- Charlyn Gonda
- Coder by day, maker by night
- A chronic problem solver and is currently in the middle of her year-long project, 12 Months of Makes
- Has too much fun building circuits, creating things with 3D printing, crafting hats and coding IoT devices!
- Charlyn what is your background? Day Job ect?
- Why did you become a Software Developer?
- How did you go from a Software Developer to building Hardware for the first time?
- Any particular reason you wanted to start building hardware?
- How do you approach hardware design? Is it in anyway the same as software development or radically different?
- What is the 12 Months of Makes
- Words of wisdom to other software developers that are thinking about hardware creation?
Visit our Slack Channel and join the conversation in between episodes and please review us, wherever you listen (PodcastAddict, iTunes). It helps this show stay visible and helps new listeners find us.
Special thanks to whixr over at Tymkrs for the intro and outro!
About The Hosts
Parker Dillmann is MacroFab's Co-Founder, and Lead ECE with backgrounds in Embedded System Design, and Digital Signal Processing. He got his start in 2005 by hacking Nintendo consoles into portable gaming units. He also runs the blog, longhornengineer.com, where he posts his personal projects, technical guides, and appnotes about board layout design and components. Parker graduated with a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Texas.
Stephen Kraig began his electronics career by building musical oriented circuits in 2003. Stephen is an avid guitar player and, in his down time, manufactures audio electronics including guitar amplifiers, pedals, and pro audio gear. Stephen graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University.
Host 1 00:10
Welcome to the macro fab engineering podcast. I'm your guests Charlene ganda.
Host 2 00:16
And we are your hosts Parker, Dolman.
Host 1 00:18
And Steven Greg.
Host 2 00:19
This is episode 147
Host 1 00:23
Charlene ganda is a coder by day maker by Nate. Charlene is a chronic problem solver, and is currently in the middle of her year long project 12 months of make. Charlene has too much fun building circuits, creating things with 3d printing, crafting hats, and coding IoT devices.
Host 2 00:44
So, Charlene, what is your background and day job and stuff that was not covered in your bio?
Host 1 00:52
Awesome. So my background is in software engineering, I actually studied computer science. So that's my day job as well. I'm a software engineer at a little company called Uber Eats. And we like to deliver food, which is good because I like eating. Other than eating, I've also been really into making things with hardware. And it's been it's been a fun journey. I still have lots to learn. But this year has been incredible.
Host 2 01:29
So like, how do you become a software developer? And an Uber Eats it? Was that your is that your first like, professional job or? Job job? Or yeah, like, or did you start out somewhere else? Or yeah,
Host 1 01:44
Yeah. So after college, I had a couple of companies that I joined as a software engineer. But the way that I got into Uber was kind of interesting, I guess. I was a developer advocate. And they didn't have this job. Before I started, they kind of had something similar. But but this was sort of like the first time that they were building a team around it, which is really fun. So I jumped on to the Uber Developer Platform as a developer advocate. That's actually how I got started doing a lot of public speaking, and like meeting people in this space. And incidentally, also the reason why I came across one of my first hardware projects, one of my first successful ones, at least, it was because my coworker came up to me and asked, What if we could make a hat that would light up depending on the state of your Uber ride using the Uber API, which is the team that I was in. That was sort of the first, I don't know, aha moment for me. And that project allowed me to sort of like learn a bunch of things. And then, even after I transitioned to being a software engineer in the same company, I sort of wanted to learn more and wanted to like, keep doing it.
Host 2 03:08
So a developer advocate is different from a regular developer, and how is it the public speaking and kind of more of a marketing kind of role.
Host 1 03:19
So it's, I like to describe it as half software engineering, and half public speaking, technical writing and event planning. So it's sort of a really good mix of all of these things. And then sometimes I'd like, as a side hustle. I'm also PMS and QA.
Host 2 03:42
Try this new feature out for us. Right,
Host 1 03:44
Exactly. So what is it about software development that attracted you? Or why did you become a software developer?
Host 1 03:55
I guess it was sort of because I set up I had a class in high school. That was a code software programming class. And I didn't, I didn't really know anything about it before. I tried it in class. And then I found that I was I kind of had a knack for it. And then right after that I started making like, Neopets pages. And if anyone remembers that, I remember. first foray into coding. It was amazing.
