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Battery Science by Doug Stillinger

Book Review
Battery Science: Make Widgets that Work and Gadgets that Go by Doug Stillinger (Klutz, 2003). Ages 8 and up.

Here's a quick and easy introduction to electricity from Klutz Press. Their trademark elements are all here - the hands-on approach, the stuff you need packaged on the front cover, and of course, the wacky personality.

The book comes with a C-cell battery, a motor, a propeller, some wire, alligator clips, a buzzer, and miscellaneous parts and do-dads useful in particular projects in the book. The parts are reasonably sturdy and held up through our initial tries at the projects.

The 12-plus projects in Battery Science go beyond the typical light-a-bulb and buzz-a-buzzer. In each one, kids build a cute little toy that takes advantage of the spinning motor, light, or buzzer. There's a walking bug, a swamp boat, and other fun stuff. To complete the projects, kids need a few additional materials from around the house such as index cards, foil, and tape.

There are great little techniques in the book, like how to use foil to make contacts for the batteries, and how to build various kinds of switches. Kids can start with this book and build their own things using the techniques they learn.

The text explains a little about the science of batteries and circuits and the history of electrical science. Unfortunately, these subjects are a little complex to fit on the pages of a typical Klutz book. The resulting minimalist treatment may leave your kids giving a quizzical "huh?" and then moving on to the next project. The science explanations also seem to stop suddenly - you turn the page to read the rest and all that's there is another project.

Then there's "The Impossible Project" on page 44. It's the most complicated project in the book. I read it three times and I'm not sure what it does. There's no introductory text to explain it. A mystery.

All in all, though, this is a fun introduction to electricity that will appeal to both boys and girls.

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