One small step for Steph, one giant flap for makerkind

I’m Steph, I’m quite new to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and I’m very new to Raspberry Pis. Until quite recently, any mention of pie to me meant that good food was on the horizon – now my horizons are much broader. I’ve been part of the Programmes Team at Pi Towers for about 3 months, and I’ve only just picked my jaw up from the floor in awe of the creative geniuses around me. The things that I’ve seen are mindboggling and I began to wonder how they were created. Well, there was only one way to find out – make something myself.

Steph and her creation

The smile of a happy maker

The time had come for me to get started in the world of digital making. I’ve always been into arts and crafts, and I love to put my own touch and personality on my possessions; sewing buttons and colourful things on to clothes, revamping drawer knobs, applying découpage to any plain bits of furniture, and taking over the world with my glue gun. However, making something digital from scratch was a daunting prospect! I wasn’t going to let it scare me, though; I’ve dived out of a plane before and landed with a smile on my face.

So, supported by my team and with that ‘Friday feeling’, I took the plunge and transformed into a digital maker for the afternoon. I was presented with a DIY Gamer Kit, from Technology Will Save Us, as my first project. I opened the box of components and loaded up the online instructions, then I had to take a deep breath and compose myself as I read the word ‘solder’. I was very excited that I was going to need to solder, then realised I didn’t know how to do it. Rachel Rayns, my lovely desk buddy, gave me a soldering tutorial; now, I feel like I can solder most metal things in the world. I loved it.

Steph learns to solder

The soldering skills that earned an Instagram marriage proposal.

I continued the rest of my mission on my own, with the incentive of being able to play Snake at the end of it. I worked my way through the kit, identifying all of the digital ingredients and joining them together in the right places. I soldered push buttons, LEDs, a buzzer, resistors, and many other components to a PCB (printed circuit board). I was amazed at how quickly the parts grew into a device that looked very much like a Game Boy, and I was impressed to see how it matched the photo instructions – very useful!

Following the instructions, I added a brain to my device in the form of an Arduino, and an acrylic accessory to the front and back. This was a great way to protect my game; if I’m honest, I may have dropped it a few times whilst fumbling through the engineers’ tool stash. Luckily, nothing fell apart, which was a testament to my new-found soldering skills. After fixing the spacers, nuts and bolts in place, the only thing left to do was to connect a 9v battery to the game, and then run through the office waving it around when it powered up.

I had made the DIY Gamer Kit, and in that moment I wasn’t sure which thing made me smile the most:

  • How quickly I was able to put it together – even though I stopped to admire my work every 5 minutes
  • The fact that I could now play Snake
  • Knowing that, against all odds, I hadn’t burnt myself
  • The idea of going to make something else straight away

Once my smile had shrunk back down to normal size, I was calm enough to think about doing some coding. I’ve been told that code can be used to solve real life problems, and I certainly needed it when I uploaded the game ‘Flappy Bird’ on to my new game machine and couldn’t survive for longer than 2 seconds. My problem was that my bird was flying far too fast to control – it had to be hacked! Again, with the help of Rachel we hacked the game and adapted the code. I was then able to play Flappy Bird at a much more reasonable flying speed. My problems didn’t quite stop here, though, as I continued to fly my bird into wall after wall, ending the game prematurely. We hacked it some more, and now I’ll never see the words ‘Game Over’ again.

Rachel and Steph go through Coding 101

Coding 101

I’ve been inspired to be more of a digital maker, because I enjoyed every minute of my very first project. I hope that others may find the same inspiration from the amount of joy on my face in the picture below. Go forth and make something, and you too could be this happy.


Mark avatar

Great write-up. Is it only me that finds it depressing that still, in this day and age, a picture of a female successfully soldering results in a (presumably jocular) marriage proposal? How is that equality?

Liz Upton avatar

God yes – absolutely agree. We were all a bit horrified when it happened.

