Before I decided to go into engineering, like any good lawyer-to-be, I researched the heck out of engineering, electronics and careers in the field. One thing I kept hearing from successful engineers is that they learned the most from tinkering around. So far, this approach has been incredibly successful in my quest to learn my first programming language (java). I’ve learned so much more from just sitting around and writing programs based on examples from the book.
Our programming book has lots of sample programs that I always go through and physically re-type, run and then mess around with. Is this tedious? Yes. Has it taught me invaluable lessons? Yes. Often you retype the program and see just what happens when you forget a semicolon there, or put a semicolon after something that isn’t supposed to have one. I’ve seen what happens when you accidentally put a char in double quotes or forget brackets after an if statement. Once you actually make the mistake, it really sticks in your mind how to fix it and how to avoid it in the future.
So, this weekend, I plan to make my first foray into PCBs and soldering. I bought a cheap beginner kit where you build an alarm so if I fry the tips of the basic soldering iron, or nuke the multimeter that’s included in the kit it’s not that big of a deal. So many engineers that I’ve talked to say that playing around with things like this helps so much with the learning process. It also seems like it might be pretty fun! I’ll post some pictures of my disastrous attempts later.