I’ve been working on finishing my basement for a few months now. We started essentially with a blank slate and the end goal is a new family room with added square footage for our house. The latest project phase: electrical.

I’ve done some various basic electrical work before and I initially thought I could complete this part of project on my own. Then I realized I had no clue how most of the wiring worked beyond the basics of where the black wire and the white wire go (which was already labeled on the outlet).

Meanwhile I was excited to see that University of St. Thomas School of Engineering professor AnnMarie Thomas along with one of her students have put together a winning recipe for getting kids started in electronics tinkering at a very young age.

Squishy circuits are a project from the Thomas Lab at the University of St. Thomas. The goal of the project is to design tools and activities which allow kids of all ages to create circuits and explore electronics using play dough.

Other blogs have caught on the Thomas’ project as well:

Getting kids interested in electronics at a young age is a great idea. Feeding their developing minds via creative projects and problem solving is not only rewarding for the child, it helps prepare the next generation of engineers and scientists. – Hack a Day

Her work resulted in a TED Talk earlier this year:

Though play dough wouldn’t have given me all the skills necessary to wire my basement, tinkering with circuitry in a safe way like this could have helped. It certainly would allow experimentation and innovation—essential tools for entrepreneurial or engineering success. In the end, I hired an electrician to help with the project; he was nice enough to teach me some more along the way.

Things in the basement are moving along—slowly, my wife would say—we completed the electrical rough-in. Now all the light switches and outlets are in place and the new circuit breakers have been added to the breaker-box. Next step: inspections. Hopefully we did everything right! Then we only have 304 more items on the basement project to-do list.

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