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This Conductive Play-Doh Teaches Kids the Foundation of Electronics

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For generations, colorful, nontoxic doughs and modeling clays have fueled childhood imaginations. But what if these playtime materials could also teach children valuable lessons about science and technology? That's the idea that inspired London-based company Technology Will Save Us to create Dough Universe—a fun, colorful dough that challenges kids to build electric circuits.

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It's Never To Early to Learn

Kids typically start learning about electronic circuits in elementary school. Technology Will Save Us believes that kids are perfectly able to grasp these principles even earlier in life, starting around age 4. The company, which currently specializes in kits that teach kids to build gaming consoles and wearables, is targeting its youngest scientists and engineers yet with its latest product, Dough Universe, that teaches kids about electric circuits by giving them the tools to add sound, light, and movement to their squishy creations.

How? Simple: salt. The dough has a high salt content, which makes it an excellent conductor of electricity. You might remember from chemistry class that the chemical formula for table salt is NaCl, also known as sodium chloride. When sodium chloride is dissolved into the dough, it breaks apart into sodium and chloride ions, or charged particles. That charge lets ions easily pass electricity between them. The result? Play dough that conducts electricity. In fact, according to the Dough Universe FAQ, the electronic toys work with any type of high-salt-content dough—even kinds you make at home.

Giving Kids the Tools

Dough Universe will come in three different kits. One helps kids build musical instruments like a piano, a keytar, and drums, and use them to create musical notes and beats. Another kit helps kids mold animals and add light-up features, such as scales and wings; and a third kit is designed for the creation create zipping cars, animatronic robots, and "high-five" machines that move on their command.

Getting kids interested in the basics of electricity isn't just fun—it's good for their futures. According to the 2015 Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the US ranks second to last of the most advanced countries when it comes to graduating science majors, and only 12 percent of American undergraduates in 2012 were working on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degrees of any kind. The importance of STEM careers will only increase with time, and getting kids interested in technology now can be a stepping stone toward a more successful future.

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