I’ve decided to dust off a learning goal I’ve put on hold for at least a year: create PCBs using simple CAD programs and at least reach the point where I could send out a design for printing. This was an idea I explored with students in Hack this Camp, but we stopped at the point of using photo-sensitive copper to have a circuit printed, but never drilled it and tried out the design. Now there are a multitude of companies that will print out user-designed boards inexpensively. I would like to use this skill in order to be able to do projects that would be prohibitively expensive otherwise if we had to buy an entire kit, such as for a Drawdio. A related skill would be figuring out how to program ATMEL chips that are integrated in many circuits.
When I tackle problems such as these, I turn to the network of people I interact with to share information, known as a “Personal Learning Network” or PLN. Often this will be my fiancee, family members, friends, and coworkers. The fact that I spend a significant part of each day online has expanded the scope of my PLN greatly, to include those I share information with via email, Facebook, Twitter, blog postings, discussion forums, images, and videos, to name a few. A PLN is characterized by the give and take of information, as I may have experiences that I am willing to share, just as others have done for me. This may happen naturally over a cup of coffee with a friend or it could be a carefully composed blog post. This network is of value to all involved. Even as I’m sharing information, others are providing feedback or extending the ideas further, which can in turn benefit me. I can take advantage of my PLN to achieve growth in both formal and informal ways, just as I am doing in this project.
Even as I am limited in the types of resources I can use for this project, there are plenty I have found helpful in the past and would again be helpful in this situation, but I simply haven’t dug deeply enough to find the details. These include:
- Instructables forum
- Adafruit forum
- Sparkfun forum
- Hack-a-Day forum
- Reddit /r/electronics and /r/PrintedCircuitBoard
- Eagle support forum
- Multitude of Youtube channels: Jeremy Blum, 000Plasma000 , EEV Blog
Exploring my personal learning network will be crucial as I don’t have many people around me at the museum who has the expertise to share with me. Fortunately, those involved in electronics and making often believe in open source hardware, where designs and expertise can be freely shared. I also don’t have to be a passive consumer of information, but will be able to contribute back to the community using my skills as an educator. I’ve often noticed that instructions are left incomplete or require considerable background knowledge already, so I can treat any instructions I create as a lesson plan that can be accessible by learners of many skill levels.