Host 2 04:36
What you learned in high school was like HTML or like Java or something.
Host 1 04:42
Host 1 05:13
So, so So you went from there? And then you studying at university?
Host 1 05:20
Yeah, yeah. So from there, I decided, you know, because everybody asks you what your life plan is, after high school. So I was like, well, this computer science thing sounds fun, I might as well might as well try studying it for a bit. And actually, so So I started learning computer science in high school, sorry, in college in the Philippines. And then I spent sort of one and a half years in college there, and then I had to move here. And then I kind of had to do it all over again. Because I would have would have had to, like, do some great translations, or whatever. So in total, so I spent some time in community college, and then I moved to university. So in total, apparently studied computer science for six years. So I never really thought of myself as a hardware person, you know, like, it was sort of always like a very clear divide, like, you're a software person, and you will only always be one, because all the hardware stuff is really hard.
Host 1 06:25
I really liked talking about these kinds of things, or at least, you know, probing the other side's mind beat just because I'm not a programmer at all. And it's always interesting to see when somebody on you know, the other side of the fence throws a ball over or like, decides to peek over the fence and take a look at the other side. So how'd you go over that fence? How'd you you know, start to know hop that.
Host 1 06:52
So I guess I had always been a little bit interested in it. So like, I remember when I was a kid, I would be that kid who like gets tired of her toys, and then takes it apart, especially the ones with the batteries, those are really fun to take apart, I would never be able to put them back together. And maybe that was the reason why I thought you know, like, this is too hard. And my mom would be really upset. And so I guess I've always been curious, hardware curious. But But I kind of didn't really have you know, any reason to think that it would be something that I would ever learn about. There was no, I didn't really have hardware classes in college are anybody who around me that was interested in that, either. In high school, you're in high school. Yeah. And but there were people around me who were interested in, in software engineering. Because Because I, I guess it's like, also easier to teach in class, right? Like, like my high school was in the Philippines. And, you know, it's easy to have like a bunch of computers around until like learning, but probably not as easy to have a bunch of like, I don't know, Raspberry Pi's. Or electrical, like wires and circuits for your
Host 2 08:17
Opponents and stuff. Yeah, yeah.
Host 1 08:23
Yeah, sorry, what were you gonna say?
Host 2 08:25
Oh, me? No, no, I was I was going to talk about like, the fence thing. And when one side peeks over, and you just see like devastation and dislike, like, why would I even go?
Host 1 08:39
It's a barren wasteland on
Host 2 08:42
Both sides. You know, yes.
Host 1 08:47
The grass is not greener on the other side. That's
Host 2 08:52
It. I did my first API request two years ago, and that just blew my mind. I, I wrote something and code and hit go and like, it reached out to somewhere, I have no idea where it's at, and got data back. And I'm like, Whoa. Because on the other side, the hardware and is like, when you go, like, let's say in the microcontroller code wise, you know, where that data, it's a registry on this address, you know, here.
Host 1 09:24
I don't know, I theoretically I could see that. But the to be that's sort of the the fascinating thing, because, cuz, you know, I throw API requests left and right. Like, that's kind of my job, but, but to be able to sort of take so to me, code is like a 2d thing, right? Or maybe it's in my head, like it's either a 2d thing on the screen or it's stuff that exists in my head. And the only way that I can show it to people is just sort of show them my screen, right? But the first time I was able to affect like a physical thing. With the stuff that I'm typing on a computer, that blue light slide, I was like, cool, this thing just moved. And I made it move. And I did it like I don't, I mean, I kind of have a working knowledge of how electricity works, right? Like, I took physics classes in college. But I don't like it. I don't know the math behind it, like I don't know, a lot about sort of, I probably lack a bunch of like, fundamental understanding of how electricity actually works. But the, I guess, I guess, like the fact that there are so many of these like, components. Now these hardware components that you can use, even though you have no, like, fundamental understanding of those things, I feel like is incredible. Like that takes real, like engineering work to like, make it so that your interface is very simple, right. And like that, it works all the time. And like a bunch of edge cases as well. So to me, that's really fascinating. And I guess, like I thought I, you know, when I peeked over that fence, I thought I would see sort of just this, like unfathomable universe. But then I found like, some, some, I guess they're they're just this amazing group of people are amazing class of like companies that like like Adafruit and particle, I feel like that are sort of dedicated to bringing P like, bringing these hardware components, more to the masses, and and, so that you don't have to, sort of know a lot about it to be able to use it. And they sort of put out a bunch of like content around tutorials around teaching you how all of these things work. I feel like that was that was the thing that allowed me to even, you know, not just peek, but to sort of dip my toe into it. Which is, which I'm really, really grateful for. Because I feel like Otherwise, I'd be floating around and like, I don't know, circuit diagrams and pin outs. I'd be like, what is? What does this mean? I have so many acronyms.
