Electronic Products & Technology


Electronics for the Evil Genius

How to attract kids (and certain grown-ups) to robotics and electronics technology careers is challenge to educators, parents and manufacturers in Canadian society.

Engineering disciplines (heavy on the discipline) are considered too difficult for many considering their career paths. But when a little fun is injected, like the First LEGO League and FIRST Robotics competitions do for school children, then inspiration takes over and team play kicks in.

Lesson 22:  Measuring NAND gate switch points (left).

So when I saw the book title Electronic Circuits for the Evil Genius (ECFTEG), I thought what better hook to get kids rubbing their hands with nefarious intent and a generating alarming laughter?

In his preface to the second edition of ECFTEG (64 Lessons with Projects), BC-based author Dave Cutcher, states "we casually accept electronics in our everyday world. Those who don’t understand how it works are casually obedient. Those who take the time to learn electronics are viewed as geniuses."

The inept "Evil" Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz from Disney’s
Phineas & Ferb cartoon show.

Cutcher’s book is part of the Evil Genius Series from McGraw-Hill (www.mcgraw-hill.com) by a variety of authors that includes Electronic Sensors for the Evil Genius, Mechatronics for the Evil Genius, Robotics Experiments for the Evil Genius and PICAXE Microcontroller Experiments for the Evil Genius.

Before jumping into each set of projects, Cutcher provides introductions to the topic, including basic components, digital electronics, counters and amplifiers. Bills of materials (called Parts Bins) and oscilloscope test procedures are provided, as well as useful appendices for further reference material in the book and online.

Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s obvious tattoo.

Last fall my 12-year-old daughter and I visited an electronics surplus store in downtown Toronto for a class art project that involved constructing a miniature Ferris wheel. One double-A battery pack, dc motor, some fresh solder and pushbutton switch later, we were on our way. At her age, I played with Heathkits, the "Evil Genius" project platform of its day, and never looked back as an electronics technology career beckoned.

"Do you want to learn how to control the power of electronics?" asks Cutcher in his new book.

Perhaps a better statement than "I for one welcome our new computer overlords" by contestant Ken Jennings’ message on Final Jeopardy vs. IBM’s winning Watson natural language supercomputer (right).