Day 96: Frustration in Reflection

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Is frustration a good thing? How can I set my students up to learn from rather than be stressed by frustration? JanTerm is a great time to work on this problem.

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This WeevilEye led to growth for one Maker student.

One student, a freshman, wrote the following in her post-project report:

During our visit at Decatur Makers, we learned how to solder while building our WeevilEye project. During the process, I made a mistake and applied the solder on the wrong side, resulting in the need to remove the solder so I could start over. Even though I was very frustrated, one of the people at Decatur Makers introduced me to a solder vacuum. After the solder melted into a liquid, the solder vacuum sucked up some of the solder making it so that I could slip out the wires and start over.

I’m struck by her use of frustrated. This kid definitely learned from the experience. She got to use a solder vacuum and certainly saw that it’s a cool tool. Looking back, I’m sure she’d say the frustration was worth it. But in the moment, in the moment my heart aches for her frustration.

I know well enough to let the kids work through their frustrations — that learning happens in those moments. But dang, I wish I had a better way to set kids up for these moments.

Side note: JanTerm is a whirlwind of a course — 13 days of class with 20 students and three teachers. Grading student work is the hardest part for me. Days are exhausting and I don’t stop from 8am to 3pm. Now that I’ve finally started reading some student work, I’m impressed by kids who turn in work like I quoted above. This kid did a little searching to learn about other types of soldering iron tips (conical tips are better for smaller components but a chisel is better at delivering even heat) as well as surface-mount vs through-hole soldering.

Today in class we began making the 8×8 LED Matrix project. The finished project should look like this:


Most of us have very little soldering experience, so it’s a stretch. In the first half hour, I was pretty sure it was too much for them. But then things started to fall together. Students figured out their own techniques and several pairs managed to solder and test all 64 LEDs.


Soldering 64 LEDs to a perf board is a huge task when all you’ve previously soldered is the WeevilEye from a week ago.


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