Shannon avatar

People need to stop thinking of marriage as “Hey, I’m gonna shove you back in the kitchen to bake me a pie!” to “You are so awesome that I would dedicate the rest of my life to explore and make awesome things happen with you!”

Kind of puts a different spin on that… But that would be presuming on his motives. I have to admit, it’s much better than the stock photos. And there’s nothing better for a Dad than a Mom that can be an example of independence and being capable for his sons and daughters.

Shannon avatar

That’s because it’s such a prized skill. Besides, us geeks don’t get out much. I’m not sure if I want my wife soldering, I’d never get my turn at the iron, and she would use up all my supplies. ;-)

Andy avatar

She should count herself lucky: even with soldering skills, I still had to do the proposing myself.

Steph avatar

I agree – the idea of someone soldering who isn’t a guy, shouldn’t be such a shock factor. However, I’ll take it in the lighthearted way I presume it was intended – unless I’ve had no better/more serious offers within the next 10 years. :)

Death Of Time avatar

(mind I didn’t see the original comment you are all typing of) I don’t really understand. I think I am starting to though. Just how is it a issue? Is it because people are reminding women that they are attractive and present skills, abilities, and attitudes that another appreciates and would want in a life long partner? Women don’t like being complimented? Maybe it is different for women, Most men I have known like compliments. Is it because men don’t get the same treatment? Is it because some women are drowned in a constant stream of compliments that are shallow and meaningless?

I know I don’t much care for being complimented. I happen to find any critic of me distressing. Whether it is positive or negative. Just didn’t think everyone else felt that way. I do like knowing I am doing things right. That is about it though.

I think it is cool that she is finding so much joy in having created something. I hope I can find that much joy in something someday. Most the time I just feel content, when I feel anything other then numb. It is a issue I have to deal with though. It will be this way my entire life. Always has been. Always will be. Seeing another take joy from a project though gives me hope though.

Thanks for having shared this.

Liz Upton avatar

This particular woman likes being complimented.

I don’t much like being objectified, though.

Death Of Time avatar

I have yet to meat anyone that does like being objectified. Everyone likes being treated as who they are, Not what they are. Female, Male, famous, infamous, whatever; they rather be a person.

Besides when you treat them as anything then a person you lose appreciation for everything they are.

AndrewS avatar

Yeah, there’s something special about the feeling of satisfaction you get when you successfully build something yourself :-) The “I made this” feeling.

Richard Sierakowski avatar

A great start to a new adventure which may lead to new ideas in digital art installations.


gtechn avatar

It’s always fun to learn! ;)

Oh, by the way, saw the new Help area. However, the text header says, “Get Stared [at] With Raspberry Pi.” Otherwise, it seems a big improvement.

Clive avatar

Great post Steph :)

Steph avatar

Cheers Clive!

Giuseppe avatar

Congratulations on your first projects. I really like seeing people around the world getting enthusiastic about learning (specially techie :) stuff. This kind of enthusiasm will lead us to a better world :)

Anne Carlill avatar

Hi Steph, Thanks so much for your great article. This is just what I needed to read to spur me on – after ploughing through forum posts that told me that software updates, I was trying to do, were easy when I could see they weren’t that easy for a Raspberry Pi novice. We do very much need people, like you, who explain things clearly in straightforward English. Good luck with your next project; I will be watching out for your posts and getting more inspiration!

Steph avatar

Thanks Anne! We certainly aren’t all experts when it comes to tech. But it’s good to show that it’s fun, rather than scary and impossible to newbies like myself – so I wanted to share! I was really chuffed that I could also make something that I was actually impressed with and wanted to use, even though it was a beginner level make.

So glad to hear that I’ve passed on the baton of inspiration!

Colin Deady avatar

Welcome to the “I can solder, me” club :) Suddenly that feeling of “wait a minute, I can fix it myself without paying £50 for a repair” is one that you get to smugly smile at inwardly. I love that I’ve got the soldering bug and have bought a few Pi kits just to practice soldering different types of circuits and components.


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