I was obsessed as a kid with my Radio Shack 160 in One Electronics Kit. Not so much because I aspired to be an electrical engineer or computer scientist, but because I wanted to be a spy. And I used it, loaded into an old briefcase, as my mobile espionage command-and-control center. My little sister had no idea her room was both ‘bugged’ and alarmed on any given afternoon ⏤ Q would have been proud.
I was reminded of those days recently when Mand Labs sent over its KIT-1, a similar-in-concept but remarkably-more-robust DIY electronics set designed to teach kids the basics of wires, circuits, and making buzzers beep. And when I say more robust, I mean the KIT-1 is like the 160 in One on steroids. It’s both impressive and intimidating ⏤ like an entire Radio Shack store in a box. It’s targeted to kids with zero electronics experience but, at least in appearance, feels far more advanced than that.
Rather than need an old briefcase, the KIT is its own portable carrying case with built-in handle. Open it up and it transforms into a workstation lab with multiple drawers and compartments to house trays of components, tools, and manuals. There’s even a breadboard carrying case to take projects on the go.
The KIT-1 comes loaded with more than 136 tools and components including switches, circuits, wires, sensors, and motors, not to mention breadboards, probes, pliers, and a multimeter. No soldering tools are provided or required. Kids can do up 54 projects in one of three learning levels, many of them in as little as 30 minutes, such as building an infrared burglar alarm, night light, and temperature sensor. An illegal listening device was not listed ⏤ naturally, I was disappointed. And while I didn’t fully put the KIT-1 through its paces ⏤ or bug our toddler’s room ⏤ it was intuitive and easy to use. Maybe not as easy as slipping wires into springs like with the 160, but not difficult. And using breadboard is obviously more useful as kids advance in their skills.
In addition to three guidebooks, the KIT-1 comes with step-by-step app-based instructions so kids can follow along on a tablet, as well as nine hours of HD learning videos. No, they’re not kidding with the education. For children with a discernible spark for electronics and science, the Mand kit seems like a strong jumping off point. Of course, it’s all upgradable as your little Tesla grows smarter and beyond the included materials.
There are two models of the KIT-1 available: the Standard, which costs $135 and includes 136 components and tools; and the Premium, which sells for $165 and, similarly, comes with 165 parts. Both are and sold on Amazon and through the company’s website.