2.14.2009 (Saturday) – Day 24 –
Tom has been working on getting our Robotic Labyrinth base designed and built through the Sheet Metal Labor Union training facility. Today he took the day off and brought his daughter in for my soldering workshop at the HMS Beagle Science Store. Since it’s Valentines Day the store wanted to offer a session to build a Minty Boost for your sweetheart.
I enjoy teaching these workshops particularly when we have kids wanting to learn about building things and electronics soldering is a great skill to have. Often the participants in these workshops have never soldered anything electronic before. The Minty Boost kit is an ideal first time project because its easy to build and the supporting documentation on the LadyAda web site is fantastic. This site contains all kinds of information about the tools you need and tutorials on soldering. The step by step instructions are easy enough to build one on your own. Most electronic kits end about there with some DIY instructions but LadyAda takes this experience much further.
One of the best things about the Minty Boost support site is the level of detail she reveals about the process of designing these kits. Anyone who is interested in becoming an engineer should examine what decisions were involved as she designed this product. You can even download the design files for the electronic printed circuit board schematics and layout in EagleCAD format.
The whole process of building the Minty Boost is well designed. I do, however, make one change to the assembly of the case. Instead of cutting the Altoids Tin as she describes I use a different approach. I like to bring some of my tools in from workshops where we build robots from scratch and the drill press is one of my favorite tools. Often, this has been the first exposure to using a drill press for kids and adults both. I feel that fabrication is an important part of learning to build robots.
For my Altoids tins I like to mark a line just below the lid with the tin closed. That marks the upper limit of the slit for the USB connector to stick through. I like to drill holes to form the ends of the slit. If you measure the height of the USB connector it is around 1/4″ so a corresponding (or slightly larger) drill bit will be used. Be sure to mark the center where each drilled hole will be. Once marked, use a center punch (not shown) to put a dimple where the drill bit will go to keep it from wandering around as you try drilling the hole. After the two holes are drilled I use the small snippers to cut between the holes forming the slit. This method leaves the upper lip of the Altoids tin intact without any sharp edges inside.