A couple months back, Cynthia and Flavio were very frustrated. As a matter of fact, they were about ready to give up. A key element of their “Papapa Party Shirt” (a shirt that will blink to the beat of the music) was a light organ kit, but it was incredibly glitchy and the only documentation consisted of a circuit diagram that was completely foreign to them.
They went through section by section, working to debug each part as they moved forward. They put everything together and checked all the connections and circuit elements – “Oops! We didn’t supply power to the chip!” – but the board still didn’t work! The students’ mentor even took it home to try and find out why it wasn’t working, and came back suggesting the group give up on their weeks of work and try a different tactic.
It seems to have taken them a little recovery time to get up and running again, but last week Flavio and I worked through how to use a MOSFET to control sets of tri-color LEDs and then this week, Cynthia and Flavio started to work on a test circuit they could use on their final control board. We discussed design options for the shirt and it started to feel real and achievable again.
It’s a good thing since the Maker Faire is only a week away.
When you talk to adults, they often cite the importance of giving kids the opportunity to make mistakes when they are learning and creating. When this was mentioned by every table group at the convening we held at Lighthouse a couple months back, one of our mentors leaned over to me and said, “Did you ever notice it’s only the adults that say how important it is to make mistakes?” I have, which is why I wanted to talk to Cynthia and Flavio about what they learned from their experience.
We checked in briefly last week about the process they went through and the roadblocks they encountered. I gave them the weekend to think about what they had learned. They told me that they learned “how to read the schematics better” and “how the electricity runs” and “how the components worked.” Would they ever attempt to put together another circuit based on a schematic – if the documentation was better? “Yeah, but with more help, because it is hard.”
They said that changing your plan “is not a bad thing, sometimes stuff doesn’t work; you just need to be persistent.” They went on to say, “That was our idea, it was what we wanted to do, and we just took a risk to try to figure out how to do it.”
I think they learned something.