In my previous column, I described how I moved to a new home and created Orbis, a piece of Arduino-powered kinetic artwork. This led to my launching a Kickstarter project for my Dr. Duino diagnostic shield for debugging stacks of regular Arduino shields.
Sometime in the middle of all this, another of my personal projects began to come to fruition. For several years, I taught martial arts. Though I had officially retired from this, I found I really missed teaching. Eventually, I decided that what I really wanted to do was start an electronics club, where I could influence young minds and create a micro-incubator for the electronically curious. I reached out to a friend in my new community, who said, "I have just the kids who would love to do this."
I asked the parents of the three young men to buy an Arduino kit, since this platform had worked so well for my Orbis project. Week after week, we would meet and work our way through various labs. At the end of each session, we would look at a fun task for them to play with and complete before our next meeting. They couldn't learn fast enough, and I could not teach fast enough. This was an exhilarating experience for all concerned.
When enough of the foundation work had been laid with the various labs, I asked, "What shall we do as our first real project?" After some discussion, we settled on building a rocket launcher. This was to be no ordinary rocket launcher. We wanted a Rube Goldberg version inspired by a touch of Austin Powers mixed in with a bit of 3D printing. The outcome was dubbed the Ruby Launcher. Click here to see a short video of the launcher.
On Aug. 31, we ended our first series of lessons with a bang by launching our rockets. The young engineers were smiling from ear to ear while I watched on in total awe of what they had achieved with a little programming fodder. It was truly amazing.
Below are a couple of pictures of us all gathered for our first real rocket launch, along with the launch itself. There were about 30 people present, and this proved to be a very exciting day. Click here for a short video of a rocket being launched.
Following our successful launches, we retired for a celebratory slice of cake. My sister is a cake artist, and she was more than happy to make a special cake for me to share with the kids and their families.
From left to right: Guido Bonelli, Steve Calinski, Mason Bila, and Sean Fenty.
Once this first installment of the kids electronics course -- now known as the Embedded Engineers Club or E^2C -- was complete, I turned my attention back toward my Dr. Duino test shield, which, as you know, cumulated in the launch of my Dr. Duino Kickstarter project. Now I'm anxiously waiting to see if this Kickstarter succeeds, or if I will have to return to the drawing board.