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Soldering Workshop at Wuthering Bytes

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First time soldering at the Wuthering Bytes technology festival

With Open Source Hardware Camp this year being hosted as part of a technology festival called Wuthering Bytes — covering a broader selection of topics — we decided to run a soldering workshop at which electronics novices could get help assembling the kit everyone received upon registration.

The “Wuther”

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Wuther was the name given to the kit created especially for the event, and this is essentially Ihsan Kehribar's USB multi-tool, Little Wire, albeit with a new artistic PCB design courtesy of Boldport.

Once the design had been signed off, P+M Services manufactured just over 200 PCBs, an afternoon was spent programming ATtiny microcontrollers, and then Oomlout very kindly packaged the kits.

The workshop

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The original plan was to have three people running the soldering workshop on the Sunday of OSHCamp. However, two of the three couldn't make it along in the end, and this resulted in an extremely busy Steve Crozier dashing about getting people started with assembling their boards!

Demand for the workshop was much higher than expected, it had to be constantly be rerun over the course of the day, and it was great to see people who had never soldered, or with any kind of electronics experience, eager to get hands-on.

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Once the board had been assembled the next step was to test it and the easiest way to do this is to use it as GPIO. Thankfully, Melanie Lewis — who on the Saturday had given a presentation which provided an introduction to hardware interfacing — came to the rescue and kindly agreed to run a second table at which people could get help with testing their boards. This involved setting up various software and wiring up an a simple circuit with one, or perhaps two, LEDs.

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Lessons learned

Lots of smiling faces over the course of the day as participants succeeded in controlling LEDs via GPIO suggested that the workshop was a success. However, there were definitely lessons learned when it comes to organising a workshop for complete beginners. Potential improvements include:

  • Providing additional basic instructions, e.g. soldering tips.

  • Preparing a USB memory stick with preconfigured software

  • Planning in advance for testing

  • More helpers!

That so many complete novices successfully assembled their kits and got up and running with the software and a test circuit, was a testament to Steve and Melanie's tutoring skills and hard work!

Finally, I'd like to thank RS Components for providing the soldering irons and tools which were used in the workshop, and which will find much use at the local hackerspace, Bridge Rectifier.

Andrew Back

Open source (hardware and software!) advocate, Treasurer and Director of the Free and Open Source Silicon Foundation, organiser of Wuthering Bytes technology festival and founder of the Open Source Hardware User Group.

2 Oct 2013, 7:00