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Lucas learns to solder

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Back in December, we posted a piece about Lucas, a six-year-old who’d learned how to solder and made a battery-powered guitar amp for his grandmother for Christmas. Six might be a little young for most kids to handle a soldering iron, but each person is obviously different (and you likely know what your kids can/cannot handle).

At one of the Maker Faires, a kid asked me if he could build the Solarbotics Herbie that’d he’d just bought in the Maker Shed, as I made up some Mousey the Junkbots. He was maybe 9. He’d never soldered, he was fidgety, and he kept nearly dropping the iron, nearly burning himself, soldering-desoldering-resoldering bad welds — I was on pins and needles the whole time. He finished the bot a lot faster than I’d finished my first Herbie. He put in a battery, turned it on, and it took off with a shot. It worked! I was stunned. He’d built his faster than I had and I’d had to resolder at least one connection and futz with my whiskers. So, never underestimate kids.

At the same time, be reasonable, use common sense, and BE SAFE. When we posted Lucas’ project the first time, readers were quick to correctly point out that it was a big no-no to have a 6-year-old (or maker of any age) soldering without safety glasses on. His dad admitted it was foolish — no excuses. And Lucas did get a nasty little iron burn, which he shows off in one of the pics in the Flickr set. Such burns do come with the territory, at any age.

Six year old with a soldering iron

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12 thoughts on “Lucas learns to solder

  1. Ehn, so the kid ends up with a couple of small, 2nd degree burns. Not that big of a deal. I had cuts, scrapes, and bruises all over me when I was a kid. We coddle children far too much these days. The world isn’t all bumper pads and cushioned falls. The best way to learn is to jump right in and start doing, at any age.

    1. In fact – he was pretty darn proud of his burn. Showed it to everyone he ran into for a week including his kindergarten teacher..

      I agree with you that many kid are coddled too much. Did you every see the TED video on dangerous things your kid must do? Pretty much sums up how his mom and I have raised Lucas.

      A side benefit of bumps and scrapes and burn – it kind of keeps the kid from freaking out when he or you get hurt. A month ago I got whacked in the head with my paddleboard (a giant surfboard). After getting 8 staples to reconnect my scalp – Lucas’ only comment was, “cool addition to your scar collection”!

      brad

  2. Obviously he should have been wearing a full face screen, gloves, nomex overalls, safety boots and, oh yeah, a hard hat with a tetnus shot just in case.

    It makes you wonder why there is anyone over the age of forty still alive in the world. Bike riding with no helmets, rolling mercury around in our hands, using – gasp – strike anywhere matches, no seatbelts (remember sleeping under the rear window of your dad’s car) and playing on swings with sharp edges.

  3. I would call myself a proponent of safety glasses, but I don’t use them whilst soldering. Is the idea to prevent bits of molten metal from flying into your lookers when a join pops apart alluversudden?

  4. I’d be less concerned about safety glasses and more concerned about a respirator or something to prevent breathing in all the flux fumes. But it’s awesome that this kid can solder!

  5. A wood burning kit was pretty much a standard gift for kids when I was that age (I had one myself), and they’re the same thing as a soldering iron, but with different tips.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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