Ask Eddie: Great Education Expectations

Dec 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Eddie Ciletti

WHEN IN DOUBT, JUST ASK

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This month, I am recovering from the blurry haze that could only result from end-of-quarter finals—late nights of wrapping up class projects, grading papers, entering grades and trying to get back on a regular sleep schedule. You’d think I was a student, hence this month’s stream-of-consciousness thread that includes random thoughts about the education process, links of interest and a few sample “student and reader questions” that have nudged me to do more surfing. Some examples:

Q: I am a student at ______. I read your article about _____. For my class project, I want to build a particle accelerator. Can you help me?
The above question is only slightly exaggerated; I help where I can.

Q: If I study electronics, will I be able to design my own console?
Dear Overly Ambitious. Buy a used console, make it work and then modify to taste.

Q: What should I study so that after school I’ll be able to get a job?
A skill that few others have. If you go to an audio school, take the technical classes. Learn how to solder, make cables, use a multimeter, troubleshoot.

Q: Can you help me fix this [insert fave squirrelly device here] over the phone?
The first Q&A is free. The others require a consultant’s fee.

Of course, education is different for everyone. The traditional “right out of high school” plan doesn’t work for everyone, as in, “may not be the most efficient use of cash.” In my experience, the most ready students are generally a few years past high school and/or have tinkering experience and come with the necessary drive and questions. For some, college is a way to sample the options and figure out a direction from there.

That said, I do occasionally get questions that are overly ambitious and for which there are no simple answers. It may seem repetitive, but with the right mix of drive, tenacity and patience, the craziest ideas and accidents can become reality. Don’t give up! For almost every question there are at least a few links on the subject to get started—often with pictures or schematics or videos. Some very generous people—our modern virtual mentors—gladly take us from an idea or observation all the way through to a proof of theory or functioning prototype.

I am continually impressed with Wikipedia’s growth and depth (more info each visit). It may surprise some that I often have to remind students not only what an incredible resource the Web is, but also the importance of seeking out more than one version of The Truth, be it technical, political or culinary. Audio electronics is a multi-disciplinary “distraction” that ranges from pure science to art to politics, as in highly opinionated versions of the audio truth.






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