This month we'd like you to meet element14 Community's' October Member of the Month: michaelwylie
element14: First of all, I wanted to say congratulations on your second Member of the Month award this year. If I am not mistaken, this is also your first year of being a member on the element14 Community?
Michael: Yes, I joined the Community in November of last year.
element14: What brought you to the Community?
Michael: I was over on the Dave Jones website and he mentioned element14, and I thought, "What is that? Besides silicon, of course..." so I searched for it and thought “Wow it’s a whole online Community”. The first thing I noticed was the 3D Printing space because we had just purchased a 3D printer at work. If I had known about the Community before, we probably wouldn't have purchased the 3D printer we have now.
element14: What would you have done differently if you found the Community before you made the purchasing decision?
Michael: Well I would have just asked. It’s an open Community where I could have just said “Hey guys, has anyone had any experience with this printer?” and chances are someone would have piped up and said "it doesn't look good because of x, y, and z (editors pun intended) or I really like this feature or that feature". You can spend a lot of time looking that stuff up, but getting an engineer’s opinion is more useful since they will be using the product the same way I would be using it.
element14: Have you found the same value in RoadTest ?
Michael: Well I like the idea that a lot of the products in RoadTest are new products. Like the new 3D printer that isn’t even being sold yet. You can see and read about these products before they even hit the market. In that case, if there were an issue, you couldn't ask for a better test group. You (the supplier) are going to give this printer to a bunch of people who have some expertise in 3D printing and they will tear them apart and push them to their limits. If there is an issue, it will most likely crop up for those users. For the cost of four printers, you get professional engineering opinions on what is good or bad and what to fix or change.
The whole RoadTest idea is genius because all you need is one engineer to tell you they didn't like it and why to influence your decision. I take the reviews on the RoadTest pretty seriously if I I’m deciding on a purchase. RoadTest is different; if you go to some other sites and you see five reviews, how many of those are paid? This site is actual engineers and hobbyists who I get to know through the Community. The reviews become more influential because it’s not just “some engineer”. From a members' content, you can decide if they are competent, what their interests are, and how relevant their opinion would be to your needs.
element14: Was there a specific RoadTest review or reviewer to help you make the decision to purchase or not to purchase?
Michael: I am developing a new particle counter where I work and one of the features will be Bluetooth technology. Almost immediately, after we decided to put in Bluetooth connectivity, the Anaren Bluetooth module went up for RoadTest and I thought, "That is quite convenient!" I didn't apply for the RoadTest because I wanted to let the other members apply for it. I contacted Anaren directly and told them I found out about them from the RoadTest. As it turned out, their Android support wasn't there yet and I had to go with another module, but I would not have even heard of this company if it were not for RoadTest.
element14: Do you still keep in contact with that particular manufacture?
Michael: I do keep in contact with them. A month or so ago they came to me and asked if I wanted to be a beta tester for their Android Master functionality. I was not in the position at the time to do the testing, but I would certainly be open to them in future designs as a result of it.
element14: So what do you do?
Michael: I am an electrical engineer in Southern California where I design handheld and portable gas meters and particle counters. I am the only electrical engineer which means I have to do everything from the battery management, embedded system design, sensor interface, etc … That’s likely why it takes me forever to get anything done.
element14: So being that it is just you, has being on the Community given you a way find answers to help support you in your day job?
Michael: When I first started with the Bluetooth functionality I mention above, I found some modules and felt a little over my head. I started some conversations in the Community around what was going to come up and bite me if I choose the $5 module vs the $10 module. Over on some other communities I watch videos and participate in some of the forums. It is a totally different vibe on element14 though, I mean, it’s a professional Community and it’s what I prefer.
Michael: When I first went into the challenge I knew I was at a handicap. I had moved from Canada to Southern California recently. I saw this Design Challenge and thought, “I‘d love to do that, it would be a great learning experience". I wanted to apply, but I didn’t have any equipment with me; I didn’t even have a $10 multimeter. So I used a good portion of the budget to outfit a small lab (read desk) and I spread out my orders which ended up hindering me in the end.
I loved doing it, but what I loved more than working through the project was the exchange between the participants. People were really willing to be open with what was happening with their projects. I didn’t know much about coding in Linux; I don’t know how long I spent trying to get a script running just to realize there was a comment sign in front of the line I was trying to get running. When Fredrick made his first post about how to get openHAB up and running, I was relieved that maybe I could have a chance to contribute in the contest. Most of my project was not so much about not forgetting, but more about what is convenient. While living in Southern California I really wanted to be able to control my AC and water my plants. In the end, my plants were over-watered and I never got the AC working, but I had a blast doing it!
element14: What are the areas that you check out on the element14 Community
Michael: I always go to the content tab and select “see all”, if I can learn something I want to read it. I am not particularly interested in Wearable Technology but if there is a title in there that grabs my attention, I will read it.
element14: Who are some of the people you follow?
Michael: It depends what I am looking for. If I am looking for detailed instructions on something, I know shabaz's content is going to be great. If it's a project, I know fvan is going to have incredible ideas. Following FVan during the Forget Me Not Challenge was just ridiculous.He couldn't just have a water bowl, but he had to make it so the water was chilled to a certain temperature. It was amazing!
element14: What advice would you give to someone new the element14 Community?
Michael: I would give the same advice I would give to anybody, and I suffered from it myself when I first was getting started in my career. Don’t be afraid to be wrong, but also don’t be someone who won’t admit they were wrong. What is the worst thing that can happen if you post a project or design and there’s something wrong? Well, then it’s wrong, you learn what’s wrong, and get help on how it could be improved. Don’t be afraid of being the New Member or getting laughed at.The worst case scenario is you get laughed at, it won't be me doing the laughing, but that’s all a part of the learning process.
element14: Thanks Michael!