Why Learn To Solder? Not All Electronics Are Digital

Oct 6, 2017

What did you do the last time your toaster broke? Or your smart phone? 

If you said you threw it out, you aren't alone. So in an age when its more the habit to toss electronics than to fix them, why would you teach high school students how to put together a circuit board? 

Well, not everything is digital. And some stuff can't be replaced.

So says Will Smith, Jr., instructor at  the Houston County Career Academy in Warner Robins. In his Digital Electronics class, high school students learn how to repair electronics by soldering. Basically, that's using a hot rod to melt a little metal to glue together electronic components.

On a recent morning his students practiced by stringing resistors together into sculptures.

"Kind of like an art exhibit show to show creativity," Smith said.

Later they will build a flashing LED light from scratch. As Smith approvingly looked over their shoulders, the students connected piles of resistors into stars, boxes or even connected loops.

Smoke was rising past Justin Purvis’ nose as he worked. He said he gets a charge out of working on the things other people toss out.

Why do that when you can actually take it apart and see if you can actually fix it yourself?" he asked "It's a major accomplishment when you do it yourself."

Will Smith Jr. said that drive to keep old stuff running is worth a lot just down the road at Robins Air Force Base.

"There's a lot of aircraft there. Older aircraft," he said.

There's little that's digital about those old aircraft and they have to keep flying. So where does soldering come in?

"Say I have an old part and I just want a technician to fix it," Smith said. "A technician would get a soldering iron, troubleshoot and fix the part."

The workers that know how to do that now and keep the Air Force in the air are retiring.

"It's going to leave a big skills gap to fill those workers," Smith said.

Will Smith, Jr. said he hopes these students will be at Robins Air Force Base to fix the things that need to be fixed.