Host 2 12:28
It's actually actually it's interesting is I will go to, if I'm using like a new ice or chip or whatever, I'll go and see if someone else has written code for it. And add a fruit SparkFun all those guys are generally the first stop. Yeah, I mean, so and then take a look at their code. And like, okay, I can probably make this work and my system.
Host 1 12:50
Yeah. Which is so I feel like and so I found that you know, that both both sides of the fence are are just super fun to play around with, I guess.
Host 2 13:03
Oh, yeah. We got to figure out how to make that fence go down, though. Oh, that's
Host 1 13:08
True. Yeah. Well, I guess in a way, it's more, it's getting a little bit like lesser. Like, like, like I said earlier, the classic companies like SparkFun and Adafruit, pi Marathi are kind of like working to, to bring that down. Because really, they're Why should there be a difference between like, a software engineer and a hardware engineer or whatever? Right? Like, like, or even just, you know, why should it be so hard for you to like, understand how technology works in general?
Host 1 13:44
Well, at the same time, I think we are all being asked more and more to be multidisciplinary. And the products that we're having to design rarely ever just are on one side of the aisle if he asked me, well, especially especially I guess, I guess that's coming more from me being on the hardware side. Like, just like the appear honest to god analog circuit. Those are great. No. And, you know, I've worked in an industry where the some of that still exists, but in reality, that's not. I mean, that doesn't really exist so much anymore.
Host 1 14:20
Yeah, totally. And I feel like, it's, it's probably unlocking a bunch of solutions that we probably wouldn't have thought of, if we were sort of siloed in our own domain expertise. Yeah. Like, like, I feel like I don't think that it would have been just one person's idea to like, create this touchscreen phone that would like allow you to access all of the internet, like on the go in your pocket.
Host 2 14:55
Are you sure it wasn't just Steve Jobs? I came up with that. Yeah,
Host 1 14:58
I think it's a minor thing. that have been the other Steve. But yeah
Host 2 15:07
I got an interesting question is how do you approach hardware design? So I'm gonna take an example is a project that I liked a lot, which is the bongo cat. So how did you approach the hardware design for that?
Host 1 15:24
Actually, can you can you tell everyone about the Bongo
Host 2 15:27
Bongo cat as well?
Host 1 15:28
Yeah, yeah. So Bongo cat is this meme. It started out as a person on Twitter, I think his handle is stray flame or something like that. Stray rogue. Yeah. And he created this like GIF of a cute, tiny cat with paws like stomping on a table with like, alternatingly stomping on the table with his paws. And then somebody sort of like slipped, like slid a Bongo underneath those paws that are that were stomping on the table. And then other people started sliding a bunch of other musical instruments on this CAT scan, and then everybody started calling it the bongo cat. And there's like, I want to say probably close to I would say hundreds, maybe even 1000s. of Bongo cat variations. Generally, they have the communic theme to it. Or like it's a music meme, right? And so I decided, well, this cat is the cutest mean cat that's ever lived. No offense, Nyan Cat, but or piano cat or whatever. But I thought it was just the cutest. So I said, What if I could make it? Like, come alive? Like because because I was kind of in this mood of like creating gifts this entire year, I've been in this mindset of creating physical things. So I was like, what if I can make Bongo cat, but if I can hug Bongo cat, I really just wanted to hug Bongo cat. So I created I started with creating a puppet. Because I feel like maybe I could create just the puppet and then control it with my hands. And then I was like, wait, I have like a bunch of servos lying around. Why don't I try to like make it move via whatever. Like, like hardware I have lying around. And so so this was a challenge for me, because I knew I know nothing about animatronics or, or sort of how general joints work and and what mechanisms you would use to do that. And so I kind of spent some time thinking about or well, so in terms of hardware design, right, I I tend to just look at tutorials, I look at what other people have designed and then see if I can like take a piece from that. And then and then use it for whatever I need it for. And so I saw a tutorial on Adafruit about this cat ears, their cat ears that sort of bend, and they use like this rubber band and add cardboard to sort of like achieve this bending mechanism for the ears. And I was like, Oh, maybe I can use the same thing for arms, right? They're just like, stubby little arms. So maybe it could be a simple mechanism like that.
