That Digital LED Belt, Though #cmk16

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Last night, #cmk16 went to MIT Media Lab in Boston was phenomenal.

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Here’s the video:

And then this morning it was time to get back to working on the Digital LED Belt that was documented in my last post.

Photo Jul 14, 1 23 02 PM.pngrise and shine

Here is the geeked out learning in all its Snapchat glory:

You see here that I begin the work on my own. I’m following directions and doing something that I actually already know how to do.  Things seem to be going well, until they stop going well.  I’m uncompressing, renaming, copying to specific folders, restarting the software and so one.  But something isn’t working.  What luck!  If everything worked, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn so much.

What happened was that the board I’m using, the AtMega32U4 was not listed in the dropdown menu.  Karen helped me out.  She has a deep understanding of how to work all the user interface aspects of Arduino.  Still, we reached an impasse.  Even though we saw what we wanted, we couldn’t get the computer to sense the board.  Toward the end, after much study and trial and error, Karen looks at my soldering work.  Uh.  Oh.

This is where my poor soldering comes back to haunt me.  And leads me to the next step of the journey.


The clip below shows me removing the solder from the board using something referred to as a “solder sucker.”  It wasn’t difficult. I simply heated up the solder on the pins so that I could vacuum it into a syringe. The short circuit is removed and we move on. When I brought it back, we had a big win. A light lit up.  This felt empowering!

The feeling of independence made the successes sweeter.  The feeling of independence made the struggles lonelier.  The atmosphere at CMK is supportive in a way that energizes without overloading.  If you feel overloaded, it’s because you haven’t yet learned that you don’t have to be. If you feel jazzed up, you can do a happy dance without self-consciousness.  If you feel overwhelmed, you can reach out and everyone will know what you’re going through. You are not alone.

Then we encounter another problem.  We don’t discover the solution (or the exact problem) right away.  We get to it the following day.  (By “we” I’m referring to Ben and me.) During this clip, Karen gets the blink of the board, but we don’t get the belt to light up. Karen gets strategic with the multimeter.  We want to rule out some connection issues before moving on.  But the multimeter wouldn’t work.  I wasn’t sure if there were batteries in it.  When I checked, they turned out to be there.  Assuming they were dead, I took them out and replaced them.  Still didn’t work.  I ended up putting the old ones back in and it worked.  Surely, there is a logical explanation for that! They must have been situated in such a way that the connection would not hold.  No problem. It’s working, and that’s what matters.

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But then it was time to regroup. I’ve done some file management, some reflection, some blogging, and I’m ready to get back to work.

My big takeaway is the power of nearby support.  At home, when I run into difficulty, the experience is rarely empowering.  It takes such a heavy lift to figure out where to turn.  My wheels spin.  I second guess myself.  I get distracted.  But with support available, and with people all around who are going through similar trials, I can persevere without losing the passion.

onempty imgood.png

What situations drain your enthusiasm?

Why is it that one experience of struggle can bring you down when another can power you up?

I don't know



5 thoughts on “That Digital LED Belt, Though #cmk16

  1. I love this blog. I love your creativity and the Snaps and Bitmojis. I live the words that fill in the blanks that were left after I watched your Snap Stories this week. I love the idea that this face to face experience was empowering in a way that working alone with virtual support is not. I love your ending question. I have examples of situations that drain my energy in my head. The common denominator is a disparity in power and sense of shared mission.


  2. Stacy, You just made my day.
    The Snaps are amazing for my learning.
    They help to focus. Documenting and sharing even when no one there to see it.
    Thank you so much.


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