This month we'd like you to meet element14 Community's August Member of the Month: fvan
element14: First of all, congratulations on this second Member of the Month award! Since you joined in January 2013 you've really made some awesome contributions to the Community. Could you tell us a little bit about how you first came to join element14?
Fvan: I found out about the element14 Community from The Ben Heck Show. Somewhere during the third season I saw an ad about RoadTest and decided to create an account. I submitted an application for the Santa Catcher Design Challenge and I was selected to participate. From there I went on to participate in the BeagleBone Black Radio and then the Forget Me Not Design Challenges.
element14: That's a lot of Design Challenges! What has been the most challenging one to date?
Fvan: I would have to say the one I am currently participating in, the Forget Me Not Challenge. There are a lot of active contestants. It’s a really new technology, or at least new technology to me, like the self- powered transmitters, sensors, and an oscilloscope. It has been a lot of learning, and a lot of fun.
element14: I know that this isn't from a Design Challenge, but can you tell me more about the Internet of Things alarm clock you built?
Fvan: Yeah. The idea was brought to me about making my own version of an alarm clock given certain requirements and information, so given the criteria I tried to make the best version of the alarm clock .
element14: Are you still using it?
Fvan: I am, but I am in the middle of adapting it. The project is based around letting you know when a train is being delayed so you can sleep in longer. Not being someone that rides trains everyday. I am now adapting it to watch traffic on the road instead. - The action is a bit in reverse, where rather than let you sleep in as much as possible, it will anticipate traffic and wake you up earlier so you get to work on time!
element14: Have you ever given any thought taking this project, or any of your projects into production?
Fvan: It’s certainly something that is interesting to me, and something I would like to do eventually. For now, since I started with my projects, I would like to continue building up knowledge for a year and then use that knowledge for some commercial project. I am still in a phase where I am trying to learn as much as I can, put the time in and keep the interest in electronics- so far I am still very interested in the learning aspect.
element14: Very cool. You spoke about going through this phase of acquiring knowledge, what resources have you used during this period of time where your primary focus is learning?
Fvan: I started off learning Arduino with peers and through the element14 Community. I was able to learn more about other technologies such as the BeagleBone Black, Raspberry Pi, and by looking at other projects for different uses and capabilities. This made me dive deeper into these technologies. I even took some evening classes in micro-controllers to learn more. My goal was to move from fiddling into really making something usable.
I am a software guy, so the electronics side is where I have learned the most. For the Forget Me Not Challenge, for instance, the contestants received an oscilloscope and I really had no idea how to use it. The past few weeks I have been trying to use it, learn the basics, and then take it a step further to troubleshoot more advanced problems. I will get confronted by a problem in the challenge with the scope or other hardware and need to solve it by asking questions on the Community, or, I try to figure it out myself. Sometimes I will even try to help out with questions on the Community and manage to learn by trying and doing it myself.
element14: How has element14 provided educational resources to you on topics you don’t understand?
Fvan: Video tutorials have been helpful, when I first started off with Arduino, the Jeremy Blum Ardunio Tutorials were very useful. Even more recently, the CadSoft EAGLE tutorial videos have been a great help, they are very clear and understandable, even for an outsider trying to learn this.
element14: Can you talk a little bit about your history with electronics, considering you’re a software guy?How did you get started?
Fvan: I finished school in 2007 and didn't really know what I wanted to do. I studied basic electronics and computer science. I started focusing more on the computer science end of things, but got a taste for a little bit of everything. I applied for a job as a software test engineer thinking I would get exposure to a lot of different technologies. One of those projects ended up being around satellite communications and it was so stimulating I decided to pursue that.
element14: So you work in satellite communications?
Fvan: Yes, I work here in Belgium, for a company that focuses on satellite communications. I work as a software integration engineer to exchange multimedia content via satellite. My job is to make sure everything works together and manage it into the release of the software.
element14: You said that you discovered element14 Community through The Ben Heck Show. Do You remember what the first episode you watched was about?
Fvan: I ended up watching the episode with the sunglasses that would automatically open or close depending on if he was inside or outside. I was so fascinated with that episode that I ended up watching the whole series in one go of it.
element14: Do you have a favorite Ben Heck build thus far?
Fvan: I really love the portable console builds in general – just to be able to take something apart, re-purpose, and make it work is really interesting.
Fvan: The ones you mentioned along with The Ben Heck Show and Arduino, although, more recently I have been checking in with the 3D Printing space. I use a lot of 3D prints in my projects and it has some good resources there to learn more about it
element14: What are your impressions about 3D Printing?
Fvan: I’ve owned a Printrbot for more than a year, I will admit; the first couple of weeks were difficult, almost depressing actually to try to get some quality prints out of it. After looking online and calibrating, I can now reliably print things for projects. Recently, in the Forget Me Not challenge I have been printing clips to attach sensors or mounts to attach the parts of the projects into a case. It’s great to be able to design and then print something useful.
Just a few days ago I had a neighbor come in with a broken piece of something, and asked if I could duplicate the piece and with the printer I was able to repair the piece. That is the advantage of 3D printing: you can design mechanical solutions or replace broken parts to solve practical problems.
element14: Any parting words?
Fvan: I am really enjoying what I am doing here on the element14 Community; It is stimulating, and helpful to me in learning more about electronics.
element14: Thanks, Fvan.We appreciate you being a member, and congratulations again on being the August Member of the Month here on element14 Community!