also helped me step back a bit and think about if these feelings are about what I want for my son or what he wants. My son and I have had some good conversations these last few days, and now I have a better understanding of what he wants. It looks like space camp is in our future!

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6 minutes ago, Homebody2 said:

Thank you so much for all of the advice, Lori! My son is exploring Tinker CAD, and he's loving it. You also helped me step back a bit and think about if these feelings are about what I want for my son or what he wants. My son and I have had some good conversations these last few days, and now I have a better understanding of what he wants. It looks like space camp is in our future!


Yea! Glad something there was helpful. re: space camp -- How exciting! Those camps look SOOO cool! 😄 

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Our interests are less space specific, but our two older boys have enjoyed computer programming (Scratch and Python), Snap Circuits, Lego Mindstorms, creating projects using a Raspberry Pi and Arduino (along with various electronics components that we bought in a kit), Tinker Cad (then making their projects using our 3D printer), and just taking old toys and gadgets apart to see how they work.  We have several books with project ideas and borrow others from the library.  Sometimes they will follow projects from these books, other times they will change them around or make their own project with ideas they have learned.

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NASA used to have some great stuff on their website under an education tab so have him go in there and explore for a start.  There used to be some math based problem in space unit studies which might be fun for him.

  My Ds taught himself to code using multiple languages at that age using just online resources.  Many nice people who knew the answers to his questions helped him.

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