Host 2 18:37
Just ears that cut out the side of your body. Right? Exactly.
Host 1 18:40
Exactly. Just bendy body parts, maybe that'll work. But what I found was that didn't work really. So so I kind of played with a couple of iterations of like this combination of this cardboard and rubberband type of deal. And then finally, I was like, why don't I just stick the servo inside the arm. So I just stuck with the servo inside the arm and then made made sort of like the I don't really know what you call it. There's like pieces of actuator. Well, you know, servos have pieces of plastic that are like attached to I think they're called the horns or something like that. So like I had like a bunch of those plastic horns. So I just figured out what configuration because the horns have holes in them. So I figured what configuration of those horns would like fit inside the tiny stubby Bongo cat arm. And then I just stuck the servo in it and it worked.
Host 1 19:44
Host 1 19:45
I hear I was trying to sort of engineer this. This mechanism like animatronic mechanism. And the best answer I could come up with was just use two servos and stick it inside the arms.
Host 1 19:59
Do so Quit some quick questions about that. Did you? Did you like repurpose, like a fabric from something? Or did you create Bongo cat from scratch?
Host 1 20:09
I kind of created it from scratch. So like I went out and I went and got some white felt. And then my idea was that I'd create some stents like I cut out the shapes of the, of the mouth and the eyes for the like from some black belts. But I actually ended up just drawing it on. So I got I, I like, picked up some fabric markers. And then I just started sketching on this white fabric. And then I just made it like super simple, like, so all of the videos that you will find a Bongo cat looks really sleek. But actually, if you like take a look at the scenes, they're like, very haphazardly, like sewn together. But it works. That's fine.
Host 1 20:58
Love it. So what's the what's controlling the servers or the actuators or whatever you want to call them?
Host 1 21:06
Yeah. So at first, I actually used Adafruit circuit playground, the cricket is this like attachment to their circuit playground board, that allows you to control several servo motor motors. Because I didn't really, like I sort of maybe vaguely knew that there would be power issues. If I wanted to control multiple of these servos I didn't really understand that. So I figured if I use this thing, then I don't have to understand it. It'll just work for me. And then I can kind of like, figure out how to how to do the angles, figuring out the angles, the optimal angles for the for little arms to move. And then I decided that excuse me, and and then I figured this could either go two ways I could either make it react to sound, or I could hook it up to Twitter, and then every time somebody tweets hashtag Bongo cat, then Margot cat will, will react. So I did both. I said okay, I'm gonna do the the sound one first because the circuit playground has a little microphone. So if I clap, then it'll move reading. Yeah. And then and then I was like, Okay, well, I could switch this out to use the Particle Photon instead. Photon. Yeah, the Particle Photon instead. And then I just wrote like, a quick little Twitter script, a little script to, like, ingest events from Twitter. Whenever there's hashtag Bunco. Yeah, which is super super.
Host 1 22:53
In that case, how often does your you know, animatronic Bongo cat go nuts?
Host 1 22:59
Ah, you know, I thought that it. So in the beginning, it was I would pull I would have had to, I had to pull it every, like 12 seconds or something like that? Because there's a rate limit to Twitter Search API, at least the easiest one to use. So I had to like limit the polling. But so it would it would move every every 12 seconds or something like that. And that was super fun. And, and I had thought that it would slow down. But I think I think it's still getting like I mean, I don't have it turned out in 24/7. But
Host 2 23:36
The other room just dancing around.
Host 1 23:41
Do we have that? We have video of that recorded. I want to see if
Host 1 23:50
We can all do that. And can all dance Bongo cats. No, no, but I should. I should just set up a live stream of Bongo cat dancing away, dancing away every day.
Host 1 24:02
As a side tangent, I think it's worth noting to everyone, all the listeners that if you go to Bongo dot cat, then you can actually play Bongo cat on your keyboard. Yeah, so that'll give you a quick idea of what we're talking about. If you don't know.
