At-Home Learning: Mister Rogers!

If you’re looking for educational programs for your kiddos (or something to soothe your soul), I highly recommend Fred Rogers iconic show.

I recently stumbled across a website that provides a weeks worth of Mister Rogers episodes for free! The episodes span the years of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood with each set going through a complete storyline.

I’ve found that watching an episode before bed is like balm for my soul. It is greatly helping to reduce anxiety and stress, remind me of kindness in the world, and just makes me feel all sorts of calmness and joy.

It has also reminded me of how Mister Rogers’ encourages curiosity, exploration, and problem-solving across a wide variety of subjects that meet educational needs and standards. The most obvious connection is with the recent inclusion of Social and Emotional Learning (“SEL”) skill development, but the suggestions and ideas from the show also help children learn how to make music, build things, and learn through experimentation. These are foundations of Next Generation Science Standards, and give kids life-long skills like independent learning, making and using models, learning through experimentation and observation, and many, many more.

You can also use Rogers’ episodes as jumping-off points for challenges or questions to pose to your child. For example, with an episode about whistles, you could use the following prompts for self-directed learning (with some “I wonder why…?” splashed in there):

  • What do different objects sound like? What do you notice about the different sounds? What are some objects that sound similar? What are some objects that sound different?
  • What are some different ways to make instruments? How many different kinds of instruments can you make?
    • Hint: give your child some assorted things from around the house: containers (clean things from trash/recycling are great), rubber bands, cardboard, wooden spoons, metal spoons, string, felt or fabric, toothpicks, etc. etc.
  • What are some different ways to make rhythms? What does mad sound like? What does happy sound like? What does confused sound like? Write a song about what you’re feeling and perform for me later!

A few everyday materials and the right prompt can keep your child occupied and learning for hours on end. Please leave a comment if you need any other help or suggestions!

Here is the website, enjoy! 

How to bring tech and making into any classroom! (1/4)

