Growing up as a kid I never put much thought into how the technology I used each day functioned. I never questioned how I managed to play The Sims on my Compaq Desktop PC or how said Compaq Desktop PC connected to the internet.
I didn’t really care how my Neopets Pocket Game system was made, so long as it allowed me to take care of my beloved Kacheek on a tiny little screen. I wasn’t interested in what made a computer, or how programming influenced my life on a daily basis. Coding wasn’t even something I was aware of until much later in my life. Perhaps this was because I was never pushed towards STEM learning in primary school — was this even a thing when I was in primary school? Maybe it was just disinterest. Regardless of what deterred me before, I am here now, ready to learn.
I first took an interest in coding when I noticed that one of my favourite supermodels, Karlie Kloss, had a background in tech. Little did I know that despite being one of the world’s highest-paid models, Karlie was interested in programming.
Reading and watching her — she has a YouTube channel called Klossy — discuss her passion for learning code was what first drew my attention to the technological phenomenon that seemed to be taking the generations after mine by storm. It was from here that I learnt Karlie had created an initiative called ‘Kode with Klossy’, a program aimed at involving young girls in STEM learning, and more specifically, code. According to TIME Magazine, “A study by the American Association of University Women found that among first-year college students, women are much less likely than men to say that they intend to major in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM).” Partnering with Flatiron School, Karlie is providing girls with the opportunity to learn more about code through camps and career scholarships which would not only allow them to enrich their learning on a personal level, but also would introduce them to connections within the industry. What I was disappointed with was my lack of access to the program she had envisioned — I was both too old and too far away.
That left me to question how I could get involved in other ways. If coding was going to be such a great opportunity for individuals to not only learn about, but execute themselves, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. If coding is readily being taught in primary schools — and it is, with students not just learning but creating in the technology-rich environment they are part of — why couldn’t I, a twenty-something university student share in the experience?
Admittedly, I tried coding. After researching the best way for someone to learn how to code, for free and in the comfort of their own home, I joined Codecademy in June of 2016. I had read that this was a great platform for beginners to expose themselves to the basics of code whilst being able to see their progress on the screen. I signed up instantly and began one of the introduction courses that Codecademy offered. After a couple of hours I had managed to create the sun, and had even gotten the Earth to rotate around it. I’m not going to lie, I was so proud.
As much as I wanted to say I was able to code like the young women who were pictured on the Girls Who Code twitter feed — another great initiative designed to involve girls in STEM learning, — I got busy with other stuff (a poor excuse, I know).
When the opportunity to pursue my coding dream came about this year at university, I decided it was time. In the past I had worked on projects that were grounded in social and cultural research. This time I was asked to delve into the wide world of technology and create something that would not only inform me, but would help others. How could this be any better?
After workshopping the idea I wanted to pursue, I was handed an Arduino Starter Kit. I would be lying if I said I knew what this kit had the potential for. It was only after scrolling through the Arduino website, watching tutorial videos on YouTube and reading articles about Arduino that I came to realise just how enabling Arduino could be. Designed as a tool for students with a background in electronics and programming, the Arduino board was quickly adapted “for IoT applications, wearable, 3D printing, and embedded environments,” effectively empowering its many users worldwide. As noted by Wired’s Roy Wood, “Arduino has spawned an international do-it-yourself revolution in electronics,” with the unique technological revolution allowing users to access and manipulate hardware and code sources thanks to free public licensing. With projects seeing the creation of Arduino-based home automation systems and Twitter displays, and even an innovative ‘USB-AKE’ Oven utilising parts and pieces like an Arduino Uno, it is quite clear that “Arduino has become the most influential open-source hardware movement of its time.”
Arduino’s comprehensive, cross platform technology that not only promotes involvement in learning but also nourishes its development is what made it a stand out contender for my digital artefact. By combining my interest in learning code and the Arduino Starter Kit, I intend on documenting my learning experience for my digital artefact. I want to be able to share my growing knowledge on the topic with other individuals on a platform that is readily accessible to all, YouTube. By creating short but informative, almost ‘how-to’ videos, I think I will be able to best engage with an audience online whilst documenting my experience also. My successes and inevitable failures with the Arduino Starter Kit will hopefully enlighten others with a similar curiosity for technology. As I learn the functions of each of the pieces inside the box, I hope that the audience behind the screen will learn with me.
In starting my project, I created a video showing a firsthand account of my authentic experience unboxing the Arduino Starter Kit.
For more information on coding, STEM learning and Arduino, check out the following links:
- Why Basic Coding Should Be a Mandatory Class in Junior High School – Tim Bajarin of TIME Magazine.
- Will the Push for Coding Lead to ‘Technical Ghettos’? – Melinda D. Anderson of The Atlantic
- The Next Big Blue Collar Job Is Coding – Clive Thompson of Wired Magazine
- Inside The Classroom Where San Quentin Inmates Learn to Code – Issie Lapowsky of Wired Magazine