Host 2 24:21
That's it's also that site set up with your left and right mouse button. Yeah, sit there and just
Host 1 24:28
Just hammer away.
Host 1 24:29
Oh, yeah. Bongo away. It's great.
Host 2 24:32
I got to close that tab out.
Host 1 24:38
It's addicting. It's addicting.
Host 2 24:41
Okay, so Bongo cat, was this part of your 12 months of makes yours a different thing?
Host 1 24:49
Yeah, yeah, it was. So So 12 months of maxes, my project that I started in January, and it's a Basically a commitment to make one hardware project a month for 12 months, and I started in January it is now November, I've kind of I kind of like stopped keeping like a, like, strict track of every month. But I think I have made probably more than 11 hardware projects in the course of this year, which is really fun. Not all of them are, are, you know, as fully featured. But, but they were all like, very, very fun. And, and each of them was sort of like an opportunistic way for me to learn something new either either it was I tried to, like make the ball circuit related, but sometimes it didn't end up being like that. Sometimes it ended up being about woodworking, or some or 3d printing, or something like that. But but it was a it was a really, so Bongo cat was sort of, I think it was maybe my October make, or something like that. And it was definitely very, very, very fun to do.
Host 2 26:15
So like so most of these makes our art it's stuff that you want to learn about, right? Yeah. And when you mean and
Host 1 26:24
Yeah, or their stuff that I just got inspired to make somehow you like there's there's been stuff that I made because I wanted to give it to someone. So for February, I made this like really silly valentine card thing, like a huge valentine card thing for my boyfriend. And it was just like a way to sort of like an excuse to sort of make this thing. Because, yeah, it's just fun to make it for other people. And I've made like a trophy that was that I designed mice like so this trophy had a character on it. And this character is a character that I designed myself for my team. And then I ended up making a trophy out of that as well. Which is super fun.
Host 2 27:23
The the hat the sharp cat. Yeah, so this was the Uber Eats API project, right?
Host 1 27:32
It's actually the Uber API project. So it doesn't work for Uber Eats yet, but that's probably something I should do. But it's so it's, it's a hat. It's a shortcut with a 3d printer, a unicorn on top of it. And it lights up depending on the state of your Uber ride. So this is sort of the hat of my coworkers dreams or nightmares or whatever it was, it was one of my first projects that I've done. And I made it with particle electron. So I also use it with this, this 3g, they had like a 3g connectivity to it. Because I figured if you're riding around in an Uber, you probably don't want to be connected, or like be tethered to your phone or something. And that was a good one.
Host 2 28:26
So what do Uber drivers think of that?
Host 1 28:31
They think that it's like this this, like, super silly thing. So the last time I got into a car with it, the guy was like, is that a shark? I was like, Yes. And then I said, if you start the trip, I can show you what it does. And so he started the trip, and it changed colors. And I was just like, super happy to that it actually worked. Every time it works, I'm like very happy about it.
Host 1 29:02
So what do the colors actually mean? Is it like, it changes colors if you're halfway through your trip, or what does it do?
Host 1 29:11
So there are I have I have a I have a spiel for this. Because I used to tell people about this all the time. My job was to tell people about the Uber API. So there are about five different five to six different states that your Uber ride goes through. Like one of them is you just you just requested the ride. So people so there are no drivers that have accepted it yet, but we're trying to find someone that can accept your your trip. And then second is Oh, a driver has already accepted your trip. Hurray. So that means that the driver is like starting to head over to your location. And then there's like the state where the driver is arriving. So it's sort of like the animation for that in the unicorn horn is like this This alarm, alarm me type of animation because it's like your driver's almost here, you should probably go. And then and then there's like an in progress state where you're in the car, everything is good. It's party time. So it's like a rainbow sort of like the trippiest rainbow animation,
Host 2 30:21
Only designed to distract the driver.
Host 1 30:26
Like what is happening? It's great at night, because the best the best way to start your night out about in the town. And then of course, there's completed or cancelled, right? Like if somebody decided to cancel the ride. And that's it, those two animations don't don't happen. They just kind of make it so that the unicorn horn knows when to stop. Stop doing his thing. Yeah, party's over.
Host 2 30:55
Think you had a, you did a class on it. Or I saw pictures of like boxes of kits for these.