Turns out Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus had it right all along! In the era of the Next Generation Science Standards, there is a great deal of evidence that experiential and project-based learning are effective approaches to education. As described in the Cambridge Handbook of Learning Sciences, project-based classrooms provide opportunities for students to “investigate questions, propose hypotheses and explanations, discuss their ideas, challenge the ideas of others, and try out new ideas.” All of this leads to higher test scores than in traditional classrooms.
While we educators may lack the magic necessary to shrink our bodies or travel through the solar system, technology can be an excellent, “magic-like” tool for teaching project-based learning across a wide variety of subjects. When implemented with care and intention, electronics and tech can enhance and expand the realm of possibilities, providing students with direct, hands-on experience of phenomena. A handful of carefully chosen equipment and materials provide an open-ended platform for endless variations of creativity, application, and exploration.
One of the major obstacles in getting started is figuring out what, and how much, to choose. The plethora of options can be daunting and it is not always obvious how to incorporate into a classroom. Here are four principles to help guide you as you make lesson and product choices:
1. Use what you have;
2. Let the students lead (peer-to-peer and even peer-to-teacher education);
3. Broken is better; and
4. Pass it on!
The remainder of this article will expand on the first principle: Use what you have. We will publish more in-depth articles on the remaining principles in the weeks to come, so stay tuned!
Principle 1: Use what you have.
Whether you are looking to teach history or robotics, there are many learning opportunities within everyday materials, particularly when paired with “smart” devices like computers, microcontrollers, or other Integrated Circuits (“ICs”).
Investing in an appropriate microcontroller* for your classroom gives your students more diverse options for projects and invites cross-disciplinary learning opportunities, a key foundation of NGSS. Microcontrollers can add coding to art, and art to coding. If you need some help choosing an effective microcontroller for your classroom, here’s an overview of some common, beginner-friendly microcontrollers.
Free or inexpensive components can be used in alternative ways: LEDs are also light sensors, motors generate electricity when spun, and speakers can be used as a microphone! Finding alternative uses for parts offers students a fun challenge and is a great way to explore connections across fundamental phenomena: Why is a motor also a generator? What does this tell us about how electricity and magnetism work together?
Encourage your students to ask deeper questions and look for connections.
Is there a closet full of old computers, telephones, printers, etc? Perfect! Old tech is often easier to understand because the pieces inside are larger and easier to see than in newer technology. Larger parts are also easier to harvest, or pull out for closer examination and/or use in other projects.
Guide the students in taking apart unused devices. If it’s broken, can the students figure out why? Is it possible to fix or hack it to do something different? If not, how could the students use the parts in new ways? What parts might the students harvest for other projects?
Here is a list of some parts that can be harvested without specialized tools and used in a wide variety of projects:
  • Motors
    • Motors can be used in a wide variety of projects including robotics, puppet shows, art projects, and creative music-making. This is a wonderful alternative to traditional robotics programs as it allows for a wider variety of ingenuity and a deep understanding of how motors function.
    • There are different types of motors that require different signals to turn on: DC motors, stepper motors, and servo motors are the most common. DC motors can be powered directly with a battery, while stepper motors will require a more finely tuned signal from a computer or microcontroller. Unsure what type of motor you discovered? Use three or four AA batteries or a 9V battery to touch the motor connections and explore how and when it moves.
  • Speakers
    • From special effects to science experiments, sound is exciting! Harvested speakers offer the opportunity to observe how sound waves are generated, how sound travel through different materials, and how waves move in general.
    • Connect a 9V battery to the speaker terminals to move and “beep” it, or use the speaker with a microcontroller and/or other amplifier circuit to create instruments, sound effects, and music. Speakers can also be used as an input when connected to an audio amplification circuit.
  • Electromechanical parts like switches, pushbuttons, relays, and connectors
    • Switches and buttons provide a way for us to interact with circuits and electronics. They can be used to explore analog and digital signals, build logic gates, create cause-and-effect machines, and design communication systems, as well as many other possibilities.
    • A relay is an electronic switch for two separate circuits that make a “click” sound when activated. Relays are one way to control motors with a lower-power circuit.
    • Electrical connectors come in an astounding variety of types, shapes, mechanical and electrical connection mechanisms. They help make the electronics sturdier and easier to store, transport, and modify. And of course, they can be used to add flair to projects sans electricity!
  • Sensors
    • Many electronics have infrared (IR) transmitters and/or receivers, which can be hacked to build remote controls for robots and other projects. Solar path lights and CD/DVD drives contain light sensors, security lights have passive IR sensors, and many printers have optical encoders!
  • Transistors
    • If you have tech that qualifies as antique, you may be able to find transistors that can be reused (in newer tech, they are so small that they are invisible to the human eye). Observing transistors in older tech is an excellent pathway through computer history, design, and hardware function.
    • If observation of transistors isn’t the educational opportunity you need, they can be used to add autonomy and logic to circuits, or can act as a controller for output devices like lights, speakers, or low-power motors.
  • Mechanical parts like springs, gears, drive shafts, etc.
    • One of the main challenges in doing engineering projects is having make functional gears. Avoid all of that by taking apart a printer and pulling out the mechanical components. Electronic toys that move are another good source for gears and mechanical mechanisms, and can be hacked or “mashed” together in combinations that span delightful and eerie.
A quick note on safety when doing take-aparts:
  • Unplug the electronics and leave unplugged for a minimum of two (2) weeks.
  • Avoid large appliances, microwaves, and ink-jet printers (or just take out the ink cartridges)
  • Always wash hands afterwards. Students should keep food and drink in closed containers and off the tables.
  • Do not force anything open or closed. The biggest hazard with take-apart activities are sharps caused by broken parts when someone tries to pull a case open without properly removing all the screws.
Even without harvesting parts, seeing the inside of electronics is an effective and memorable way to explore how these devices are made and how they function. Once students see the insides of a few different devices, they will quickly identify connections across all electronics and have a better understanding of the “magic” behind the tech.
Aside from electronics, there are tons of useful and versatile materials all around us! Cardboard, paper, plastic containers, pipe cleaners, brads, clothespins, and office supplies are incredibly versatile. Use these materials in conjunction with the tech you have available, or as stand-alone project-based lessons in science, math, history, and other subjects. How might your students explore various ways to build moving mechanisms with cardboard and paper brads? How might your students use colored paper to explore how light is absorbed and reflected? How might your students explore and visualize sound?
Often, the key to incorporating project-based learning is providing the appropriate challenge. The best challenges allow for a wide variety of creations, are accessible and relevant to the students’ lives, and are as fun to mess up as they are to achieve! Challenges do not need to be binary or only one goal or path-oriented. The most effective challenges are those with the most room for surprises and “broken” rules.
With all of that said (well, written), the only thing you really need to remember is that you can do a lot, including incorporating and meeting NGSS, with what you already have. Look around, look inside, and look for connections!
Please reach out if you have any questions about this principle or if you’re looking for ideas in getting started. Happy learning!
* Wait wait wait… what is a microcontroller? Excellent question! A microcontroller is a “simple computer” that runs one program at a time. Examples of microcontrollers are Internet routers, TV remotes, and video game controllers.

