Being a Beginner is Fun

by Bob Dukish

Beginning something new is like starting a trip to a vacation destination where you can visit interesting places and make discoveries. In my book, Coding the Arduino, I may not always travel the most direct route and sometimes take the scenic path while stopping at points along the journey. I also love to have readers use their creativity to modify circuits and change code to become more immersed in the experience. This approach, I believe, fosters a greater overall understanding of the specific material and opens up new directions for future investigation.

As a young person, I had complete disdain for the American Educational System. It was an antiquated process of formal teaching through repetition and memorization. Hats-off to STEM and Career Education for breaking the mold. I taught technology courses for many years at both high school and college levels and rarely followed a lesson plan. My students and I learned from each other. Other than an occasional presentation of background principles, we gained knowledge by using the background theory to produce fun and interesting projects. One of my students introduced me to the Arduino during a project. My background is in electronics, and I’ve been in the field for many years. While I am in the process of developing something new, I will instinctively begin designing a circuit to solve a problem, but then catch myself and put the hardware away and now solve it more easily with software.

Programming languages can be somewhat stodgy and formal due to formatting requirements and that’s why I love using the Arduino. I am very thankful to my former student, now a top computer programmer, for recognizing my short attention span and dislike of formalism and introducing me to the Arduino microcontroller. A microcontroller is like a computer on a chip, but rather than allowing you to visit websites, send emails, etc., its job is to run a code loop to control of the operation of functional, and possibly elaborate projects. Arduino has a huge community of helpful users and a variety of inexpensive sensors and devices which are easy to interface.

In my book, I provide a little background of the electronic principles needed to use the Arduino to control hardware projects. The majority of the book, however, is an introduction to the basics of coding. Over the years, with the help of my students, we produced games that can be coded and run on the Arduino connected to a PC and monitor. After going through the obligatory programming to get the output to read, “Hello World”, and having the microcontroller blink a light, we produce many card games, dice, and joke programs. I think learning should be fun. Even though I have a few college degrees and a lifetime of experience, I am a beginner, too.

About the Author

Bob Dukish has been working in the computers and electronics field for over 35 years. He served in the military, worked as an electronic components engineer, holds a number of patents, and taught engineering at both the high school and college levels. He has two Associate Degrees in technology, a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics from Syracuse University, as well as Master’s Degrees from both Kent State University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His last degree was earned at the age of 54, and he considers himself to be a lifelong learner.

This article was contributed by Bob Dukish, author of Coding the Arduino.