Host 1 31:03
Yeah. So I, I really wanted one of my goals for 12 months of makes is to meet people who like enjoy doing these things and would like to learn more about how to do it, or they're already doing it. And they're doing some fun stuff. And I just want to meet them and learn how cool they are. So So I decided, well, one of the good ways to do that is to do this workshop. And so with the help of my friend Ginni, we were able to put together this workshop for I think there was a total of nine people. And it was that it was sort of a scrappy workshop, we did it in my common common space in our apartment. I bought all like I sourced all of the hardware by myself. And I like figured out like what what we needed, I grabbed I borrowed a bunch of soldering machines. And my boyfriend is a really good cook. So he was able to like provide some lunch or dinner for us as well. So it was it was super fun. I didn't think like the the aim for the workshop was to come out of it with like, a lot of like, sort of good starting foundation for especially for a software engineer to get started with hardware projects. And, and also create a hat. I thought that we would get you know, gold number one done, I did not think that we would get gold number two done, but we did. So it was fun to see, like all of all of my friends have like these glowy hats that they built themselves. They did the code themselves, they wired it up themselves even soldered it themselves. We were able to sort of do this mini soldering session, which was super fun. To me. Soldering is like an arcane art. So it was fun to be able to I think
Host 2 33:07
I think Steven, like was born with a soldering iron in his hand. Oh, yeah, for sure. We think of the exact opposite like, like, looking at like Python code, least a couple years ago for me was like that was like, it was a different language. I mean, technically it is. I guess it is a different language than English. But yeah, it just looks, it's the same thing.
Host 1 33:32
It's, it's fascinating. Yeah. It's really cool to like explore this intersection between sort of what you would learn as a hardware engineer and what you would learn as a software engineer, because it I feel like that what I found was that it only really talked like a little bit more like reaching out into the void, to see like, what I can touch. And to, to, to realize that, like, oh, like, this is where this is where the rubber meets the road, I guess. And it's kind of amazing. It's really fascinating.
Host 2 34:12
I started looking at it, as you know, I feel like, I'm like I can do this I can push. This is from a hardware going to software, like I can push buttons on a keyboard and figure this out. And it will take me like, like, I mean, it took me like a whole week to figure out how to, like, make API's work on first Python. I was just like, how's this stuff work? That's okay, that also look on tutorials, maybe it maybe it's better now. But when I was starting to do that, like, the tutorials out there for that kind of stuff is from a software perspective. And so it's like I need an example because that's how I work I need like an example of it working. And I couldn't find that kind of stuff at all.
Host 3 35:00
I think actually, it's, we need the exact same thing that you were talking about earlier, Charlene, the the thing where you said, hey, you know, I'd look at someone else's hardware project and I pick out what I want from it, we need the exact same thing and code.
Host 1 35:15
Oh, yeah, that's, that's true. Software engineers are notoriously terrible at documentation. And so
Host 2 35:25
That stuff kinda already exists in libraries and stuff like that. We're, I mean, in Python, you go import, whatever. And usually, if you Google that, whatever, that already exists somewhere. And so it's kind of that way. But it's, it's really, I think, what what Charlene really like, hit on there is documentation. The big one that I've come across software, Project wise, is working with KiCad was an EDA tool for designing circuit boards, and they have a Python Interface scripting language that has like no documentation at all. Yeah, that's basically I was going into the source code and figuring out what I have to do to like, get data out.
Host 1 36:13
That's, that's always never fun. I feel like this is a problem that that we're trying to solve every day like not? So two things, right? Like one. Unfortunately, I don't think that. So I used to be a developer advocate. And so a lot of the things that I used to do was not really market research, per se, but sort of like trying to figure out what personas are reading documentation, right, like, what sort of people are sort of landing on the page? And what kind of information or are they looking for? And I don't think that, like one, I don't think we have a really good understanding of that across the industry. And to I don't know how much representation hardware engineers get for things like that, you know, like, I don't think anybody sort of looks at documentation, it goes like, Oh, what are like this sort of the most basic things, maybe not even basic, sort of like, cuz you probably have different concerns in terms of what you're looking for, if you're looking at a hardware project. So stuff like that. I feel like it'd be really useful. But it'd be on a case by case basis, I suppose.
