Learning to Solder

February 12, 2016

I have my own power tools and I'm not afraid to use them. My dad is a bit of an electronics hobbyist and frequently solder things. So when our regular team building invitation pointed out we would be learning to solder, I was excited to gain a new skill.

Arriving at the Tinkering Studio, I was bolstered by the fact that many others on our staff were not soldering whizzes either. Erik Smith, Amazeum's exhibits director, patiently answered questions like why soldering is important to our work, the difference between soldering and welding, and the big one, how hot is that smelly iron anyway? The answers: soldering is key for tinkering, welding uses much higher temperatures, and a scorching 750 degrees.

Blake Matthews, a gateway-to-technology teacher from Washington Junior High School in Bentonville, gave us a quick lesson. Get the items you're joining heated, then melt the soldering in place to join them together. "Easy enough!" seemed to be the pervading thought. Team members planned elaborate, artful items constructed from nails, keys, pop can tabs, and wire. When the most triumphant result was a single key soldered to an upright nail, most of us turned to our Make Learn-to-Solder Skill Badge. They came with instructions and payoff. Done right, the LED eyes light up.

Soldering Blog Project Image

Blinking robot eyes began appearing around the room. But my eyes didn't light up. So, I turned to our experts. Seems that I had allowed the solder on the LED leads to come together, shorting out the circuit. I was bolstered by this knowledge and wanted to try again. It's often in that moment of failure that the desire to learn takes root.

I can't wait to show my two kiddos my badge with the unblinking eyes and explain that, in my failure, I learned. And I might use my new soldering skills to fix some of the items in the bagful of toys deconstructed by the two-year-old.

Soldering Blog Badge Image