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One of my favorite projects from school was the good old Sticks & Glue Bridge. The cost of supplies was almost nothing, but it was really fun and we got to see how well our structures worked by destructive testing. (Which frankly is still fun to do some 25 years later...) And the materials and tools were so easy to get that I started making stick and glue structures for fun at home.

A lot of other fond childhood memories come from taking apart old broken appliances and equipment. A cheap screwdriver and wrench set were a cheap way for me to learn how stuff worked on my own. A few times I managed to even fix something that had been abandoned. Some items are built a little less serviceable now, but even so there is a lot to learn.

I'm not against the high technology. At worst it can inspire. When I was in high school in the late 80's I took a night class at the local community college on CAD. At the time this was on incredibly expensive mainframe computers with giant displays, custom puck interfaces, etc--something well out of the budget of my high school. After getting a taste of it in that class I spent weeks making a primitive CAD program on my Apple II, which was a great project for learning all sorts of useful stuff about programming, math, and design.

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