Host 2 37:28
Yeah, I think what I normally look for, and this might be different for other people, but is I generally look for examples of, like, what you like looking at someone's project that does something, I'm like, Oh, but I need to do, you know, I need to have this thing, talk to this thing. And I need to find something that shows how that works out, like, how's that data flow into whatever structure it needs to go into? Because like, if someone just hands me a bunch of like, Doc, like software documentation, I'm like, I don't know how to make that stuff work. And I guess it's the exact opposite way. Whereas, you know, you want to make Bongo cats arms move. But you don't know how to make the hardware do that
Host 1 38:09
Part. Yeah, exactly.
Host 2 38:11
So you got to figure that part out.
Host 1 38:13
Exactly. Yeah, I think I think it's kind of like Okay, so when, when I started, like, literally the first time I tried to make an LED blink. I had a very limited set of components that I knew existed, right? So like, I I barely knew what a breadboard was. And I knew that wires exist. I know about wires. And I know about LEDs, right? I was working like, like, NeoPixels, right? I had like a NeoPixel ring. And it took me a long time to figure out that, Oh, my God, should I be, should I be admitting this in a podcast? But anyway, I'm gonna do it. It took me like a long time to figure out that the there was ground, there was power, and there was data in and that was all of the interfaces that you need to know about to like, connect it to your circuit. Like, it took me a long time to even get to that point. And so maybe, but but now I have like, a repertoire of things that I know, right, like sort of the big component chunks, not not even like physical components, but sort of like the fact that, you know, if you have a sensor, for example, there's going to be a way to get data into it, and then a way to get data out of it. And then you have to have a way to power it somehow. Like all of this sort of, like fundamental things, was not something that was available to me when I was first beginning. And so and so. And as I learn more, there's like a lot more components that I that I'm used to like screens are apparently a lot more complicated to like, put stuff into like Make, make something do displayed on a screen is apparently much more complicated than blinking an LED, right? But but but now that I'm learning a bunch more of these components, I can navigate these documentation in these data sheets and pinout diagrams a lot better. Now that I know what RX and TX stands for,
Host 2 40:23
But you know they exist.
Host 1 40:24
Right, right. So just the fact that I know these components exist, I feel like was very useful. And so maybe I feel like a hardware engineer might have to go through some similar exercise of trying to figure out what big chunks they need to be doing, right? Because you may be looking at a project, it's harder to see if that's similar to what you're doing. Because it's all abstract, right? Like for, for me, the advantage was, if I was looking at a project, a hardware project, it's easy to visually see that, you know, oh, that thing has like a moving part. Maybe that moving part has something to do with the thing that I'm trying to do, because my thing has a moving part. But it's much more abstract, if it's a program. And you can't like see it as easily. So that's, that's probably like, what makes it really hard to do as well.
Host 2 41:19
You can totally match. Yeah, you only have on software, it's like the the outputs is what you can really, but you have to run the code to kind of figure out what it's doing.
Host 1 41:29
Yeah, exactly, or like, or even, like, if you wanted to know what the internals of the code was doing. And there's no documentation for that. It might have different like chunks inside of the code, but you'd have to like, go in and read it and then build a mental model in your head, which is like, could be really challenging.
Host 2 41:50
Or if they're using machine learning, you have no idea no one knows what it's doing.
Host 1 41:55
Exactly. There's no mental model. It's just let the computer do its thing. Ya know, it's very sad. I don't I'm not a AI expert. I wish I was.
Host 2 42:09
Steven, are you an AI expert?
Host 1 42:11
Do I look like an?
Host 2 42:19
Ai? So Charlene, do you have any other words of wisdom for software developers thinking about getting into hardware creation?
Host 1 42:27
Yeah, I think I think it's always best to Okay, number one, you could totally do it. Just because you don't know anything about hardware doesn't mean that you can't pick up some pliers and some some wire cutters and start doing it. Maybe even a soldering iron, if you're brave. Those things were really scary to me in the beginning, but, but trust me, it gets better. And so like one, don't be afraid to, to do it. And to start with an idea that's exciting to you. Like, it doesn't have to be world changing. Like, I don't think that the world was changed by Bongo cat, or by shark Nick chord. But I don't think
Host 1 43:18
It was made that much better. Because
Host 1 43:22
Thank you, I appreciate that. But you know, like, those were just things that were fun and exciting to me personally. And it was just really fun to share it with with people. And I just got lucky that people also found it really interesting. And so start with an idea that that you think you'd be really motivated to make. And then, and then start finding tutorials where you can take bits and pieces out of that maybe look similar to what you're trying to do. And then do it. And if you need some motivation if you need help, I'm at shardene on Twitter. Plug. So but but but honestly, like I'm happy to, to to lend a hand for for anyone out there who's like, sort of really interested in, in learning about these things, but are are hesitating because they don't have enough knowledge or they feel like they have no guidance, or they feel like all the googling in the world is not helping them, etc.
