Simplifying Complexity

Samarth JajooMarch 13, 2017Simplicity and ComplexityAwesome Moments

A difficulty, problem, issue, obstacle, hurdle, or stumbling block: that's how we often define complexity.

I find people and situations complex when they are unapproachable or incomprehensible. Simplicity, on the other hand, is something that presents no difficulty.

Here's the thing—you rarely experience complete clarity in any situation. How many times have you managed to do something without running into problems along the way? Complications are . . . inevitable. The trick, however, lies in simplifying complexity—boiling down problems to the lowest level and addressing them from the root, before things become any more entangled.

I learned this lesson firsthand about a year ago. I was twelve, and had just arrived at school. Our school had recently set up a “Makerspace,” a lab with some extremely cool but (for me) unapproachable machines.

For example, there was an open circuit 3D printer. We could see the hardware inside—the processors, shields, cooling fans—all of it. It was incredibly intimidating. I had heard that the printer was used in industries for something called “prototyping,” but I didn't have a clue what that word meant. It was all gibberish to me.

However, after 30 minutes of talking to Krishna, the person who installed the Makerspace, I was hooked on the idea of not just the machines, but the very culture behind making things, however vague that sounds. Krishna told me what the 3D printer does; it just draws in 3D. He talked about the amazing possibilities of this seemingly complicated idea. Then, he showed me the tens of thousands of lines of code the printer uses to function. For a moment, I gave up on the idea of making. I said to myself, "I don't want to do this, I'm puzzled just looking at it!"

But my teachers told me that operating the printer was no big deal—that the code was just like English, just some instructions to teach the machine what to do. That sounded somewhat less complicated, enough for me to give it a try!

I spent the day understanding how the 3D printer worked and how people were using it. In just 10 minutes of reading about the machine online, I was hooked on the idea, and started understanding why it was useful. I saw the possibilities, the inventions, and the importance of "prototyping," a word that was no longer gibberish to me! I saw the amazing things people were designing, and I was inspired to the core.

In just a day, the 3D printer no longer seemed intimidating, but instead became a tool that could support me in building things. After a day or two, I designed my first creation: a simple frame that says "DFTBA" (Don't Forget To Be Awesome). Now that I knew about making, I would definitely not forget to be awesome, but reminders don't hurt.

I spent hours at home exploring not only the 3D printer, but the whole "Maker Culture," which is all about learning to solve problems and simplify complexity in order to develop a sophisticated product—something with a purpose. I started helping my classmates explore the Makerspace. I wanted them to be excited about it, and for them to see sophistication in the machines. I was so passionate about the idea that I spent half of my summer break at school learning more about it.

I have come across multiple complexities, but simplifying them has brought me experience and clear vision. Making has been a great help to me and taught me better problem solving. I’m not afraid to approach something that seems complicated now, be it a machine or a math concept, and am much more confident, because I know I’ll be able to solve and simplify any problem.

Samarth Jajoo is a seventh grader from Ahmedabad, India. He’s a programming enthusiast and solving problems is his best source of entertainment. When not coding, you’ll probably find him in school playing table tennis, or writing about something that triggers his imagination.