Students are the future of Tech

According to a study by EDC, as of 2018, there were 23 million software developers worldwide and this is expected to grow to 27.7 million by 2023. And yet, in 2020, “an estimated 1 million computer programming-related jobs in the US are expected to be unfilled.”

If you want to secure your future with some level of job security, there simply isn’t a better time than now, to decide to study computer science, electronics and computer systems engineering.

Pycom has a history of delivering technology to the education sector. To begin with, we were a little too complex for inexperienced developers but we’re getting better at that and as we do, more and more universities come to us for technology for their lecturers, students and projects.

One such is Linnaeus University in Sweden. We spoke to Fredrik Ahlgren, senior lecturer at the Department of Computer Science and Media Technology, Faculty of Technology about his experience with attending some of our Workshops that use Pycom products as an introduction to IoT and embedded technology, building upon the easy-to-use coding language MicroPython.

 

What challenges did your students create solutions for using Pycom products?

We have used Pycom products to create wireless sensors for temperature, pressure and ambient indoor conditions. We are also working on holding basic electronic workshops, where students set up a system-controlling traffic light using magnetic sensors. At the moment, we are developing a wireless interface for an industrial PLC, using a Pycom device as a bridge between the MODBUS and LoRa network. One of our students is also working on a solution for measuring fuel levels in emergency generators, which is a vital use case for developing countries where there is a growing security issue with fuel being stolen.

 

How have Pycom products helped you in your field?

They are great to start learning with as if we used Arduino the code would have to be compiled each time. Being able to dynamically try out your code directly onto the board makes it much more intuitive, as the only thing that needs to be uploaded is the MicroPython code.  This makes it really fast and easy to understand for the students.

 

Were there any ‘deal breakers’ involved in your decision to use Pycom products?

We wanted to utilise MicroPython which is why we started with Pycom boards. Another factor was the variety of wireless networks included in the basic LoPy4-setup as it’s very flexible for workshops. We have run workshops for different industries and some of them are interested in using their own LoRa-networks, whereas others prefer SigFox or NB-IoT. With Pycom, the same device and framework can be used which makes it a good flexible choice for education and early development.

 

How did you first hear about Pycom?

By Googling…

 

What most attracted you to our products?

Adaptability, for sure. The prices are decent as the devices are being used in education and early development. Although we found some issues with the software, mainly the plug-ins for VSCode and Atom, they seem to have been ironed out.

 

How do you use our products in your field?

We have an upcoming use-case where we are going to measure the ground water levels in a farmer’s field. We are also using Pycom devices to publish sensor data for data logging, in particular for battery-run wireless sensors. There are plans for measuring temperature in the district heating system, as well as measuring data points that are missing in process plants. Although the project is in an early stage, in terms of being able to create a wireless sensor able to connect to just about anything, it is really promising.

 

What results have you seen since implementing them?

Our first workshop was included in the electrical workshop course for our Marine Engineering programme. Students spent three days building a sensor that transmitted over The Things Network (TTN), using Node-Red and MQTT to glue everything together, with InfluxDB as a database and Grafana for visualisation. This later received a high interest from the local industry in Kalmar, and we were able to organise three further workshops. There were about 20 attendants for each workshop, predominantly attracting people from the electrical industry. Below are some news events from our university press.

https://lnu.se/en/meet-linnaeus-university/current/events/2019/iot-meeting-191212/

https://lnu.se/en/meet-linnaeus-university/current/events/2019/iot-tech-day-190829/

https://lnu.se/mot-linneuniversitetet/aktuellt/nyheter/2019/stort-intresse-for-temadag-om-internet-of-things/ (only in Swedish ..)

We have created a distance learning summer course in applied IoT, which will be run in  Spring 2020 at Linnaeus University’s summer academy. The applications are still open and we will be utilising Pycom devices and 3D-printers. We have a good exchange network with the local industry for capstone projects within the course. This course comes as a direct result of the work we have been doing with Pycom devices.

 

Link to the distance course (Swedish):
And the English one, which unfortunately is cancelled.

 

This year I am teaching at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada. I will be setting up a couple of workshops with Pycom-devices as a part of my special topics course here.

Staff page LNU

Staff page at UBC:

 

 

What would you tell others who are undecided about Pycom?

It’s a great way to start developing your ideas, as the process is really fast. The time from having an idea and implementing it is very quick and easy. I think there are still more resources for the Arduino community, but the MicroPython-community seems to be growing fast. Just the fact that it’s ready to use plug-ins for both VSCode and Atom makes all the difference.

 

For more information about Linnaeus University please see here: https://lnu.se/en.

Fredrik is at the department is at Computer Science and Media Technology: https://lnu.se/en/meet-linnaeus-university/Organisation/faculty-of-technology/meet-the-faculty-of-technology/computer-science/

He is currently a visiting Professor at UBC in Canada: https://www.ubc.ca/