Emma’s second-grade poster project

Emma is in the second grade (7-8 year olds). And she’s already well on her way to being a fully fledged engineer.

Every year, Emma’s school runs a State Board project, where each kid in the second grade is assigned a US state to make a trifold poster about. Emma’s already a Maker Faire veteran who knows how to solder and how to use a milling machine. She programs in Python, and she’s very keen on electronics; so with some help from Dad she used a Raspberry Pi to turn her poster into an all-singing, all-dancing interactive Vermont extravaganza.

Here’s a great bit of video of Emma showing off her soldering skills; she’s constructing a Perma-Proto that’s used in the project. She learned how to solder at Maker Faire in NY last year; those adults among you who sometimes comment here saying you haven’t ever done any soldering and don’t feel you have the time to learn should hang your heads. (And then go and buy a soldering iron.) Remember: Soldering is Easy.

When I was Emma’s age, I was glueing fake fur, lentils and macaroni onto a large cut-out ankylosaurus. If I remember correctly, I wasn’t allowed to use the scissors on my own, so someone else did the cutting-out for me. I feel a little outclassed.

Well done Emma – we’re all really impressed by your project and your technological skills, and we hope you’ll let us know if you use a Raspberry Pi in any of your future schoolwork!

You can learn more about Emma’s State Board project at Dad’s website.


alex avatar

That must have taken a long time to make. Very well done indeed Emma. You have set a VERY high standard of work there. :)

John-Paul avatar

I was wondering how Emma got interested in working with Python and soldering. Would love to get my nieces (8 and 5 this summer) started down a similar path.

liz avatar

She was at Maker Faire, which is a really great place to spark the imagination. I’d have been in heaven if the events had existed when I was a kid.

douglas avatar

Well done!:-). I am 11and learnt to solder when I was 9. I was doing scratch but upgraded tplo py3.3. I use pi to run minecraft, scratch, python and google drive. I have only just began python and you being in year2 and doing it is amaizing! My python is only the kind of print label use string kind of thing and soodering put wire on plug terminal and handle solder awkwardly while burning wooden table and getting soodrr.all over it and then forget capacitors and melt wires and activate curcit braker and turn off computer while dad is doing work on it.

Andrew Scheller avatar

That’s amazing! Well done Emma, you definitely deserve an ‘A’ :-)

elmsley avatar

I can’t help but say it.

I’m more interested in what contributions Emma has done on this project. Things like this make it very hard for the teachers to determine who did what. I’m sure most of us could do Gr. 2 with much more skill and finesse if we were to do it again. But if you’re helping someone out, maybe we shouldn’t be so obvious about it. Your child will thank you.

Helen Lynn avatar

It looks as though they’ve thought of that: Emma’s dad writes in his blog post about the project, “I wanted to make sure that if we chose a more elaborate design that our daughter would actually carry out most of the work and that we document that — so I used a flip video recorder to film most of the process.”

If projects like this let children work with their parents or other useful adults – honing their skills, acquiring new ones and observing others that are still beyond them – that sounds pretty ideal to me (in fact, it sounds like several good workplaces I’ve known). Hopefully Emma knows she’s achieved enough with her project that she needn’t be worried about acknowledging help she received with some parts of it.

JBeale avatar

“…if you’re helping someone out, maybe we shouldn’t be so obvious about it.” Just make sure you have the facts. My 6th grade science fair project was building a pulsed UV nitrogen laser, based on C. L. Stong’s June 1974 Scientific American article. It was mine from start to finish, and I spent quite a bit of time in the library studying laser operation. This project did not win and I was told privately, some judges marked me down because no 6th grader could do this on his own and surely my dad (a university prof) did most of it. In fact my dad helped me with two equations, but it wasn’t his field and by the end I knew more about lasers than he did. In truth a blue ribbon means nothing, the real reward was the education. But it certainly rankled at the time.

liz avatar

Indeed; Emma is very far from being the only kid I’ve encountered producing work at this level with little or no adult guidance. And really, Elmsley: what do you think that comment achieved? Didn’t your Mum ever give you the talk about what to do when you don’t have anything nice to say? It applies doubly when you’re talking to second graders.

Paul df avatar

Well said Liz – With or without help it’s still a million times better to do something and learn than do nothing and criticise

elmsley avatar

Hey, I’m simply talking about grading. Well it may be true that this student has learned the most, that doesn’t necessarily mean she’d met the objectives and should get the highest mark. I understand that everyone here is a RPi fan and anything using it would be declared a winner, I think you’re missing the point.

Allen Smilden avatar

Way to go Emma! Very impressive!

