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Sparkfun takes roadtrip across US in campervan full of electronics

Forget coding, everyone should learn to solder

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Component retailer Sparkfun has bought an RV and will be touring all 50 US states to take electronics into the classroom, though the company's motivation is notably suspect.

The tour will run over the summer, and the Sparkfun crew will attempt to visit at least one school in each state with three or four staffers, a professional educator, and a big bag of electrical components from which up to 30 kids can build stuff, assuming someone stumps up the $1,500 cost of the visit, rising to $2,500 per class after the first 50.

The RV

An RV full of electronics, coming to a classroom near you

Normally such tours are little more than advertising projects wrapped in good intentions for the sake of the media, but Sparkfun appears to have inverted that model and keeps trying to tell us the tour has a solid commercial basis in advertising and promotion, when in reality it sounds like staff fancy taking a road trip and wanted to buy an RV.

Sparkfun originally tried a kickstarter project to fund the tour, but that failed to raise enough cash so is now asking schools to cough up the dough. The first 50 bookings will get a discount, as Sparkfun is subsidising the project to that extent, so anyone late to the party will have to pay the top whack of $2,500.

For the sake of comparison Generation Science, which tours Scottish schools in a similar vein, charges around £600 for a similar experience, though the electronic kits are extra (Sparkfun is handing out the hardware in class). But Generation Science lists sponsorship from 15 companies, 14 charitable trusts and the Scottish government, so one might expect lower prices.

Sparkfun sells all manner of electronic bits, and is very keen to get into the educational market, so there is some truth to the promotional justification, but mostly this seems like a load of geeks loading up an RV for a summer spent teaching kids how to wield a soldering iron, for which we can only salute them. ®

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