Volunteers Don’t Always Have The Time, They Just Have The Heart

| Category: Blog

“In a world where children are being introduced to technology from birth, it’s interesting to see where the disconnect lies between their understanding of the software they’re used to interacting with and the hardware that they often take for granted.”

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BP’s own Douglas Vaeth, aside from being Assistant Project Manager, volunteers his time to a subject both he and a group of youths are passionate about.

“Beginning this past October, I started teaching at a children’s coding camp. I ran into a friend of my brother over the summer, who was attending college for computer science. During our conversation, he mentioned his teaching involvement at the children’s camp. He told me that they were interested in teaching hardware-based lessons and looking for someone to volunteer their time to the role. I expressed my interest and told him to contact me. A few months later, I was sitting in on lessons while planning projects and making parts lists.

The students I now teach are mostly middle school age kids who already have a considerable amount of coding experience under their belt. Unlike their previous classes, however, they have to take their code and make it play out in the physical world. The class is based off of the popular Arduino micro-controller board, a device akin to a primitive PLC. The Arduino is capable of taking in various sensor and user inputs and putting out useful outputs. For example, you could take readings from a joystick module and use them to control a motorized gimbal. The idea is to have them learning the basic tenets of robotics and controls.

By having to deal with software and hardware firsthand, I believe the students appreciate the analog and digital inputs, the voltage drops across pots and resistor arrays, that make their game controllers and keyboards work. It’s also a wake-up call when I have kids who have already made their own video games, but are still young enough to lack some of the motor skills necessary to wire up and solder a circuit board. These kids are young, but very smart.

I took up teaching and mentoring at the camp to keep up on some skills and interact with some people I otherwise wouldn’t. I also have always enjoyed sharing skills and knowledge with people and was interested in how it would be to do so in a formalized setting, such as teaching a class. It also keeps me up to date with the bleeding edge of some of the tech world, as well as the maker movement and open source community. There were brand new programming tools that were just released as I entered college that had become the industry standard by the time I graduated. New inventions and technology move fast, and although it may not be directly related to my career or what I do, it’s these new innovations that will eventually change the way everything is done, and I think it’s important to at least be aware of them.”

-Douglas Vaeth, Assistant Project Manager, BP Group.

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We commend Doug on his efforts both on and off the clock. Volunteering helps our community to grow.

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