There’s a lot of things you can learn on the Internet. How to make play-dough. How to plie (plee-yay) in ballet. How to bake a sloth cake. And now, how to wire a power supply so you can geek out and build your own connected devices. The Maker Movement is upon us. It’s only a matter of time before someone burns their house down in an attempt to make their own Nest thermostat.
Chris Gammell, an electrical engineer out of Ohio, wants to bring that fiery day one step closer to reality. In a few weeks he launches his electronics MOOC, a do-it-yourself video series to building Internet-connected hardware products.
In the age of Coursera, Lynda, and Curious.com, online classes abound to learn anything your heart desires. But hardware is a different beast. It requires soldering irons. And circuit boards. And the ability not to electrocute oneself whilst tinkering with wires. It’s not the sort of casual hobby one usually associates with online learning. But that isn’t stopping Gammell.
He got inspired watching his friend Gary Bernhardt charge money for Ruby tutorial screencasts for developers. “The fact that the software community wanted to increase their knowledge that much blew me away,” Gammell says. “Most hardware people are cheapskates like me.” Still, the venture piqued his interest and Gammell found himself wondering whether online classes could work for building electronics products.
With a Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering from Case Western Reserve, 8 years of work experience, and free time at night Gammell decided to throw caution to the wind and give it a go. “I’m so nervous. It’s so huge, I’ve been hyperventilating non stop,” Gammell admits.
In his ten week course people will build a bench tool, which will serve as a starter kit to creating connected devices. It has a power supply, a temperature monitoring tool, an LED light, and other fun odds and ends you need to build Internet of Things items. Students can choose to pay $100 for just the videos, $300 for videos and a circuit board to follow along with the building process, and $850 for videos, a circuit board, and personalized tutoring from Gammell.
In order for hardware to make a big comeback, there need to be people making new and innovative products. But software developers view hardware the way non-programmers view code: it’s a big, scary, unknown, and seemingly complex world. Tackling the area where digital meets physical requires baby steps — beginner courses. Places like TechShop offer them to people who live in those cities. Others might be able to enroll in college classes, although intro academic courses will dabble far more in the theory of electronics than the implementation. For the enthusiastic hobbyists in the rest of the country, there’s Gammell’s online class.
I just hope he’s got them filling out release of liability waivers.
[Image via: Thinkstock]