Weekly Summary for Week #8

On Monday March 14, 2016 we were graced with the presences of Mitch Altman as he gave us a very insightful workshop on Soldering as we made “Trippy RGB Waves”. He is an alumnus of The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and while he attended the University he received both his bachelors and Master’s degrees studying Electrical Engineering. He is one of people that took his passions and hobbies a turned it into a successful business. He owns his own company called Cornfields Electronics. The invention he is most famous for is a little key chain called “TV-B-Gone”. This is just a single button that can turn off any TV. Mitch Despises TV so this was his solution for his own personal use but it turned out to be something that many people wanted therefore he turned it into a major business.

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Photo Credit: Lois Holman

   TV-B-Gone isn’t all that Mitch Altman is known for, he was a student with quite a wild side. While he attended the University in 1977 he co-foundered “Hash Wednesday” a well-known UIUC holiday back in its day. This holiday is comparable to today’s Unofficial St patty’s something that the students love celebrate here and the University looks down upon tries to use all the preventive tactics they can so the event doesn’t take place. Hash Wednesday was a day where students and kids from miles away would gather on the quad to smoke marijuana. They would all pitched tents, play games like Frisbee, play music with guitars, and even sell t-shirts, And Mitch was behind the entire event.

This link below is a TEDTalk that Mitch Altman spoke at in Brussels, it is about The Hackerspace Movement, but outside of that he also talks about how he reinvented himself so he was someone he like and enjoyed being. It is a great TedTalk and if you wanted to learn more about him definitely take this a few minutes to watch it!


                Mitch seems to be a very well rounded person and that was easy to see last Monday, he was very helpful and was constantly making sure we all understood what we were doing throughout the entire workshop to ensure our end products would work as needed. As many of the students in BADM395 didn’t know much about soldering walking into the class period at the end of it many of us were excited to learn more and do more with soldering and Arduinos. The way Mitch helped us understand what we were and why we had to solder the way he told us too really helped us enjoy the workshop even more. Many of the students really only had a theoretical understanding of how to soldering which that had had learned through watching and reading about. This workshop took all of our 2D understandings of Soldering and turned them into a 3D understanding. Here is another video were Mitch talks though how to solder.


Mitch Altman was a great presenter and we were all very excited to have him in class and talk to our class through soldering while we made some trippy LED light waves. If you ever have to opportunity to meet him we high suggest you take the time and just talk to him for 5 minutes.

Week 8 Reflection

In the past week, we had a chance to learn with Mitch Altman, an awesome alumnus who is a hacker, inventor and international expert on the hackerspace movement as well as introductory electronics workshops. “In 2004 Altman released a one-button universal remote control called TV-B-Gone, to be used for turning off TVs in public places.” The main purpose of this workshop was allowing us to build a Trippy RGB waves through basic soldering skill. I was very exciting to see Trippy RGB waves before we actually started the tutorial section.  Although I do not have any previous knowledge of electronic engineering, I did soldering a simple fan when I was in the elementary school with the help of my father. However, I barely remember the process of using tools and melting iron in order to allow each component to attach to the main panel. Thanks to this very detailed lesson with Mitch, I recalled my memories of soldering. The tools we used in the class are very similar to what I owned in 15 years ago. I felt soldering is a very fundamental skill for engineering to connect small pieces electronics together.

Although I do not have any previous knowledge of electronic engineering, I did soldering a simple fan when I was in the elementary school with the help of my father. However, I barely remember the process of using tools and melting iron in order to allow each component to attach to the main panel. Thanks to this very detailed lesson with Mitch, I recalled my memories of soldering. The tools we used in the class are very similar to what I owned in 15 years ago. The only difference is I did not have a sponge to clean up the head of the solder so that extra iron and heat will not impact the quality of the following work.  I felt soldering is a very fundamental skill for engineering to not only connect small pieces electronics together but impact the innovations and different types of research. Mitch had a lot of passions and patience to teach everyone in the classroom to complete our first Trippy RGB waves step by step. He also explained the functions of each component in the power point. I thought it was meaningful, interesting and useful for us to understand the stories behind the soldering.

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As a business student, I felt this workshop is an amazing opportunity for me to learn the one of the most important engineering skill. I’ve already gained lots of interesting and useful technical skills from this class. I expect to utilize those hardware and software knowledge on my future project.

Week 8: Soldering some trippy LED lights!

This week we had a guest lecture/workshop by Mitch Altman, founder of Cornfield electronics and a U of I alumni! He is also the creator of “TV-Be-Gone” and co-founder of Noisebridge, a SF hackerspace.


Mitch started off with a short presentation of himself before leading into the soldering tutorial.

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^Materials that we are working with.

While I’ve done some basic soldering before, this was an eye opening experience for me. When working on soldering for my projects I kind of went into it blindly, not understanding the concepts behind it and how to actually solder. Mitch taught us the proper way to solder, by holding the wire straight and below the soldering iron so that it would actually melt into the place we want it to be at, as well as holding the iron in place for a couple of seconds so that it has time to melt into the crevices. He also taught us the smoke emanating from the wire is due to the sap contained within the wire evaporating as it melts.

Being able to get hands on is something i appreciate the most in this class. Being a business major means that I rarely get to work on stuff as exciting as this, and I am really thankful for this chance. Now that I know how to solder properly, I look forward to being able to apply my knowledge into making bigger and better props that has more functions and features!

