“I did my first light­ning talk, on the spur of the mo­ment – I didn’t pre­pare for it!”

Rachel Wong on speak­ing up

Linux Format - - OGGCAMP 2017 -

Rachel Wong LXF: Rachel Wong (RW):

Hey there, my name’s Rachel Wong and I’m a PhD stu­dent work­ing in stem cell re­search, specif­i­cally the study of con­gen­i­tal blind­ness. LXF:

That’s quite an im­pres­sive area of work. How do you man­age to find the time to also be a maker? RW:

It’s ac­tu­ally very chal­leng­ing be­cause a PhD takes up quite a lot of time. There are times where I feel torn, be­cause as I’d like to do more with my PhD but at the same time I have a lot go­ing on with my mak­ing and electronics. I do try to set my­self some very strict bound­aries, and I try to sched­ule my life so that I can bal­ance the two. LXF: RW: LXF: RW: So how long have you been a “maker”?

I re­ally got into electronics around March/ April 2017 and that was due to the Rasp­berry Pi Zero W. At the Rasp­berry Pi Birth­day Party I saw many great projects us­ing it and I had the chance to talk to the mak­ers about how they achieved it. It also helped that stalls were sell­ing all of the com­po­nents that you would need to make any­thing you want! Be­ing a maker isn’t just about tech­nol­ogy. You are also a crafter? Yes, I have an Etsy shop and be­fore learn­ing about the Rasp­berry Pi, electronics and Linux my shop was mainly craft re­lated. But now there are projects in­volv­ing LEDs, Neopix­els and so on that merge craft, and wear­able and tech­nol­ogy to­gether. In 2016 I took a gap year off to ex­plore what I wanted to do and make and I got into quite a lot of things. LXF: Be­ing a new­comer to electronics and the Rasp­berry Pi, how was the learn­ing curve and did you get any sup­port? RW: Learn­ing the Rasp­berry Pi was ac­tu­ally pretty easy. I had some help from the great Rasp­berry Pi com­mu­nity, but I learnt about the Pi Zero W via the news, and as soon as I learnt they were sell­ing out, I quickly bought one. I had to get one as ev­ery­one else was do­ing the same! Ever since then I’ve been learn­ing new Rachel Wong en­joyed her first Og­gcamp. skills thanks to com­mu­nity mem­bers sup­port­ing me. LXF: Do you have a back­ground or in­ter­est in com­puter sci­ence? RW:

When I was in high school I taught my­self some HTML and CSS, and this was mostly be­hind my mother’s back. While she was away work­ing, I would sit down and teach my­self, al­though to be hon­est I didn’t think that it would be much use, un­til re­cently! LXF: So what’s your pri­mary pro­gram­ming lan­guage, would you say? RW: Cur­rently Python, be­cause it’s the one that I un­der­stand the most. It’s also the most-used lan­guage for the many projects that have been cre­ated by the com­mu­nity, which gives me a rich re­source to ref­er­ence. I can read and un­der­stand the code writ­ten by oth­ers and I know that I can have an idea, search for it and then find an ex­ist­ing “skele­ton” project that I can adapt and use to form the ba­sis of my next project. LXF: So your in­tro­duc­tion to Python was via read­ing the code of oth­ers, tweak­ing it and reusing it? RW: Yes, there are lots of great tu­to­ri­als for Python, just as there were for HTML and CSS when I first started to learn those lan­guages. LXF:

So now that you have your new “su­per pow­ers” of electronics and cod­ing with the Rasp­berry Pi, you’ve de­vel­oped your own wear­able projects. Can you tell us more? RW:

I’ve sub­mit­ted a pro­posal to run an ex­hi­bi­tion and the plan is that I’ll show five com­plete out­fits, with hats, jew­ellery, um­brella and bag − all of which will have el­e­ments of con­trol based upon the Rasp­berry Pi. LXF: Was wear­able tech a nat­u­ral av­enue for you to ex­plore? RW:

Be­cause I’ve been sell­ing jew­ellery and craft prod­ucts on Etsy, my jour­ney to cre­at­ing wear­ables started by mak­ing crowns and from there I slowly started to in­tro­duce electronics. I then wanted to take the con­cept of wear­ables fur­ther and so I went on­line to search for new ideas and to see what other peo­ple have come up with. I then re­alised that it’s still a niche group and that I could do more to cre­ate new wear­able projects. LXF: So this is your first Og­gcamp? How have you found it? RW: Ini­tially, I felt very in­tim­i­dated be­cause the first talk was on se­cu­rity, and I didn’t know what the speaker was talk­ing about. But af­ter that first talk I was more se­lec­tive and found other talks that I could re­late to and take part in. I also did my first talk, a light­ning talk (five-minute pre­sen­ta­tion, and time for one ques­tion) which I didn’t pre­pare for and just did on the spur of the mo­ment!

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