Thimble Learning Platform REVIEW
When I was younger, I used to spend a lot of time with my dad in his workshop. He was putting together motorcycle parts and I was playing with modeling paints. It was a simple period of time when we could just be together. I watched him work with efficiency and accuracy with tools like soldering irons and Exacto knives. It wasn’t too long before I was in high school and working with various tools myself. I found that I really liked the construction of objects from the ground up. I was in a class that taught me how to design and build a bridge from balsa wood and find out how much weight it could hold. It was unfortunate that I wasn’t apart of the group that was constructing circuit boards in that class because that would have come in handy when I was working with my latest review — the Thimble Learning Platform.
Thimble sought to develop a learning space for everyone to be able to ‘make’ things. They call it the ‘makerspace’ and the concept of the platform is to provide monthly projects in the form of a DIY kit so that everyone — no matter the age — can build electronics and better understand how they work.
As you progress from project to project, you will learn the art of soldering, programming languages, micro-controllers, and theory.
Our hope is that you will learn enough to build, operate, and manipulate your own projects in the near future.
The Thimble time is dedicated to providing pure, open source technology and systems for people to use. They provide numerous tutorials and for each learning module, there are both written and video instructions. Even though it’s a subscription-based model for distribution, you are under no commitment to continue with the program. You can choose between 1, 3, 6, or 12 month subscriptions and you can cancel anytime. Once you select your preference for subscription, your first kit will be delivered to you within a few days. When it arrives, you can use the provided tutorials to build your project.
I personally love the concept of Thimble. I think it’s a great way to get more people involved in having fun with electronics. I had the opportunity to build one of the Thimble projects — an LED compass. The idea of the compass is that once it is assembled properly the LED lights will point to magnetic north. The compass arrived with a 4×6 postcard that had the ‘getting started’ instructions, which told me to get online to view the tutorials. While I really appreciate the online learning module, I would have liked to have a written set of instructions, too.
I would suggest before getting started that you lay all of the parts out in front of you and take stock of what you have. You don’t want to spend time working on the project only to find that you don’t have the parts. Once I determined that all the parts were present, I set to work. One thing I want to note is that you will need to provide your own soldering iron and solder. I actually had to go out and purchase one. When I did, I found there are many different styles available and different price points. I bought an iron that was inexpensive since this was supposed to be a one-time project. I don’t recommend going the ‘cheap’ route. I had a lot of difficulties with getting the soldering iron to work the way it was supposed to and I feel like some of my headaches would probably have been solved with a better quality iron.
In the introduction tutorial, the members of the Thimble team that walk you through the process say that it will take about an hour to assemble and program. The first step of my process was to solder the 16 resistors into place and then clip off the excess wiring. This process took me about two hours. Now, I know some of that was because of the tools I was using, but some of it was because I was a beginner with electronics engineering.
In addition to Thimble giving people an outlet for electronic creativity, it’s also a valuable lesson in following instructions. I thought I was doing a pretty good job until I got to the step where I attach the battery pack to the main compass body. It was here that I realized that I clipped the headers when I should have left them alone. In the previous two steps, you cut the leads of the resistors and the LEDs so they don’t stick out and I thought you were supposed to do the same with the headers. The written instructions and images that were included in the tutorial didn’t say that you shouldn’t. So, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to complete the build of the compass. I will say this, the parts seemed to be coming together well and even though my soldering job wasn’t as neat as the tutorials, the pieces were holding pretty well on the compass.
I would recommend this kit system to someone who is interested in working with their hands, has patience when it comes to small parts, and want to learn more about how electronics and robotics works. I really was enjoying myself and learning a lot about how to work with small components. I was looking forward to working with the programming aspect of it, too, but wasn’t able to because of my building error. Thimble Learning Platform is a very unique way to explore your creative side.
Originally published at macsources.com on October 27, 2017.