Years ago, I was at a Bay Area Maker Faire. I’d been teaching under our new “Learn to Solder” tent. Participants paid a couple of bucks, sat down, learned the basics of soldering, and then put together a small electronics kit. The kit, a flashing-LED Maker Faire pin, was little more than a tiny printed circuit board (PCB), a blinky LED, battery holder, battery, and pin. There kit had about five solder points. I soon came to realize why the workshop and that kit where such genius. They made an intimidating skill seem simple, accessible, and the kit was just challenging enough to feel like you’d accomplished something. It was a literal badge of accomplishment you could wear. There was a very important idea here: Make it seem hard, but not be hard.
This was immediately driven home after the workshop. I was at the Solarbotics
booth, talking to Dave Hrynkiw. A father and his maybe ten year old daughter were looking at kits, “Learn to Solder” badges blinking away on their shirts. Dave began showing them kits, emphasizing solderless beginner kits. The girl, slightly indignant, said: “NO, I don’t want solderless. I know how to solder,” pointing proudly at her badge. They bought a solder-based kit and off they went.
When teaching something new, create the shortest distance between the learning part and the completion of a successful first project. If the student can wear it proudly, or otherwise show it off, all the better.