A NEW STUDENT DESIGNED MINILAB!
For a few years, we have been making lights. Our Canadian students learn electrical engineering and send lights to our friends living in light poverty who would give us feedback that started the design cycle over again.
What if the circuit board that the students made could not only be a working light, but could also be used as a lab to discover the ideas around electrical engineering. Our students would have one package where they could learn to solder and design. Perhaps more importantly, if we also sent a multimeter, our global friends could also learn about electrical engineering and then use the light to study anything else.
We had the paper schematic from the Masitek (blue and yellow) circuit and we had un-editable Gerber files. If we are to use the same design, but rearrange things to make it easier to test. We would need to learn to make our own schematics and Gerber files. However, we just started a pandemic and I did not know how to use Eagle, but I have been looking for a good use case to take advantage of the Voltera machine. This is what the Voltera was originally designed for.
Brilliant Labs to the rescue…AGAIN! Josh took time once a week during the whole spring Pandemic lock down to work with us virtually. I taught Series and Parallel Circuits which was part of our curriculum. But it was Josh’s work with students that got them up and running with Eagle. Students were able to design their lights, place test points for multimeters in strategic place and produce Gerber Files. It took only a sentence to cover a month of work. Jordan was a grade 12 student that really took this bull by the horns and has been the sustaining force behind this project from here.
Eventually, we printed the gerber files with the Voltera machine. I met Jordan at school even though it was closed. I placed the components, solder and newly printed circuits on the ground and sprayed them with lysol. The student came by, picked up the bits (CurbSide Delivery) and put it together at home.
Of course, it did not work the first time. The conductive paste works well, but as you manipulate the solder, the more it lifts. I suspect it works very well for reflow and surface mount components, but the through hole component bit seems borderline. It might have something to do with our paste being a bit old too. to be fair, we really need to retry this with fresh paste.
After a bunch of work, and realizing that the MOSFET was situated backwards, it looks like we have a working circuit.
Now we need to think about actually using it with novice students. Again, Josh from Brilliant Labs challenged and coached our students how to import the model into a 3D design software so that we could see how the components will look in Space. He challenged our students to also think about silk screening in anticipation that students will be able to orient themselves and take readings that would allow people to discover Ohm’s and Kirchoff’s laws. As soon as the skill screen is completed, we will send a way a few professionally created boards and get my current physics class to try it out. I suspect we will discover some other tweeks that are needed, but at the moment, it is looking pretty wonderful .
Yet again, Brilliant Labs went over and above. The individual mentorship that Josh has provided is the only reason we have made it this far. I can see in the future that a short course on Eagle would be useful to me. I have been trying to keep up with Eagle, but Jordan and Josh have been progressing too fast for me to keep up and still attend to my other students. I am worried that as soon as this student graduates, that this knowledge and skill will be lost at RHS.
Now that we are in the new semester, our students are online every second day and F2F every second day. In the two years that I have known Jordan, I do not think he has been even late for a class, let alone absent. So I was curious when last week when he was not in virtual class. I was ecstatic to find out that Jordan and Josh had been working together on the circuit and Josh was challenging the silk screening and 3D design. AWESOME!! My students are not waiting anymore, they are taking matters into their own hands and showing some initiative ! AGENCY and AUTONOMY…FUTURE READY!