(Guest post from my husband, Luke Hindman. He shares where his hobbies and interests have led him over the past five months and what it means for the coming year in his personal and professional adventures. Check out Adafruit and follow this link to see what the circuit playground board is and how you can get one: https://www.adafruit.com/product/3000)
It all started last November as I watched Ladyada walking through the design process of a new board we weren’t supposed to ask any questions about. I tuned in for every session to learn more about the design process. Then there was the prototype build and sessions on how to solder surface mount components by hand. I have loved electronics and programming since a very young age, so I thought this board was a brilliant idea for teaching kids.
Later on, my wife and I invited a few friends over for New Year’s. My friend Shane, who is faculty at Boise State University, told me about working with a local middle school to start a programming club. Once I learned what he wanted to do, I told him about the circuit playground board and sent him links to the videos. I also showed him several of the wearable projects I had made for a steampunk gala my wife and I attended in 2013.
Shane and I exchanged many excited email messages, and he persuaded me to help him create an engineering club at the middle school. I’d never taught before, but it sounded fun. Instead of just programming in a browser, we decided to teach programming using wearable electronics. After many requests for a possible release date for the circuit playground board from Adafruit Customer Support (great people, but they unfortunately “didn’t know” anything about a circuit playground board), I designed a kit using NeoPixels, Flora and a few small sensors.
The class was 6th, 7th and 8th graders and they were blown away by what they could do. We had them customizing the sample code and playing with color gradients by the end of four weeks. They eventually built their own wearable projects and we taught them how to solder everything together. It was such an incredible experience.
While all this was going on, Shane was trying to persuade me to apply for a faculty position in the Computer Science Department at Boise State University. I told him there was no way. I am an engineer, not a teacher. As the months went by, February became April and I realized that I could in fact see myself as a teacher. After an application, interviews, presentations and an awkward conversation with my employer of seven years I am going to be teaching CompSci Fall 2016!
It is now the end of April and the circuit playground board went on sale this afternoon. I felt it was time to step back and reflect on the past five months. The November 2015 version of myself would not have believed the path that those late nights watching deskofladyada would lead to. All of that education and growth and the board wasn’t even released yet. I can’t wait to see what happens when it arrives next week! :)