Home automation for the goodest boi: a Dog Door Opener!

 

My dog, Marley, is, like most dogs, the goodest boi. But he also has a lot of anxiety, mostly when I am not home. I panic every time I come home and Marley is not there to eagerly and enthusiastically (and loudly) greet me at the door because I know that he has locked himself inside some room in the apartment.

How does he do this?!

Marley can easily close doors. He also can open them, if it’s a latch-type handle and he can push the door open (he also has figured out how to open outdoor gates — ridiculously smart and motivated doggo). But, Marley does not have thumbs (surprise!), which means that he can’t pull open doors! So when he fully closes a door by pushing it with his nose or his front paw(s) and it latches, he cannot open it again.

He knows that the secret to opening the door is the handle (I know this because I’ve 1) seen him try and 2) his scratch marks are centered around the door handle), but without a way to pull open the door he’s completely stuck and in even more of a panic. He’s destroyed more than one door (not fun).

Finally, I decided to help out my poor, anxious, and brilliant dog by building him a dog-friendly switch to activate an automatic door. This project solves two things:

1) It reduces my dog’s anxiety and potential danger if he locks himself in a room and panics and does not have water, and

2) It also reduces the likelihood that my dog will destroy a door.. which is expensive.

But I rent! I can’t go drilling massive holes in the wall or replace the door handle and whatnot. What to do?! Put on my design thinking cap and create a project that I can easily take down when I move, leaving little to no trace of my dog-friendly home automation modification.

That was the motivation and story behind my most recent project build: A Dog Door Opener! The tutorial is a step-by-step guide for how I made a dog-friendly automatic door. 

Bonus: I used the micro:bit, which is a great tool to learn how to code and how to work with hardware, yay! I also incorporated a robotics kit for kids made by BinaryBots, which was super useful because it had a strong motor compatible with the micro:bit and many of the mechanical parts and pieces I needed to make this project. It also helped keep the cost down, since strong motors and mechanical parts can get expensive, quick.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the project! I also would lovelovelove to see if you build this, and if so, what you make! Feel free to share here or tag me on social media: @jenfoxbot or @foxbotindustries!

Happy making, friends! Let’s go forth and make our homes and buildings more pet- and people-friendly!

Lessons from the Classroom: Acting in Kindness

Teaching is HARD. It involves so much: planning and organizing, understanding content well enough to break it down and scaffold and explain in different ways, communication, improvisation, empathy, being able to identify what’s working and what’s not and quickly pivot, debugging  and troubleshooting (both literally with tools/tech and metaphorically with curriculum), motivating, inspiring, and so, so, so much more.

In my decade+ teaching in a variety of classroom settings (pretty much every type of classroom you could imagine), I have learned so many lessons from my students, from peers, and from mentors.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned is how to act with kindness. This is the most effective way to create an environment where every student feels safe and respected. This also extends beyond classrooms and is critical to work environments as well, because in both spaces we must feel comfortable asking questions, learning new things, and collaborating with our peers.

