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Focus On: Torben Steeg's Soldering Workshop

Gareth Halfacree

We recently attended the Halifax Mini Maker Faire 2015, and took freelance journalist Gareth Halfacree along for the ride. This series of Focus On features is designed to offer a sampling of who you can expect to see at a Maker Faire event, why they're there and what it is that drives them.

At the top of the hill that forms part of the grounds of the Eureka children's museum there's an old station house, the rear of which is clad in glass looking out over the railway line it once served. It's here that Torben Steeg, freelance education consultant and former teacher, is currently in the process of teaching five-year-old Finlay to solder a small electronic badge - under close supervision, naturally.

"I think this is the first thing he's has actually wanted a go on," laughs Finlay's mother Francesca, who has been wandering around the event with her son and baby daughter, "which I think says something because it's a bit more dangerous! I think he wasn't really interested in some of the other stuff," she adds, referring to stands demonstrating everything from the building of molecular structures to making home-made paper parade hats. "Because he's only five I think he's probably a bit young for some of it, but he's liked looking at it."

In only a few minutes, Finlay's work is complete and Torben is able to spare a moment to discuss his workshop. "Everything these days has got electronics inside it," he explains when asked why soldering is such an important skill to learn. "If you want to have control over the stuff that you own, you want to be able to fix it or even make your own stuff, anything you make nowadays has got electronics in. Almost - not your glasses, yet, but they will soon!"

Torben's workshop is located in the station house for two reasons: the glass wall offers plenty of light so nobody need squint at the compact electronics kits he's brought along, and it keeps the hot irons and potentially dangerous fumes away from the crowds in the museum proper. While that's a sensible precaution, Torben's clear that there's no real age limit to learning. "You just saw a five-year-old doing it. I helped him, but he can manage it - and certainly eight-year-olds can just do it themselves," he explains. "It's a five-minute learning job, it's dead easy.

"I think that electronics has a kind of mystique around it, that it's hard, it's complicated, and so to go away and think 'I did this myself' I think is, you know, it boosts the ego, makes you stand tall, it's good."

Torben's website, shared with colleague David Barlex, can be found here.

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