I went to the Maker Faire this weekend to hang out with the Old Skool misfits, even the young ones. I ran into a friend who was volunteering at the "learn how to solder" booth and, peeking in, could see people of all ages learning Soldering 101. They had bought $1 kits that, when put together, became a badge with a blinking multicolor LED.
Soldering and basic electronics something that my father taught me starting when I was six. We put together Heathkits, starting with the very basic and moving up to full stereos and a television, part by part. There was a lot of parts sorting, reading the instructions, and soldering. I loved it, and the experience definitely helped shape many parts of my personality. I am quite willing to try technical things with which I have no experience; fixing comes second nature; organizing projects is not a concern.
After wandering around the Maker Faire a bit, I came back and offered to volunteer to help in the booth. "Go for it" the organizer said, and I plunged in. People there were genuinely interested in learning the most basic of electronic assembly. Kids were wary but excited. Adults, many older than me, wanted to see if they could learn this skill. A number of dads with their sons and daughters quietly admitted to me that they had no idea how to solder, and I let them save face by making it look like they were remembering as we went along. I gave my "soldering 101" pitch about 40 times in the next 90 minutes, held kits so folks could make their first joint, got minor burns a few times by irons held in shaking hands, encouraged newbies along the way, saw big sisters who finished quickly turn and help their little brothers, and got out of the way of the folks who were already doing fine. A couple of people came up to me later in the day and pointed happily to their still-blinking badges.
I intend to volunteer next year for more time in the booth, and maybe a few more folks who would never otherwise touch LED to battery will get the sense of accomplishment that the folks I worked with yesterday did.
Dad: thank you for getting me going here. Sure, you also did the normal taking-off-of-the-training-wheels stuff too, but I deeply appreciate the early electronics experience.