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Reinventing the Flashlight: A Day in Mr. Martin’s Practical Electronics Class

by Melissa Strong, Assistant Head of Middle School
from Making Meaning in the Middle: A Window into Middle School Life

As you travel through your daily routine, consider for a moment all of the electronic tools and gadgets you depend upon. Perhaps you used a hair dryer or an electric toothbrush while getting ready this morning? Or a toaster to prepare your bagel and cream cheese? Did you use a garage door opener before departing for work or school in your electric vehicle? Or turn on the radio on your commute?
We use so many gadgets on a daily basis that it’s easy to take them for granted–so much so that we might not give any thought to how these inventions came to be, both in terms of form and function. However, even the simplest device may reflect a great deal of careful thought and elegant design in order to produce something that is practical and effective.
Students in Mr. Martin’s Practical Electronics class this week were faced with a challenge: Make a flashlight. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? After all, flashlights already exist! Ah, but here’s the catch: you must design one from scratch, with no instructions. (Oh, and it must also work.) It’s not so simple anymore, is it?

This project was an entry point for students to gain an understanding of the design process, as well as the tools and basic materials required for creating electronic devices, learned on a “just in time” basis as they progress through the steps of designing and building their own flashlights. On the day of my visit, students had already drafted prototypes for their flashlights on paper. After a brief demonstration of the tools at their disposal and a primer in their safe use, students were ready to cut wires, drill holes and use soldering guns to bring their simple flashlight designs to life.
We can’t wait to see the finished products!
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