Thursday, 25 September 2014

CodeClub: TWSU DIY Gamer Week 2

After last weeks introductory session I was keen to get everyone doing something. I was also slightly anxious about having everyone going straight into soldering up their DIY Gamers having never done any soldering before. Rummaging through my tub where I dump carefully store all my spare components and bits of stripboard, I managed to come up with enough parts for everyone to make a simple flashing led circuit each.  I'd had a quick look online but the cheapest equivalent kit I could find to buy was at least a fiver each. I reckoned mine would have cost about £1.30 each if I'd had to buy everything new, possibly half that if I was patient enough to wait from shipping from China. 

 I chopped the board into 10 pieces and colour coded the holes where each component needs to go whilst watching my oldest son strut his stuff at Rugby practice last night.  I then knocked up a quick handout to show the position of each components.

Remembering the lesson from last week, I'd set out the soldering irons with plenty of clear desk space around them.

In my experience, kids rarely listen when you tell them about some minor hazard, particularly when it's about hot things. A good example being my son burning his hand on the steaming pyrex dish which he'd just seen me remove form the oven, and which I'd specifically warned him 10 seconds earlier not to touch because it was hot.  Having said that, I've also found that having made the mistake once and experienced the pain, they are not likely to do it again in a hurry. My son certainly acquired a newfound sense of caution regarding hot things following the now infamous (in our family) "burnt by the sausage casserole incident".

Nevertheless, I wanted to do everything I could to prevent the clubbers under my supervision from using 'I've burnt my finger" as an excuse for untidy literacy work that afternoon. 

I really like the soldering irons that TWSU have provided. Having a visible temperature control helps emphasise how hot they get and it is also easy to see when they're on. But just to try an reinforce good safety practices, after they'd watched the amusing TWSU intro to soldering movie, I showed them a slide of soldering irons pictures I'd put together.  I asked them which one was hot: 

My clubbers are a smart bunch and they quickly realised that you can't tell just be looking at it. Point made!

They all seemed really pleased to able to have some practice and got stuck in to the job with their usual enthusiasm. Overall I was very impressed with their first efforts at soldering. We managed to get all but two boards completed, with 4 of them working first time. Two more needed only a single joint re-soldering before they worked and one just had the battery the wrong way round. There was only one which was a bit of a mess, but it was still really good for a first effort.

A couple of children claimed to have burned themselves as they went along but I'm not convinced they weren't just saying it for effect. I couldn't really see any marks and their reaction (or lack of one) suggested that it must have been very minor. Either that or they have asbestos hands. They were very sensible and enjoyed wearing their goggles, saying they felt like proper 'mad scientists'. There were also lots of questions about what would happen if we were using solder that contained lead. Just goes to show they were paying attention to the movie.

I realise that I deviated from the published lesson schedule this week but I think it worked. The children were really pleased to have something that they'd made to take away with them.

Next week those who didn't finish their little led board can do so while the others get started on getting their DIY Gamer components in place ready for soldering.

I was really pleased with how this session went. It was clear when we started that most of them didn't really understand what soldering was all about or how it worked. At the end of the session they were proudly demonstrating their understanding by explaining it to me! Although I'll give myself some credit for the descriptions I gave during the session, it was clear that it was the act of physically doing it that helped the concepts coalesce in their brains. Learning by doing: it works.

Things to do differently next time

  • I think I'd have the worksheets for lesson 3 available too so that those who finish or are waiting for a free soldering iron can start using the Arduino. I'll definitely do that next week. 
  • More fresh blu-tac! The stuff I was using today was a bit fusty. There were a few issues with stripboard slipping out of the blu-tac under pressure from the soldering iron.

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