It’s great to have enthusiastic self- motivated students — of any age —
that are into electronics. The
challenge — at least based on my
experience teaching teenagers — is
making the students appreciate the
relatively long process of mastery.
As the Jedi Padawans
demonstrate in Star Wars, acquiring
the first 80% of knowledge and skills
may take a few weeks or months, but
getting a handle on the remaining
20% usually takes years of study and
practice under the leadership of a
To the uninitiated student, this
often seems absurd. They may have
learned how to rid the planet of alien
invaders and conquer dozens of
planets in a matter of weeks using a
PlayStation or Xbox.
How much longer could it take
to learn the nuances of, say, a
Raspberry Pi microprocessor? Or,
how to design and work with surface-mount components?
Well, if you’re new to electronics,
then you’ll soon find that — as in just
about every other endeavor — there’s
an art involved, and mastery of that
art takes time and focused study.
This isn’t to say that you can’t
start enjoying the hobby from day
one; it’s just that you’ll have to match
your expectations with your
For example, don’t expect to be
able to repair your flat screen
computer monitor without a year or
two of experience, preferably under
the guidance of a master or mentor.
If you’re a mentor to someone
new to the hobby, then you may
have your hands full. You’ll have to
keep the overall objectives in mind —
teaching, for example, the concept of
resonance in an LC circuit — while
making the experience as enjoyable
In my experience, this doesn’t
mean shielding the student from
failure. Far from it! You want your
student to fail — gracefully — and
come back for more. On each repeat
attempt, students should be
sensitized as to what they need to
do, how to do it, and how much time
they’ll have to do it in.
If you’re the parent of a
Padawan, then you can do your part
by recognizing when your son or
daughter needs help. They may resist
actual hand-holding, but probably
won’t say no to a modest budget for
parts, tools, and equipment.
I went through a good half
dozen or so microcontrollers when I
was first learning the limits of the
technology. I still manage to
occasionally fry the analog input to a
processor when I’m working with
mixed 3V and 5V devices.
No Padawan’s path to mastery
can be complete without the sharing
of skills and knowledge with others.
Today, it’s more likely to come about
through social media than face-to-face meetings. Still, there is value in
sharing with others going through the
Mentors are invaluable, but the
hive mind of dozens or hundreds of
eager learners who are also willing to
share has value as well.
Best of all worlds is a mentor-moderated forum or actual meeting,
where students provide the creativity
and the mentor provides a degree of
“grounding” in what’s likely to
Whether you’re a Padawan or
helping one along their journey
toward the mastery of electronics,
may the EMF be with you. NV
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February 2018 5