Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Exploring the Virgin Territory of Embedded Systems

An embedded system
Photo Credit: PlantAutomation
Consider the following scenarios:
  • Your car has been stolen. How do you track its location?
  • You travel and realise you’ve left your lights on! How do you save energy – and money – by switching off the lights?

The answer to these, and many other similar ones, is embedded systems.
For more on the applications of embedded systems, click here.
Embedded systems are simply specialized computer systems that are part of larger systems or machines
The Kumasi Center for Lifelong Learning-KCLL, seeing the prospects of this industry, organised a 10-day training workshop on embedded systems at the School of Science, KNUST. This was done in partnership with First Atlantic Semiconductors & Microelectronics-FASMICRO, Nigeria's largest embedded systems company, and MFriday, a group of mobile technology enthusiasts (made up of students and industry experts).
I'm currently participating in the workshop as a ‘trainee-observer’ (on the request of the KCLL’s Executive Director, Yaw), to see how best to replicate the training on the Catholic University College of Ghana campus.
Participants have so far been introduced to the PIC microchip/microcontroller, FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array, a special type of programmable microprocessor) and taught how to write programs in the Assembler and C languages. They've also been introduced to the USART/UART and USB communication protocol. Some of the mini projects saw participants programming a digital clock, the seven segment display of an LED, a piano, and an LCD.
The last day of the training -- tomorrow -- will be used to highlight the business aspects of embedded systems.
The trainer, Ekele, believes the field is a ‘virgin’ territory in Africa and hopes a lot more people embrace it. He says, “A lot of people are into software, but what is the software going to interact with – hardware.”
It’s been an exciting experience, and I wish a number of institutions in Ghana would set up Microelectronics Training and Development Centers (MTDCs) to train students in this field.
Please let me know what your thoughts are by commenting on this post.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Learning to learn

I just read a cool and inspiring blog post by the same title. The author, John Sonmez, who blogs at Making the Complex Simple, puts into perspective his thoughts on why taking responsibility for one’s education is very important.
He explains what learning how to learn how to learn is:

"The key to self-educating is to be able to change the way you think about learning. You should no longer see yourself as a student to be taught, but rather as a researcher gathering together information on a subject."

I picked up his steps in the learning process and realised that I personally have been off track all this while in my bid to self-educate myself.

I won’t bore you further. Just read the article for yourselves, and let him (and me of course) know what your thoughts are on it. You will love it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

When innocence meets faith

I remember a childhood experience that always puts me in a pensive mood. I was eleven years old (I think).

I had been feeling a bit nauseous in the morning prior to a music rehearsal, and almost decided not to go for the rehearsal. I went all the same -- with my brother, Samuel.

After the rehearsal (which was held in our instructor's house), I felt really weak. The mother of our instructor felt my pain and did something that still overwhelms me. She brought a glass of water -- with the Holy Rosary in it, and asked me to drink it! It felt awkward. She calmly handed me the glass and asked that I have faith while drinking the water.

The innocent child in me trusted her -- and in the Immaculate Conception. I drank the water and felt the same, though the nauseousness had reduced.
I thanked her and left with my brother for our home.

Before we boarded a cab, I spewed. That was it. I felt relieved and even played with my friends when I got home.

How I miss that innocence!