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Week 2 of camp is over and so is the implementation of our personal curriculum, in which each student designed and built a flashlight while learning about human-centered design, circuits, electricity, and light. This week was a test of ingenuity, patience, and flexibility as each day’s lesson plan morphed to fit the class that morning. The first day Mallissa and I taught the basics of circuits and the students deconstructed old electronics, including a radio, a TV, and a computer monitor, among others. The girls loved this activity and it was really cool to see all the circuit boards, resistors, transistors, and connections that made up each electronic. Some of the pieces were difficult to get apart due to unreachable screws or components soldered together, but the girls persisted and were able to see some cool things. Teaching current, voltage, and resistance proved difficult, so we constantly had to come up with new demonstrations and analogies to get the point across, but by the end of the class, they knew what they were talking about!

The second day was the true test day, the actual circuit building. While putting together the circuits, the girls had trouble with almost every step. I had to go around the room and check that each piece was put together just right and continually fix problems. By the time that we added the LEDs, many of the girls didn’t realize, even after continually reminding, that if they connected their batteries to their LEDs without a resistor, they would short their lights and have to replace them. I replaced almost all of their LEDs, some multiple times. This day was a true test of patience and flexibility. We were supposed to finish the circuits by soldering them together, but we ran out of time and had to push it to day 3. However, day 3 was a success! Even though we had more burnt out LEDs and continual fixing and replacements, every student had a working flashlight by the end of the day. Honestly, I enjoyed troubleshooting each circuit to figure out what went wrong to fix it, but that’s just the BME in me (thanks ECE 110).

Day 4 was a hard because we wanted to teach a lot, which meant more of us at the front of the room and less of the girls working on projects. But we made it work through a lot of volunteers and hands-on demonstration. By the end of the week, the girls surprised us with how much they had learned. We thought they might be found the material boring or that it might’ve been in explained in too complex of terms, but they answered all the review questions we asked them easily! When we played with an online circuit builder, they were super excited to see what would happen to LEDs if we added more batteries, more resistors, more LEDs, and every combination thereof. All in all, it was a week of learning for the teachers and the students, and I learned a lot about working with kids.

We also had the opportunity to take part in cross the line with the campers. I knew that these kids came from underprivileged backgrounds, but boy was it eye-opening. These kids have been homeless, have parents in jail, feel like the world would be better if they’d never been born. The large majority are being raised by a single parent and/or they’re parents are divorced. Around 80% of them have an alcoholic and/or drug addict in their family. Things like this just serve as reminders as to how fortunate I am to be where I am. I hope I’m able to make a small difference in their lives.