As I’ve written elsewhere, it is important to note that being kind is NOT the same as being nice. Being kind means enacting consequences for inappropriate and harmful behavior like bullying: it is better in the long run for everyone because being a bully prevents one from leading a full and satisfied life filled with joy and love.

Bullying behavior, and really any behavior that hurts others, stems from a lack of self-love. If a person has seen bullying behavior, whether at home or in media, it can be easily implemented for a “quick fix” of self-esteem. This quick fix does not last, and, provided the person is unable to learn other tools for emotional regulation and personal growth, the bullying behavior may become habit. But this is a dead end: bullying behavior does not solve the fundamental problem of low self-esteem, and in fact it continues to bury the root problem deeper and deeper until it can be seemingly impossible to identify and fix without external help.

In living and in teaching, I have seen and been directly involved in many forms of bullying and have witnessed and experienced many approaches to dealing with it. The best, and also hardest, way to deal with bullying is to be kind to everyone involved.

Here’s an example:

In one classroom where 5th grade students (~ age 10) were learning how to code in Scratch, one of the students was sitting on the floor and reading a newspaper. Because respect cannot be demanded, it is earned, I decided to go check in on this student. So I went and sat on the floor next to them and asked how they were doing and how their day was going. As we were talking, one of the other students nearby looked over and said: “Ignore him, he’s just weird.”

Without missing a beat, I responded: “That’s okay, I’m weird too.”

She paused, then quickly said, “Oh, me too, I’m also weird.”

And that was that. I continued my check-in with the student, in which I learned that they hadn’t gotten much sleep that night and was having a hard time focusing, but was engaged in reading instead of coding, so I let them be. Shortly after, I noticed they sat back in the chair and played around in Scratch, alternating between reading the newspaper and coding for the remainder of the hour-long field trip.

In this brief interaction, I used my authority and power to align myself with the ill-treated student without shaming the other: I subtly shut down the bullying behavior, modeled kindness, and provided an opportunity for redemption.

Does it always go this well? Definitely not. This instantaneous reaction was a culmination of years of training and practice, instances where I failed to react ideally and had to reflect and learn how to do better. And it requires time to have these personal interactions with students, which is very, very difficult when there are more than 20 students in a classroom for less than an hour. And it is not always resolved in one interaction.

It is also very difficult to act with kindness when we are tired or emotionally drained, because it requires a large amount of brainpower and emotional regulation: to first recognize inappropriate behavior, determine the best course of action, and then react within a short amount of time, all while managing our own emotions.

I discovered that learning how to act in kindness requires as much brainpower as it does learning a new, complex mathematics or physics concept. That is to say, if we are drained or tired, we simply are unable to process the complexity of the situation unless we have practiced hundreds of times, carving out those brain pathways so that it becomes more standard reaction and less intense thinking and analyzing and weighing options.

Which means that it is critical for us to practice acting in kindness as frequently as possible. Those small acts of kindness that are seemingly mundane or insignificant, like picking up a piece of trash, stopping for a pedestrian, or holding the door open for others, build up those pathways in our brain that help us to do the right thing without thinking, so that when we are confronted with a complex situation like bullying behavior, we are better equipped to know how to handle it in a way that maintains dignity of everyone involved.

And in these instances, we have a profound and lasting positive impact on others, including witnesses who will be inspired by and learn from  our kind behavior.

There are many opportunities for us to be kind, and every single one of them matters. If not for others, do it for yourself: acting in kindness builds unshakable self-love, for when you know you are a good person, you are confident and comfortable in who you are. And that is true power.

Student Project: Mini Robotic Table!

I am so proud of all of my students, especially when they tackle and conquer difficult projects, like one of my students did recently when she completed a prototype of her Mini Robotic Table.

… A Robotic Table?! Heck yes!! It is just as hilarious and awesome as you are imagining.

