Makers are more often than not go-getters but even the best of the lot can sometimes be bogged down by one problem too many. How does one power through them and come out tops?
Gruelling as it may have been for people from most fields, the Coronavirus pandemic has also witnessed maker culture stay true to its nature and exhibit remarkable resilience. A contemporary phenomenon unto itself that lies at the intersection of the DIY and hacker cultures, maker culture has indeed flourished in these times even as makers continue to tinker with things (especially hardware) and revel in the making aka building of new devices and improving the existing ones.
And given the proclivity of makers to experiment, take on challenges, and connect ideas and outcomes, there has been plenty of trial and error. All of which has in turn paved the way for notable strides in the form of ‘pandemic projects’; be it a mask launcher, a toilet paper shopping simulator, or a robot that can give haircuts.
But for each successful maker project, there are scores of projects that may have gotten stuck due to sloppiness, oversight or often just lack of a good plan and / or will power. What then? How does one see one’s maker project to fruition? This article aims to share with you just that.
- Divide your task into manageable sections
This maker tip is about dividing your work and making progress one part / step at a time. It allows one to make progress consistently and not get overwhelmed by the whole scale of the project.
So what you essentially do is split your task into sections and work on them at a time. You may have to update this list of sections as you go along and with whatever troubleshooting problems you may face. But as long as one is following a set schedule of doing one part on a given day, you are sure to make headway.
At afterschool coding school YoungWonks, there is great emphasis on imbibing among its students strong maker attitudes. So even as students get to grow through project-based learning and take on more complex projects involving a series of steps, the instructors help students deal with each section of their maker project.
- Know when things get too much
There is such a thing as trying too hard at a given point of time. Often makers get gripped by the fervour to finish a task/ project at all costs but that strategy may not work for everyone. For many, forcing oneself to do something backfires badly and one begins to slip up. Which is why it is extremely important to realise the moment when things get too much and stop to take a break. YoungWonks teachers believe in egging on their students without pushing them too hard. This ensures that kids stay on track and actually finish their projects.
- Learn how to use a CAD program
CAD stands for Computer-aided design; it basically refers to the use of computers to help create, modify, analyze, or optimize a design. So knowing how to use a CAD software is a great plus as it can be easily used by the maker to enhance the quality of design, improve communications through documentation and for putting together a database for manufacturing. Drawing to scale, in particular, is of great help as it allows one to get a good estimate of the materials needed and move parts around. This in turn saves one a lot of time in the long run, especially the extra trips to the hardware store.
- Persistence pays
Since makers often explore new territory, it is imperative to keep in mind that things may not work out the first time; making a thing may not happen in the very first attempt. And this setback can be quite frustrating, especially when it comes to complicated maker projects. The right way to approach one’s maker project then is to look at it as a puzzle. That way, you work your way up, tying up loose ends over time and eventually finishing your project. So remember to be patient and enjoy the process of making.
- Paper prototypes are very useful
You can save yourself some time by making circuits on paper. For starters, stick down copper tape instead of wires (since they are good conductors but also stay flat and in place), then use flat surface-mounts as components, and solder your connections for sturdier connections. One can now improvise as one goes along, but make sure to unsolder and unstick while making changes. On such a paper, you can even annotate your circuit for a better picture of how things will look.
- Keep your laser cutter nearby
This one is a very handy maker tool that can make a huge difference if one were to get it before embarking upon a maker project. Laser cutters are among the most powerful tools in a high-tech shop, mainly due to their speed, flexibility and versatility (one can use them with paper, rubber, wood, plastic, fabric).
- Be organised
Given the often complex nature of a maker project, it pays to be organised. Depending on how one chooses to store one’s material, one could either end up with a carefully-sorted repository of industrial junk or have it all reduced to being a pile of junk and a pain to store and clean. This applies even more to those who are in the habit of hoarding material, even if it is for future projects.
- Don’t lose focus
With too many steps and components involved, many a maker is likely to get distracted and go down the rabbithole of related videos on YouTube. While this can occasionally be of advantage, more often than not, it will just delay your project. So it is important to stay focussed and stick to your schedule.
- Play to your strengths but have a basic understanding of related disciplines
Making, in the end, is about loving what you do so it is important to stay true to that. So if you’re a maker pro and are planning to scale up, make sure you stop and take a look at what you ace in (the making of the project) and what you probably won’t enjoy as much (marketing, supply chain, finance, customer relations). The former is where you should expend your energy while you make arrangements for someone else to look up the latter aspects. However, it is also good to have a basic idea about these aspects so you do not lose sight of the overall picture.
- Join and be active in the maker community
Joining and participating in the maker community discussions and events is of great help for you and your fellow makers. Today there are several forums, social media platforms (especially reddit) and other open-source venues, where one can get valuable feedback for free. In fact, in addition to seeking advice, today makers are also using crowdsourcing sites to secure funding for manufacturing their designs. YoungWonks hosts hackathons on a regular basis for its students allowing them to channel their inner maker and get out of their comfort zones. Students also get to see other maker kids’ projects and learn from their experiences.