The students are not tempted by any of these potential distractions because they’re engrossed in their work and each other’s company.
Then, with a flash and a pop, a tiny cloud of smoke rises. The Sands of Time has shorted. The students huddle.
“It was wired into the wrong pole on the breadboard,” reports Hudson Burke, a computer engineering major from Sacramento, California.
A breadboard is a plastic piece of equipment that allows engineers to try out electrical configurations without committing yet to soldering. Garner and the students appear to take the setback in stride.
“We roll with the punches,” Garner says looking on. “If things catch fire, we put out the fire and figure out what went wrong. That’s the story for the next three weeks.”
At the moment, the single clock hand that is supposed to both turn the five-minute hourglasses and point out the hour is frozen. Its wires are exposed. Garner demonstrates how the robotics will work by giving one barrel a spin. Brown grains trickle through the bottleneck. Ultimately, 93 LEDs will light up each of the 12 circles. Observers will be able to tell the time within five minutes based on which circle is lit.
For now, though, students continue to work through the aftermath of the short. They consult an oscilloscope, which looks like it could be a piece of equipment belonging in an intensive care unit. Wavy lines on the monitor attempt to diagnose where the clock hurts.