But like most projects, the build process was challenging and frustrating, but also delightful and oh-so-rewarding.

This young lady started this project at the age of 10 years old. Initially, she wanted to build a full-size table. After building a real table from scratch and adding wheels, together we discovered that adding remote control to this heavy object would be very challenging and expensive.

So, we revisited her concept and she decided to scale the table down to American Girl doll size. *swoon* SO CUTE.

For the next few months, my student took what she learned from building the large table, and created a miniature version that perfectly fits the height of her adorable American Girl dolls. She successfully built the table, added wheels, and build a remote control system to drive the table around.

I guided her throughout the process and assisted where necessary, but the concept and all of the build was done by her hands. Further proof that kids and young folks are capable of so much when we provide them with opportunities and just a lil’ bit of guidance. If you have children of your own, or if you are an educator, trust that they are so much more capable than we think! Challenge them, give them tools and supplies and let them freely create the things they want to — I promise, they will learn so much more than if we force them to learn the things, and in the ways, that we think we should, simply because “that is the way that we have learned.”

Remember Grace Hopper’s brilliant advice: The most dangerous phrase in the language is, “We’ve always done it this way.”

Check out the hard work of this young lady by reading our write-up here, and if you’re feeling inspired, build your own robotic table by following her instructions!

 

FoxBot Featured by EdTech Roundup!

The EdTech Roundup by run by Mike Karlin is a great source for educators and tech enthusiasts alike to learn more about how schools use educational tech, from apps to physical devices.

We are pleased to announce that FoxBot Industries was featured this week by Dr. Karlin under his Editorials and Press section.

Click here to read the feature and visit the EdTech Roundup website!

 

 

How do I get started learning Arduino?

One of the most common questions I get is “How do I get started learning X?” (Where X is a some topic in STEM, most often electronics and programing). In an effort to help as many people as possible, I am writing a handful of articles on the most popular topics. Let’s get started with: Arduino microcontrollers, yay!

So you want to learn Arduino hardware and programming? That’s awesome! Like all things, learning a new skill takes practice. That means the best way to learn something is to do it.

Regardless of what you want to learn, my advice is (almost) always the same: Find a project you are passionate about and build it. 

Whether that means making an automated watering system to keep your plants happy and healthy, or gathering data to monitor air quality, or a gesture controller to play your favorite video game (Minecraft? Minecraft.). Whatever idea is pressing on your mind, the thing that you’ve always wanted to build, or whatever makes you giddy and excited and want to shout from the rooftops: build THAT.

If you close your eyes and listen to yourself, sometimes you very clearly can hear or see that idea. But what if there’s utter silence? Or perhaps even more challenging, too much noise?? What now?!?

Relax. I guarantee that you have plenty of ideas bottled up inside of your brain that will make you truly and ridiculously excited. You just need to spend a little time thinking, maybe writing, and maybe looking around for inspiration.

Why should you find something you’re passionate about?

Because learning new things is HARD. And at some point, you will get stuck. At some point, things will break and/or not work. If you do not care about the project you’re working on, it is easy to give up and walk away forever. But! If you genuinely and deeply and fervently want to bring that project to life, you will push through the frustration (maybe after some time away) and mess and the fixing to, eventually, finish it (or at least get it to a point where you are satisfied).

Caring about a project means you are internally motivated to finish it and that, my dear friends, is the key to learning anything: patience and persistence.

Okay, great! Find a project you are passionate about, and build it! Seems simple, right? Well, yes and no. It’s definitely easier said than done, and the hardest part when you’re a completely beginner is figuring out how to read the foreign languages of computer code, datasheets, electrical schematics, etc. etc. It can be daunting when it feels like you don’t know anything.

Start with a super simple prototype. It does not have to be the final version and it definitely does not need to have every feature or concept you envision. Break down your idea into its most basic part, and work on that. It can be dirty and disorganized and not quite what you want, but get something to work.

Or, find a tutorial that is close to what you’re envisioning and use that as a guide. A tutorial will be immensely helpful when you are first getting started because a (good) tutorial will walk you through all the parts and pieces, background info, and what the code is doing.

