With childlike euphoria I rushed home to show my wife and son what I made, I MADE! With the smell of flux fumes still in my nostrils I hooked the thumb sized circuit board up to a set of batteries and gleefully displayed the two blinking LEDs.
It certainly isn’t the prettiest little contraption (my soldering skills have a long way to develop), but thanks to the knowledge and patience of Make:Princeton leader Nick Johnson, I and two other soldering lab attendees were able to get these simple devices to work.
Nick began the lab with a schematic drawn on the chalkboard. He described how the circuit would work and added a diagram of the circuit board layout. He then showed us the basic tools needed (soldering iron, solder, snips, strippers, etc.) and after a brief demonstration of soldering technique, he handed out the components and we launched ourselves into our projects.
I had suggested the lab to Nick at a previous Make:Princeton meeting, explaining my deficit of talent and experience in this area. In the 70’s I had attempted building one of PAiA’s simple electronic synthesizers (which ended up in a shoebox under my bed, non-functioning) and later in the 80’s I built a Sinclair ZX-81 computer (which was replaced by the manufacturer with a WORKING model after I sent it back with another $30), so my track record with electronics was dismal.
But Nick has patience and loads of supportive enthusiasm. With through-mounted soldering techniques we assembled the 555 IC, two resistors, a diode and two LEDs to a small chopped up piece of Radio Shack Universal PC Board. One by one, Rob, Jon and then I were delighted to see our handiwork light up and blink (not without first learning how to de-solder, wick and clean up our mistakes).
In all it was a very pleasant evening. I intend to pay Nick (and Make:Princeton) back with a lab on metal etching sometime in the next several weeks. If you have an idea for a lab, or want to share a project technique that we could all benefit from, please contact Make:Princeton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope to see you at our next meeting.