Host 2 44:26
So that we also have a a Slack channel. That's a whole bunch of hardware engineers and software developers, that might be a really good resource for people wanting to learn more about this kind of stuff.
Host 1 44:38
And practically anytime anyone asks a question in there, there's like 50 people who know the answer and just pounce on it,
Host 2 44:44
But it's always 50 different answers as well.
Host 1 44:47
That's because it's a bunch of engineers.
Host 2 44:52
Okay, complicated ever solution do you want
Host 1 44:57
Okay, honestly, I always feel a lot are a bit intimidated going into spaces like that? Because I always come in and I go, Hi, I don't know what the technical term for this thing came about is, but I'm trying to do this thing in the jigger. And like, I feel like my level of vocabulary is like nowhere near where it's supposed to be. And then and then people always reply with like, well, if you do this Sh, t, and this BDF, and this ABC, then you will be good. All of its,
Host 1 45:31
You know, funny tangent that goes along with that I love when you go to a forum, and you see someone posted, where they're asking something that, frankly, is probably a little bit of, you know, a newbie question and things like that. And then next post, the very next post after that is like, you realize this forum has a search function, right? Or something like that. Something really nasty. Like, I always find that kind of funny, because I've been, I've been the guy who asked the dumb question before, our Slack channel is not like that in any way.
Host 2 45:59
No, but the thing is, I've had that same thing happened to me people like well just find use the search function, and you'll like, form. search functions are garbage. It's always better to go to like Google, do like sites, and then the form and then search.
Host 1 46:15
Yeah, it'll find it better than this. Yeah, the search functions are usually terrible. Very true, very true. If you're
Host 2 46:21
One of those kinds of people that post that, do just do the search yourself and see if the results pop up, and then just paste the link. That's way more helpful than just wasting everyone else's time.
Host 1 46:33
It's true. There's definitely that's that's so true. I've Do you know that there's like a link. There's like a tool where it's like, let me Google that for you. And it literally has an animation of like doing this Google thing. I think that's so I mean, to like, do, like, that's okay. But if you're like a complete stranger on the internet, and you're giving this a complete stranger to the internet, like, there's no possible way that that could be taken as like a positive
Host 2 47:03
Thing. It's like, you've already you as the poster had already taken enough time to even just set that URL up. It's like, just take the first couple of links and then paste that in there. Yeah, that's at least a little bit nicer.
Host 1 47:18
Yeah, Agreed. Agreed. But, but I'm glad to know that there is a space that where people have 50 different answers, because that sounds amazing, like an amazing resource. Oh, my God. I'm about to join myself.
Host 2 47:34
And so with that, Charlene, do you want to sign us out?
Host 1 47:38
Yeah, sure. That was the macro fab engineering podcast. I was your guest, Charlene gada.
Host 2 47:47
And we are your hosts, Parker, Dolman.
Host 1 47:50
And Steven Craig.
Host 2 47:51
Catch you later guys.
Host 1 47:52
Take it easy.
Host 2 48:03
Thank you. Yes, you are listener for downloading our show if you have a cool idea project topic, or a software developer that wants to get into hardware. Let Stephen and I know Tweet us at Machop at Longhorn engineer or at analog E and G, or email us at podcasts at Mack fab.com. We also have a awesome Slack channel in which a bunch of software developers and engineers, hardware guys, all that stuff hang out in every day. And as you heard, we have lots of people that like to answering questions. So yeah, go check that out. There's gonna be a link in the podcasts description and on our website. Or if you need access, let me know. If you're not subscribed to the podcast yet, click that subscribe button that RSS feed or go to your favorite podcast app and click subscribe. So that way you get the latest episode right when we releases and please review us wherever you listen, as helps us show stay visible and helps new listeners find us
Transcribed by https://otter.ai