Tie And Jeans

Just Build Something

We just passed the quarter mark at school, full of arbitrary grade markers and way-too-fast parent conferences. The exciting part for me is that it’s one step closer to my Electronics elective, which starts in the spring. The course says “electronics” but it’s just Make Shop in my head. 12 kids, a moderate budget, no grades, 5 days a week. It’s study hall plus an open shop, with really open goals. Kids goals – Build cool stuff. Teacher goal – Build excited kids.

This is a long excerpt from an epic-length Steve Jobs interview (Computer World, 1995), where he lays out what you can learn from building, especially when it doesn’t look like learning.

Heathkits were really great. Heathkits were these products that you would buy in kit form. You actually paid more money for them than if you just went and bought the finished product if it was available. These Heathkits would come with these detailed manuals about how to put this thing together and all the parts would be laid out in a certain way and color coded. You’d actually build this thing yourself.

I would say that this gave one several things. It gave one an understanding of what was inside a finished product and how it worked because it would include a theory of operation. But maybe even more importantly it gave one the sense that one could build the things that one saw around oneself in the universe. These things were not mysteries anymore. I mean you looked at a television set you would think that “I haven’t built one of those but I could. There’s one of those in the Heathkit catalog and I’ve built two other Heathkits so I could build that.”

Things became much more clear that they were the results of human creation, not these magical things that just appeared in one’s environment, that one had no knowledge of their interiors. It gave a tremendous level of self-confidence, that through exploration and learning one could understand seemingly very complex things in one’s environment.

I don’t have any HeathKits, but I have a milk crates full of parts from Make, AdaFruit, and SparkFun. Most importantly, I don’t have any plans beyond the first week of circuit and safety basics. I can not WAIT.


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