Okay, so all this so far has been quite general (although 100% applicable), so I can sense you’re aching for some actual, WHAT-DO-I-DO type ish. Fine, fine, here are a some specific suggestions for getting started learning how to do hardware and software projects with Arduino microcontrollers:

  1. Learn how to read Arduino software code.
    1. Use tutorials! Code written for tutorials (aka educational purposes) will most likely have comments that walk you through what the parts of the code are doing and what you can change.
  2. Learn how to read Arduino error messages.
    1. Inevitably, you will need to know what the errors printed in the text bar at the bottom mean. Look for line numbers as this will give you a clue as to where the error is, and that will (hopefully) help you figure out if it is a syntax error (aka a “spelling” error) or a logic error (aka something is wrong with the structure of your code).
    2. A good way to get started is to copy the error message summary, and paste into a search engine. There are thousands of other folks who have had the same questions as you, so leverage the power of knowledge in the World Wide Web to help!
  3. Learn how to use a breadboard to build circuits.
    1. Breadboards are tools for rapidly building prototypes of circuits. They are incredibly useful and almost essential when building a project that involves more than just a single sensor or output device.
    2. There are lots of guides on how to use breadboards, including this one!
  4. Learn how to read Fritzing schematics and, eventually, electrical schematics.
    1. Once you can read and understand the basics of Arduino coding and use breadboard to build simple circuits, it is super helpful to be able to build circuits using Fritzing schematics. Fortunately, Fritzings are cartoon-y, cute, and quite user friendly, like the picture to the right 🙂
    2. Color coding works as follows:
      1. Red = positive power;
      2. Black = negative power/ground (“gnd”)
      3. Other colors: signal wires
    3. Fritzing schematics are quite popular these days, but you may also run into you’re classic electrical schematic, particularly in books, which has symbols for components instead of pictures. It is a useful skill to be able to read these.
  5. Learn how to read, and use, code libraries.
    1. Whether you’re working in C++, Python, or Wiring (Arduino’s coding language) the secret to programming is knowing what libraries exist and how to use them.
    2. Explore the built in libraries in Arduino (Tools –> Include Library) and find code examples that use those libraries so you can more easily see the syntax and structure of how you use them.
  6. Learn how to gather essential information from datasheets.
    1. Once you’ve got a basic understanding of the software and hardware side, you’re ready to start tackling datasheets! Datasheets are where you’ll find the critical information for using different types of electrical components like sensors and motors.
    2. To be able to read a datasheet, you’ll need to have some background information about electricity, including knowing the basics of voltage, current, resistance, and power. That said, a good way to start to get a feel for this stuff is to start reading them! (you probably have guessed I would say that by now)
    3. You can find datasheets for parts by, quite literally, searching for: “PART NAME datasheet”, where hopefully you replace “PART NAME” with the thing you’re looking for (e.g. “servo motor HS-485HB datasheet”).

If you learn those five things, you will be able to build all sorts of projects with Arduino!

And now that I’ve taken the “hardest teacher ever” approach, I’ll be a little easier on ya. Here is a handy (and useful) tutorial to get started with:

Using Arduino for Citizen Science

Why this one? Because this tutorial teaches you the basics of how to use different types of sensors, both analog and digital. It walks you through writing simple programs, flashing the board, making the hardware connections, reading software code, and includes a range of increasingly more complex projects so that you get practice using the main features of Arduino.

I would highly recommend actually building each of these projects and, instead of copying-and-pasting, actually type in the code. Trust me, semicolons are still the bane of my existence, and the more you practice adding them, the easier your coding life will be 🙂

That’s about it! I know this was a broad overview, but that’s because it’s a broad subject and there is a LOT to learn. But just like everything else, learn it one step at a time, and practice, practice, practice!

 

Still have questions or need more help?

Contact me! If you’re in the Seattle area, I teach workshops and offer private lessons. If you’re beyond my travel zone, I also offer virtual lessons.

