“My brother is the one who likes to make stuff,” she said. She looked like she was about 12, and she’d just finished soldering for the first time. She’d put together a small DIY flashlight kit that we use for our “Learn to Solder with RadioShack” events.
“Well, it looks like youre pretty good at making stuff, too,” I answered. “Who knows what you can make some day.”
During the past few years, I’ve had the good fortune to participate in several RadioShack soldering events, including the most recent at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. At these events, we get to help many children learn how to solder. For many of them, the lesson is that they can use tools to make things for themselves.
Not just young kids; I’ve helped many people older than me solder for the first time.
For me, the best part of these events is the moment when someone who has never soldered before presses the button on their own working flashlight. It’s often coupled with a “Wow!” or “Awesome!”
Because the truth is that it is simple and awesome. As simple as attaching components to a board, but as awesome as realizing that we can do more. Thats the essence of the DIY experience.
We recently spent time at the Tarrant County Science and Engineering Fair, soldering with the teens who participated in the fair. The event was held at the University of Texas at Arlington, and while there, I had an opportunity to talk with several engineering students who attend college there. Two young men were impressed that we were teaching a valuable skill that many young people today don’t get to experience.
“We have lots of students who come here as freshman, and they’ve never soldered before,” one said.
“This will help,” the other agreed. “They have to be able to solder for some of these classes, and it’s hard for people who have never touched an iron before.”
We’ve traveled to Maker Faire New York twice, where we met many of our DIY customers, many of whom said they got started learning how to make things when their parents bought them kits and tools from RadioShack. My personal favorite was an electrical engineer who looked just like Santa Claus; he told me that he started soldering at age 8 with a RadioShack soldering iron. He loved seeing all the young people excited about making something for themselves. (I was excited because it made me feel like one of Santa’s Helpers).
When we go to these events, it’s exciting to think that we may be planting a seed that will open doors for creative minds. It’s easy to see some of these kids becoming those engineering students, and perhaps growing up to become engineers and inventors.
It’s especially easy when a little girl, who thought only her brother could make things, grins and shows off her DIY flashlight to her parents..