OTTUMWA — Usually kids can be found having fun with their toys, but not this time. 4-H expo kids had fun being “electrical engineers” for an hour.

On Saturday, 4-H expo kids learned how to build an astable multivibrator circuit, a circuit that continually switches on its own and never has a steady condition. They received kits, allowing them to have the opportunity to learn about electronic components and how they interact to make circuits work.

Paul Cartwright, the spokesperson for the Ottumwa Amateur Radio Club hosted his third annual electronics workshop at the expo. Cartwright, his daughter Marissa and Terry Fletcher taught the children to build circuits.

For the children, building the circuit posed its share of joys and challenges. For Gage Denner, the struggle was working with different wires. “Trying to place the wires in the correct spots, making sure they’re not touching (was hard), he said. “Getting it (the circuit) to work made me happy.”

After all the kids got their circuits to work, some recounted their experience of participating in this workshop. “I thought it was fun because I’ve always been into electronics,” Carsten Burgess said.

“I thought it was cool,” Denner said, “I’ve never done that before. I just thought it was pretty fun.”

In fact Burgess and Denner had so much fun, they said they would attend the workshop again. Denner also recommend other kids try an electronics workshop. “Go to the workshop because you learn new stuff, “ he said, “(you) learn how to put circuits together and learn about problem solving.”

The kids weren’t the only ones who enjoyed themselves. Although Cartwright has been hosting electronics workshop for years, he never gets tired of hosting because of his passion for electronics.

“I think they’re fun,” Cartwright said, “The best part of doing these workshops is I get the kit ahead of time and get to build it myself. It’s fun and pushing yourself to get outside your comfort zone and grow. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘You don’t stop learning when you get old, you get old when you stop learning.’ For myself, I’m just trying to stay young.”

Cartwright also enjoys workshops because of the joy it brings to kids. “We enjoy teaching this stuff to people,” he said. “We like doing it and we wanna share it with others.”

Cartwright also enjoys the workshop because kids can learn real-world applications like problem solving. “How do you build something,” he said, “If it doesn’t work the first time — go back and figure out what it is that you need to do. That’s really what it is, to get the kids something hands on and build something and get that really great feeling of, ‘hey we got this to work.’”

Cartwright said another enjoyable concept of the electronics workshop is telling kids about different career opportunities that involve building circuits. “Electrical engineering would be one and building and designing circuits,” he said, “Technical jobs work. There’s a lot of people who go across the country, debugging and trying to fix broken equipment.”

Fletcher agreed with Cartwright, also noting the importance of going into a technical field. “It’s amazing how many very well-known technical people have launched their career in technology and electronics,” Fletcher said, “A lot started young and that’s what lead them into that field.”


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