FoxBot Guest Post: Gesture-Controlled Lighting!

We are excited to announce our first ever guest tutorial! Designed and developed by Miranda Hanson, a Seattle-based maker, this tutorial will teach you how to build gesture controlled lights!

Miranda created this awesome project because she wanted to build an affordable and modifiable lighting system that folks could play like an instrument. She incorporated gesture control, custom visuals, and various dials for lighting brightness and display speed.

Here’s a video of the project in action:

To learn how to build your own custom gesture-controlled lighting, check out Miranda’s tutorial by clicking this link!

Happy making!

FoxBot Founder/CEO Featured by Gadegetronix!

Gadgetronicx is an educational website and online community of electronics enthusiasts who share their creations, ideas, and tips and tricks for working with electronics and bringing ideas to life. Founded in April 2012 by Frank Donald and powered by many Enthusiasts around the world, members can learn from and share their projects with readers across the globe.

Recently Gadgetronicx started an interview series called “Meet the Motivators” which interviews makers around the world who are educating and inspiring others. We were so excited that they selected our founder and CEO, Jen Fox, as their first Motivator! Gadgetronicx collected questions from their member base which Fox answered. Here are some excerpts of the interview:

Q1: What you enjoy most? Being a Maker or Educator ?

Both! Being a maker helps me be a more effective educator because it puts me in the position of a student. And being an educator helps me be a better maker because students teach me things, inspire me, ask great questions that make me curious to know more, and help me figure out what projects folks are interested in. It is a beautiful and perfect blend ?

Q4: Why JenFoxbot ? 

Hah good question! My actual last name is “fox” but it is a hilariously common name. Which meant all of the standard handles I was trying to get were taken! So randomly one day when I was in college I said “oh I dont know jenfoxbot” and it was available! So I gobbled up all the emails and usernames I could get my hands on and it stuck! Fun fact: the first name of my company was “foxtronics”, but I switched it to “foxbot industries” because allows me to have a broader scope and mission. And it just sounds better!

Q7: Interesting Raspberry Pi project ever built ?

The pi is so awesome!! I love that it is an affordable computer, which makes it a powerful way to build custom electronics projects. Personally, I am fascinated with the ability to convert a pi into a local access point! For my Halloween costume last year i was a “server” — I used a Pi to host a local webpage where people could order candy, and then I delivered it to them ? I want to dive into that project again at some point and make a personal and local chat app for places that dont have cell service! Here is a link to that project: http://foxbotindustries.com/turn-pi-local-server/

Q8: Modern Education system is so flawed in my view, Your opinion ? 

Hah. That is certainly a big topic! Yes, there are many problems in the US educational system. The current method of standards implementation has resulted in teachers being forced to “teach to the test”, which means students are largely memorizing rather than understanding. Personally, I believe this has contributed to a view that science is a collection of facts (which one could then choose to ignore), rather than an understanding that science is a process of asking questions and seeking answers. I am working hard to help provide standards aligned curriculum that teaches understanding. It is very hard for educators to do all of the things, especially with huge class sizes and little resources. So I am trying to make their lives easier and better by creating more effective curriculum and educational approaches to learning. My hope is that once enough teachers adopt a project based method, the school districts, state and federal policies will update

Q9: Advice to budding Electronics Engineers or Enthusiast ?

Practice and get experience in the areas you are interested in and want to learn. Build up/point to a portfolio of projects you have done solo and with groups. Go to job fairs and figure out what you like and don’t like. What do you like doing and where do those jobs exist? Think creatively and talk to people. Be candid about what you want to do and where you are at. Seek mentors in the fields you want to work in and ask for their advice and suggestions for people and companies. And perhaps most important: be well rounded! Learn about humanities, cultures, and history. Talk to and be friends with people who are different than you. Talk to people who will be using the things you create so you can better meet their needs. By understanding the diverse world we live in, we can create better and more effective products!

 

For the full interview, visit the Gadgetronicx website. While you’re there, check out some of their members’ projects to learn more about electronics and tech!