The joy of making: It looks something like this (From Young makers make Makey robots).

We like the phrase “the joy of making” around here. It may sound a tad new agey, but most people who frequent this site and are involved with any type of hands-on activity certainly know what we’re talking about.

I had a memorable example of this joy recently. I did a residency last month at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. One night, I did a BEAM robot workshop for one of my classes. I also had a couple of Evil Mad Scientist Labs Larson Scanner Kits with me.

A group of four students excitedly grabbed one of the kits and hurried off to a corner to build it. I asked if any of them had ever soldered or knew anything about electronics. Nope. So, I showed them some soldering basics and went back to circulating from table to table, helping out and answering questions.

The scanner builders were hunched over their table, inhaling the fumes wafting from my funky old, el cheapo soldering iron. A couple of times, I went over and inspected their work. The soldering was… impressive (and not in a good way). I thought the project was doomed, but didn’t say anything. They soldered on.

By the end of the evening, they were done. They came to get batteries and nearly everyone in the room gathered around and held their breath as they snapped them into place. When they flicked the switch, the cheers that rose up as it came to life were simply glorious. They might as well have just landed astronauts on the moon. Everyone was thrilled. And then I pointed out that one of the LEDs wasn’t working. “Oh, that’s OK,” one of them said. “No, you can desolder and resolder it. It’s just a bad solder joint,” I told them. A student ran back to the desk, resoldered it quickly, and came back. Switching it on again, all of the LEDs lit. Another round of cheers. And then, I reached up, found the push-button switch on the PCB and said: “Check this out,” and hit it, changing the scan rate. More cheers and giggles of delight.

That whole evening was fun, but that slice of it was particularly satisfying because it encapsulated the arc of experience of choosing a project, dedicating yourself to it, testing it, tweaking it, and enjoying the final fruits of your labors. When you work hard on building something, and it succeeds — when something you made does something you desired it to do — the results can feel downright magical.

So, today we give thanks for that unrivaled process of making things, and all of the challenges and joys that process and product can engender.

And of course, as always, we give thanks for all of you. Readers. Contributors. Makers. All. Happy Thanksgiving!