Soddering or Soldering?…

To poke a little fun at Lois, or myself depending on how you look at it, we learned the art of soldering (sODDering for those of you who speak American as it seems). This week, we had a guest lecturer, Mitch Altman – you may recognize his name; he invented TV B Gone. This was the perfect example of a pet project that turned into a profitable product. Basically, it is a universal TV remote on a keychain that can shut off TVs in public places; how cool is that?!

So unlike some of my colleagues with no computer experience, this was not my first time soldering… I went to the FabLab a few weeks back and taught myself 🙂 It was super cool to have someone with tons of experience there to show you little tips and tricks, and as a result, I think I’m pretty decent at it now.

There were two parts of the experience that were supercool to me. The first was being able to learn from someone who had so much experience, not only in soldering, but in the making community and business world in general. The great thing about Mitch is that he was very warm and easy to talk to. You could tell that he really enjoyed what he did for a living. The other extremely awesome part was actually having our finished products in series. It was so cool to see everything light up in synchrony, and it was as the name implied, really trippy.

What is soldering?

What is soldering?


n. any of various alloys fused and applied to the joint between metal objects to unite them without heating the objects to the melting point.

v. to join (metal objects) with solder.

Before coming to the workshop, I really had no idea what soldering was, and looking up this definition was not exactly the clearest of definitions. When our class began the workshop, it finally hit me that this word was familiar to me from the dreary PHYS 212 class I took long ago. Soldering can be used to hold parts of a circuit board together. In this particular workshop, Mitch Altman was teaching us how to make the “Trippy Synchronized LED”. The parts we used are shown in this picture:

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The soldering gun is the heating agent that heats up (to about 365 deg Fahrenheit) the solder, the metal wire that allows the parts of the circuit to adhere to the board. A wet sponge is provided to wipe the oxidized excess solder from the tip. The wire cutter is what it’s usually for, to cut off excess wire. The contents in the bag are the parts of the circuit board. The LED light is controlled by micro controllers in the board to produce a pattern of different colored lights. When someone passes their hand over the board, that sequence starts over, in this case from red on, caused by an invisible infrared light emitter and detector.

This week was especially eye-opening for me because circuits are something that I have encountered only in theory (and in class!) knowing only key words like resistor or capacitor. Especially now that electronics are being entwined with all “things”, namely the concept of the “Internet of Things”, this is an at-home skill that can prove to be very useful.

Week 8 – Soldering

This past Monday, we were taught by the awesome guest speaker Mitch Altman who is an engineering alumnae of UIUC and inventor of TV-B-Gone. He allowed for us to practice with soldering to create our Trippy RGB waves kit, capable of portraying light flashes in a sequenced pattern. 

Mitch says he uses these models to teach kids about electronics and engineering, which I thought was pretty cool. I had also never really heard of soldering before until this lesson, and didn’t even think about how each component was attached to the main frame. Through this lesson, I was able to properly use the soldering iron and attach all of the pieces myself. The most interesting thing I found about the process was that the soldering iron seemed to be a very basic tool, that was probably even used for decades if not centuries beforehand for various activities. I was pretty afraid to use it since I don’t really trust myself with tools like that, but Mitch’s guidance made me feel a lot more comfortable. His helpful tips like dragging the iron along the board helped me a lot as a first time user.

Going forward, I now know how to use the soldering iron and am able to make inferences on piecing together my own Trippy RGB waves kit. I find that after working with sensors in the FabLab as well as these kits, I’ve become very interested in sensory material and how it can be transmitted to either turning a light on and off or a motor run. Though this is not technology I plan to use in my final semester project, I am very curious as to what other uses we may possibly have for it. I just find it so interesting how something that seems so complex is actually really simple when you get down to the basics. Is this the same kind of technology used in our smartphones? Or is it at least somehow relative? I think I’ll do more research on this, just for fun.

Sawh-dering vs. Souhl-dering

That is the question.

Our session this week started off with a conversation about how to pronounce the word “soldering”. Quite an interesting conversation it was; it ended with several comments about how American insist on being different.

After that conversation we got to meet the awesome Mitch Altman. Mitch Altman is a San Francisco-based hacker and inventor, best known for inventing TV-B-Gone, as featured speaker at hacker conferences, as international expert on the hackerspace movement, and for teaching introductory electronics workshops. Mitch is also the founder of Cornfield Electronics. Mitch taught us how to solder!

Here’s Mitch himself!


Armed with soldering irons, lead, and various electronics parts, we were off. Mitch gave us step by step instructions on how to solder the parts together. It was actually very cool and I feel like I’ve gain an awesome new skill. What we were putting together was a little light emitter which was made up of a micro controller, some led bulbs, a small battery, various other small parts. After about an hour, we ended up with this:


I’m not sure if what we made means much, however, I think what we did (solder) meant a lot! I read this interesting thought from sparkfun.com

Soldering is one of the most fundamental skills needed to dabble in the world of electronics. The two go together like peas and carrots. And, although it is possible to learn about and build electronics without needing to pick up a soldering iron, you’ll soon discover that a whole new world is opened with this one simple skill.

So that means that I am well on my way to working with electronics, the very road I expected to be through this class!

I think that learning how to solder was an amazing skill to pick up and though this was my first time, I think that this is a huge barrier being broken and I am excited to continue to work with electronics!