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The Joy of Tinkering

I have been spending a lot (dare I say inordinate amount) of time playing with little electronics.  Projects that when in component form will fit in my pocket.  I started with Raspberry Pi – a tiny general purpose computer and then got involved with an Arduino – an even smaller micro controller.  These projects are at the same time, insignificant and quite impressive.

They are insignificant because when 100% functional they might make a motor spin when I press a button or play a song AND light a light at the same time.  I forgot to mention I often need help with these herculean tasks so I go online and find some of the projects thousands of other people have already completed and copy some of their work.  Needless to say the Nobel committee has yet to be informed of my work.

I realize it’s a long way from what I just described to “impressive”.  The thing is, while doing these simple tasks I learned quite a bit about electricity, electric components, writing software, soldering, reading spec sheets and schematics, the list goes on and on.  I knew very little of these things when I started and although I am far from an expert I can honestly say I understand a surprising amount about these previously unknown topics.

Whenever you experience these kind of “aha moments” you want to share them with others.  In particular I have been trying to figure out ways to give similar experiences to kids.  Without trying to sound too dramatic, I think this sort of experience can be life changing especially if it happens at an early age.  The joy of discovery, the satisfaction of figuring things out and creating a “formula” for yourself to learn something new can be pretty powerful.

One idea I am trying out is creating project kits that contain all the components needed and making corresponding videos explaining how to assemble and program the project.  The hope is that these projects would give kids some of these aha moments, they would build confidence encourage them to seek out more.  Since I have a lack of 11 year olds I have forced my family to be my Guinea pigs.

The jury is still out on my project kit idea but based on where I started with my own project learning and my relative success of my current (get it?  electronics pun) set of projects there is hope.

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