John-Paul avatar

You built a laser in the 6th grade? Where the hell was this kind of science projects when I was in school. I flew a couple of rockets and took photos. Would have loved to build a laser or participate in the Nova channels robotics competitions growing up.

Grats on project though JBeale, you are right that the experience is worth so much more then the ribbon.

David avatar

Way to go, Emma – I know patience is not a strong suite for many adults, much less kids, but I applaud the fact that you not only started something cool, but saw it through conclusion (which was nothing short of amazing).

Keep up the good work!

Cleon avatar

I really love what RBpi is providing to everyone! Emma did my childhood dream, I cant imagine how happy I would be if this happen to me. I love electronic stuffs, but I started work on it just few years ago… ;)

Jim Manley avatar

At least we now have ubiquitous, cheap, uploadable video at our disposal. This reminds me of what it’s like to build an experimental aircraft. The FAA requires that the builder fabricate and assemble at least 51% of an aircraft in order to meet the regulations for designating an aircraft as an experimental “home-built” (professionally-built experimental aircraft have to meet commercial aircraft standards, and then some). They essentially count each “operation” as a unique step, which includes drilling one hole, installing one fastener (rivet/bolt/nut/screw/washer assembly), adding a part or subassembly to another, preparing for and then applying paint to each part (each a separate operation), etc. As long as the final tally results in 51% of the operations having been accomplished by the builder (and there can be more than one builder, as long as they are not compensated in any way other than shared ownership and flight-related operations, or sale of parts at/below their cost to one another), it qualifies.

We used to have photos taken of themselves performing each task, but now many of us just let a digital video camera do the work and we edit it down to “Just the facts, Ma’am.” In either case, we typically post our progress on the WWW, which we can then refer the FAA inspector to for verification of our work during the aircraft certification process.

It seems like that’s what amazing kids like Emma need to do nowadays to disprove any doubters out there on the Intertubes (it appears that may have already been done, at least to some degree). However, if you spend just a few minutes talking to such outstanding examples of achievement, it quickly becomes obvious what work they did or did not perform. I sure wish I had today’s video capability back when I built one of the first IR LED-phototransistor communications systems for an eighth grade science fair project, and was grilled mercilessly by adult engineers until it was obvious I knew more about it than they did. I had done experiments underwater using what I had built after through-air measurements, and documented dispersion and absorption (it turns out that water vapor alone is really good at absorbing IR, much less liquid water!). I did win an award including a very expensive and detailed book from a military electronics organization about satellite communications that I still have.


brandon avatar

That’s the kind of stuff I would of done if I had a rpi when I was that age!

Michael avatar

Unfortunately there are probably lots of children who can solder at that age. They are working in sweatshops in the far east.

But well done to Emma on an excellent project.

HaggisHunter avatar

Well done Emma, and well done young Jim!

At that age I would have found the grilling the hardest part to deal with, and would probably have fallen down right there – not through lack of knowledge, but from the headlight factor – regardless of how good or bad my work might have been.

It looks like extensive use of video would actually be an advantage to those kids who are not natural showmen – who’d’a’ thought it?

HaggisHunter avatar

Oops that should have been a reply to Jim Manley’s comment above.

ChrisG avatar

Any adult who can not solder yet should really give it a go, it is not that hard and you can get started with very little equipment. The only real art here is not burning yourself, and that amounts to “don’t touch the hot parts”.

I was fortunate enough to be taught to solder at about the same age (8-10 I would guess), and the skill has proven invaluable throughout the following decades, even for trivial problems: Need that special cable but all the shops are closed? Or that one cable just doesn’t reach the stereo? “Hmm, lets see what we can cut up and use……”

gordon77 avatar

Well done Emma.

To anyone learning to solder take a look at the video and note the stable clamp to hold the board and the magnifier, both very useful pieces of equipment. :)

NoiseMaker avatar

Was gonna post yesterday when I first saw this but didn’t get around to it.

When watching the video I actually gave a (but only one) clap when I head the pure joy in her voice at 4:36. Afterwards I felt a little sheepish. :)

Regarding what she has done herself and not I think that even if she hadn’t done the soldering and setting up the Pi herself it wold still be an impressive poster and she’d had learned a lot about Vermont, which I would suspect is part of the idea.

Great work, Emma!

Tom avatar

I remember learning to solder at around her age (6), its quite difficult to get the hang of, but a good skill to learn while you are young!

James Carroll avatar

I like that she’s wearing safety goggles in the video while soldering. I have to constant get onto the adults I work with about not wearing protective equipment. I harp on them about how they’ll like a hot piece of solder on their retina.

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