Came across a great interview with Grant from Mythbusters discussing how to get kids started in electronics and robots. Here are two quotes that struck close to home for me:
If you've always wanted to tinker with hardware -- up to and including building robots -- but didn't know how to start, Grant Imahara of the science-themed, blow-em-up TV show MythBusters has some advice: "Anything that's already broken is fair game! The worst-case scenario is it stays broken. The best-case scenario is you find out how it works or, even better, transform it into something else."
"Even when I was young, I would build things with Lego or make 'robots' out of cereal boxes -- long before I learned metalwork. The desire to build was always there."
We save any cool shaped junk that comes into our house. Whether it is packing material, bottle caps, or those funny covers on an ink cartridge. They get put into an empty container and when the kids feel like building we pull out the low temp glue guns for them to build robots.
I have also begun saving broken electronics for dissection. Taking apart an old vcr produces a lot of cool parts. The next logical step for us is to try making something new out of these components. I have a limited background in electronics myself, so I'm looking forward to learning and building together.