Raspberry Pi’s, Photons, and the magical world of Computer Engineering

Very often we can find ourselves in a career rut no matter the industry. We do the same things, learn similar skills to what we know, and are far too frightened to branch out to try something new. As a means of fighting complacency I’ve wanted for a long time to jump into the world of microcontrollers / hardware, but there has always appeared to be such a high barrier to entry. This article is for the Software Engineer who has been unsure of the hardware world but has an interest in giving it a go. My goal though this is nothing more than to instill a confidence and sense of adventure to try new things, even if it isn’t hardware related.


What piqued my curiosity in the hardware world? All the cool things you can do with it when coupled with Software, obviously! For example, the Android smart mirror project using just a Nexus 7 and a mirror:


But why stop there? Someone took a Raspberry Pi to recreate this project on a much larger scale: Raspberry PI Magic Mirror.

Someone has even built an Android controlled garage opener using a $19 photon from https://www.particle.io/.


You get it. There’s a lot of cool things you can do. IOT, DIY, smart homes, gadgets and gizmos to make you life easier immediately become a reality when you begin to introduce hardware into your projects. This article won’t hold your hand through the journey into Electrical Engineering, Arduino’s, Raspberry Pi’s or anything of the sort. Why?

  1. I just bought my first controller, a Raspberry Pi zero and probably couldn’t write a tutorial if I wanted. (Tip: Buy the Pi 3 — or Photon: see above — with built in WiFi and Bluetooth. Now I need to go find my WiFi dongle.)
  2. I invite you to join me in the journey of experimenting, building, creating, and failing.

When I began learning how to program about ten years ago I had no clue what I was doing and felt like an idiot. It’s a process. Your code will fail, your electronics boards will break, and you will be frustrated. You know what? It’s okay. We learn by failing and by being persistent we find that we make more progress than we realize. If you go to a University, try and attend a makerbot / electronics meetup. There are tons of people out there willing to invest in those willing to learn. Maybe contribute to their code in exchange for a run down of their wiring setup.

In addition to meetups there are some great resources online for doing some of your own research. Adafruit and Sparkfun are two of the most popular sites with tutorials, community boards, and active tinkerers who have done this kind of thing since before I was born.


My day time job is getting ready to ship for four different platforms, so I may not have anything to show soon, but as things wind down I will definitely keep this site updated.

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