TTM Collaborative

Troubleshooting Required

For the second class, The Tech Monsters envisioned the students setting up their Raspberry Pi workstations and logging in. However, the hardware proved to be fickle, and the process of assembling the workstations was full of pitfalls.  Overall, the students’ unfamiliarity, and our inexperience setting up the workstations in a classroom setting, created a chaotic environment. Out of the ten workstations, only one student was able to log into their Pi. Miles’ first fear was that the students had damaged the Pi’s. Several students were visibly disappointed and frustrated. But all was not lost; this was a teachable moment.


Before the next class, Miles decided to troubleshoot each workstation to deduce the source of the issues. The most common problem was a hardware quirk:  the HDMI video cable needed to be plugged in before the micro USB power cable. In addition several students had not seated their sd cards correctly.  Meanwhile, other students had left almost every other connection loose. If all workstations had suffered from the same problems, then the issues could have been fixed during the class. However, this constellation of problems made it impossible to diagnose and fix ten workstations on the fly.


Rather than move on and gloss over these issues and their solutions, we decided to prepare a worksheet about troubleshooting. The worksheet will define the purpose of each component and how the signals, e.g., video, power, or user-input,  move between them. Also, the nature of the errors suggests that proper handling procedures for the various pieces of hardware should also be presented. Armed with this information, students will be able to successfully use their workstations. And they’ll have a good shot at solving one of the most common hardware problems: plugging it in.


While we lost almost a day of class time, the upshot is that the students will have an opportunity to learn to troubleshoot by doing, rather than just theorizing. Thankfully, even though we didn’t show the students how to correctly handle the hardware, Miles’ fear did not come to pass. None of the hardware was damaged, and next week, we plan to teach the students to troubleshoot for themselves.


Nuts and Bolts