Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Re-branding Ghana with Fabric

Lately, the love of Ghanaian Fabric (and design) has caught up like wildfire among the country's youth.
Individuals and companies are branding items such as bags, shoes; wallets with fabric. Nice.
I share some pics of the rebirth of my wallet (now clothed) in this post.




Monday, October 8, 2012

FASMICRO's Ekele shares some thoughts

In my previous post, I shared my experience at the Embedded Systems Training that took place at the KNUST. Apart from the learning experience and exposure I got, I also got something far more valuable – the friendship of the trainer, Ekele. In our numerous conversations, a lot of topics cropped up and they were duly digested. I however want to share a few of Ekele’s thoughts pertaining to Embedded Systems mostly. Enjoy.
Me: How did you get into this field?
Ekele: In my first year i Senior High School, electronics was one of the subjects we were taught. Our electronics teacher did a very good job activating my electronic curiosity. When teaching, he would bring LED, transistors, resistor e.t.c to the class and show them to us. He told us where they can be applied – in T.V, radios e.t.c. So, I fell in love with electronic components.
Me: What have been your challenges and triumphs?
Ekele: When I started learning about micro controllers, I discovered I couldn't get a programmer. I searched and searched in the market. I finally got a circuit diagram from the Internet and built one. Even today, there are some components one will need and would just have to order it from the USA or another developed country.
I get a burst of joy when I write a long code for something and at the end of the day, I get the device/equipment working. For instance, the first time I wrote code for a digital signboard, it took me a long time (more than a week) to get things up. Sometimes I don’t think about food and people around me will start complaining. They will ask me what I am doing that will make me not to bother about my food. And I will answer, "You will not understand." When they finally see me clapping and grinning from ear to ear, they know I have just achieved something.
Me: What is the future of embedded systems in Africa?
Ekele: It is a virgin field in Africa. It is a core requirement to become a technologically advanced country – that is my opinion. If people can start building hardware on the continent, gradually we will not be third world any more.
Me: Your advice to graduates who complain of unemployment?
Ekele: I believe every student should acquire knowledge that can be converted into a product/service. By so doing, they can easily start a business after school. Start doing something on your own; people will notice and start to contact you. Why wait?
Me: Advice on how to succeed in a chosen field?
Ekele: You have to strongly believe in what you do, you have to constantly acquire more information in that area and you have to look for ways to solve problems with what you do.

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.