This virtual meetup was Dec. 13th, 2012 on G+ Hangout
This weeks’s topic of discussion: Best resources for n00bs (youth + adult) to start working on electronics projects. Pros and cons of online curriculums.
After perusing around the Interwebs for perspectives on the best way to start an adult or youth interested in electronics, I found a pretty basic list of stuff to have on hand:
- Bread board
- 6V-12V power supply. I prefer the ones that allow you to choose amperage
- Pack of LEDS. Blue LEDS are purdy
- Wire. Radio shack and others sell wire “kits”of different lengths or a spool.
- Basic multimeter. Great for when things don’t work
- Pack of components. Transistors, resistors, capacitors, etc. And of course the whole reason I do this – some nice 8 bit chips.
This is all fine and good, but having a bunch of stuff isn’t enough. You also need a tutorial in a book or online to figure out what to do with all those parts and tools. And many times that isn’t even enough. As Howard Rheingold pointed out, it’s the debugging that’s difficult, you really need someone to turn to in order to get help. Someone that can review your work and give feedback.
Charlotte Pierce, Publisher and Video Producer
Howard Rheingold, the infamous
Joseph Chiu, LA Makerspace
Luz Rivas, Iridescent Learning
Tara Brown, DML Research Hub
I started the hangout by relaying my inspiration for this week’s discussion — I was reading tweets on Twitter and noticed Howard Rheingold’s call for help — he asked if anyone knew of someone that could help him learn Arduino. I favorited the tweet because I realized that this was a perfect opportunity to follow the process of finding a mentor for something very niche. Howard has worked with a big group on stuff for Burning Man, Floats, etc. He is now part of a smaller group that works on projects together once/week. Recently Howard started adding light to his paintings. Now he wants to learn Arduino so that he can create more interactive projects and art.
His learning methodology consists of setting time aside in the every day to work on a lesson. He thinks the Adafruit lessons are good and has even learned some things from 14 year olds on YouTube. His call for help was when he got stumped with a problem, he just wasn’t sure what to do.
Howard asked, can G+Hangout be a place to get help?
Joseph Chiu said it’s definitely easier to be in-person and he’s not so convinced troubleshooting can happen over video chat. General discussions are OK, but setup of lab equipment and more detailed instruction is harder.
Luz Rivas has only helped people in person. Usually someone has put something in the wrong pin on the breadboard. Her experience is that the neater someone is with the wires, the easier it is to troubleshoot.
One specific area that Howard has gotten stuck with, “I have some LEDs without instruction, what resistor do I use?”
I mentioned that there is an app for that. Adafruit has one and there are a host more of them in the app store.
Luz recommends ’Fashioning Technology Book’ as a great resource in learning about electronics, specifically of the wearable variety. It includes basic lessons that are easy to follow and a good reference for mentoring and teaching.
Joseph noted from some of his experiences in teaching electronics to youth, they either want to know how it works from an electronics POV and some just want to do stuff with their hands. So keep that in mind when teaching so you can related to their interests and motivation to learn.
The group concluded that in order for an online “hangout” or video session to be successful to troubleshoot issues, we need a critical mass of people with enough experts that are willing to share their expertise based on a wide range of issues that come up in the world of electronics or ”making” in general
One possible process could be for a learner to join a regularly scheduled Maker G+ Hangout and share the issue they are struggling with. If there is an expert that can continue helping them then they can establish a mentoring relationship for that specific issue or longer term. There will be some technical issues to overcome such as the ability to show a breadboard or other details over a webcam. The only way to figure out any issues that arise is to try!
Our next Maker Mentors G+ Hangout is scheduled for Dec. 20th. RSVP Here.