STEP Reflection

Paolo Valdez

Artistic/Creative Endeavor Project (STEPmaker)

STEP Reflection

The main objective of my STEP project is to build a theremin using a schematic from an online source. Building a theremin would expand my experience working with soldering tools, perforated circuit boards, and other manufacturing tools. I also set up an opportunity to organize an inventory of all the parts and tools used with my budget. Once the theremin was complete, I collaborated with the Electronics Club at The Ohio State University to do a project overview and demonstration at one of their meetings.

Before my STEP project, I believed my experiences working with lab equipment were not as extensive as my understanding of engineering design and circuit theory I’ve been studying from my courses. Although, I believed many employers valued prospective engineers with experiences with soldering, oscilloscope, and power tools along with knowledge in design. The theremin build project challenged myself as both an engineer and a technician; not only did I apply what I learned from my courses at a design aspect as an engineer, I had to understand my project from a build and laboratory aspect.

There two different methods implemented when it came to putting all of the theremin’s electronic components together on the circuit board: soldering and wire-wrapping. I had prior knowledge of the application of soldering. Wire-wrapping, however, was a completely different process that achieved the same purpose as soldering. Although, the schematic called for wire-wrapping for certain components, it made me wonder why do this over soldering since soldering is a much quicker and efficient method if done well. Wire-wrapping does have an advantage over soldering since it is not affected by poor-conducting cold joints and fumes. Thus, I learned that there could be viable approaches to an electronic build.

I found that inventory is also an important aspect of doing a build project. As an active member of the university’s rocketry team, it’s a common issue to be missing certain tools or parts and can even be problematic when extra equipment need to be ordered for replacement. The theremin build requires various electronic components that are small enough to be lost easily, so purchasing a storage container with multiple labeled compartments would prevent myself losing any components and further spending my budget. Inventory is something not really emphasized in the engineering field, but very crucial in a build project.

As simple a concept using a hacksaw is, there’s much to learn and master when it came to cutting sheets of aluminum for antennas and the plywood base. The overall structure of the theremin build relied how much refining you do with the plywood and aluminum. Most of the time, I found myself sanding off sharp corners of aluminum sheets and plywood to prevent any safety hazards. The theremin would sometimes wobble even on a flat surface, so there was time spent fixing screws to ensure a stable structure.

The importance of my experiencing working with my theremin build is that it would prepare myself in a professional field where there is a possible requirement that I need to handle manufacturing or lab equipment for fabrication purposes. Majority of my studies involves theoretical design and application with CAD software, however, I felt lacking when it came to using a soldering iron, and generally working with electronic components. I expect jobs that would require some extensive experience with these types of equipment when it comes to building and testing a design.

One thought on “STEP Reflection

  1. Hi Paolo, ironically I think we just spoke today, but you are also on the top of my assigned list of reflections.

    As you already know, I think this is an awesome project! I would not have the first idea where to start with building a theremin, and think it must have been a challenging build. In your reflection, I appreciate your thoughts about the technician/engineer divide – that doesn’t always make a ton of sense. I think an engineer with some hand-on building experience can probably gain respect a little easier when working in a project team. It’s cool that you pulled this idea in when thinking about your project.

    I’m glad you got some soldering experience in too, and a chance to sharpen some of those hands-on skills. I hope it is one of many future projects that you get to work on, Paolo.

    Good luck to you in your future engineering (and life) endeavors!

    Caleb

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