Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It's not about the math

Way back in 2005 my husband and I were teaching classes and giving lectures on miniature animatronics, and on using LEDs in miniature settings.  At the time, it was a new concept to most miniaturists, and in response to overwhelming demand, we created a how-to video.  Since that time, we've sold hundreds of our DVDs, and the majority of comments from customers have been very positive.  However, in a few cases we get comments like "I didn't know there was going to be math" or "This is too complicated for me with all that math", "I don't understand formulas", etc.

As a person who has spent a lot of time on "math avoidance" myself, I sympathize.  My mom used to love to tell the story of when I was a little girl and my Dad said "come on, it's time to learn your numbers" I replied with "they're not MY numbers!".   I still feel that way, but what I've come to understand in learning how to use LEDs is, the problem isn't really with the math, it's with the language.  Let's face it, the math involved is basic multiplication and division, and you don't even really have to do it, you can use a calculator (and there are LED specific calculators online!) the "confusing part" is knowing what the terms are for the numbers that need to be calculated.   Sure, the V for "Volts" makes sense, so why the "E"?  That "E" stands for "Electromotive Force", and no, you don't need to know that in order to wire your dollhouse, but it is kind of fun to know (right?).

Now, ten years after our DVD was created, pre-wired LED light sets are readily available.  The easiest lighting solution is to buy sets ready-made, or have one of the many companies offering mini lights figure out your lighting arrangement for you.  Nothing wrong with that, of course.  I'll even buy the occasional light set if I don't feel like soldering or finding the right battery holder.  I'm glad though, that I know enough about creating my own lighting arrangements to not have to rely on that.

Our objective in creating the DVD was to allow people to understand the process well enough to be able to purchase components on their own and come up with the lighting arrangement they designed for their piece.  I get that diagrams like the one for Ohm's Law, above, are terrifying if you don't know what any of those letters or symbols stand for, and you aren't so sure what the arrangement means, so I'm going to let you in on another "secret" - you don't really even have to know exactly what they mean, you just need the general concept and know how to figure out where to get the numbers from ---hint---package specifications----  Don't tell Steve I told you this though.'s an online LED calculator :)

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