Last night, at a packed meeting of the Hull Digital Hardware Meetup group at C4DI, we enjoyed talks about using Arduinos and other microcontrollers to make life easier for amateur radio enthusiasts, and saw how they could be used to make fun robots. There’s a real buzz around this, it’s a technology that in the last few years has come down in price enormously, removing barriers to entry and opening it up to bedroom coders/builders in a way reminiscent of the home computers boom of the early 1980s.
Rob Miles announced plans for a “learn together” set of talks. People are being encouraged to attend with their own Arduino Starter Kit. Rob and Peter Robinson from University of Hull have offered to lead the lessons as we all build gadgets together and learn a bit of the programming/hardware skills needed to make something practical (and fun!) with these systems. I was quite conscious that sometimes people need a push (especially if they’re being asked to put their hands in their pockets), plus we currently have a number of sixth-form and some even younger students coming to these meet-ups. I was worried that the price of one of these development kits might prevent some people from getting involved and enjoying the sessions, so on behalf of SteamDesk I’ve offered to sponsor a number of kits. Mike Clarke, the group organiser is going to arrange who gets a sponsored kit, trying to allocate them as fairly as he can (i.e. the early bird students will get first dibs, I expect!)
I’m really excited about this whole group. I’ve already been playing with Arduino kit for some time, making modifications to some of my old pinball machines (hopefully I can bring one up and give a talk when I finish my current project), and it’s a real eye-opener as to what can be done with cheap technology these days. If we can inspire a few more people to go down this route in their careers then I think we’ll be seeing some great gadgets and inventions in the future, and it might just have all hinged on the day that they first came to the Hull Digital hardware group at C4DI.