How one engineer found both confidence and community in element14

Membership spurred a small business—and a big life change

Tracking Santa Claus changed the track of Frederick Vandenbosch’s life.

A computer scientist by trade, Frederick fell backward into hardware. “When I finished my studies, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” he said. He took a software technology engineer job to get exposure to different disciplines and eventually moved into to full integration with hardware.

While searching for resources in his new field he signed up for Avnet’s Element14, a discussion-based community that offers free courses and training materials—plus opportunities for engineers to solve each others’ design and technical questions. By seeing the projects other engineers are working on, creators like Frederick learn from the community’s collective wisdom and can optimize their own designs.

He first became a contributor a year later, when he applied for a project he and his daughter could work on together: capturing Santa Claus using the Raspberry Pi in first Pi NoIR Santa Catcher challenge.

Not only was he selected, Frederick and his daughter won. The judges said his project “was not only well documented and entertaining, it was thoroughly imbued with the true spirit of the holiday season.” That first project gave him the confidence to dive deeper in to the community’s resources.

“I was shy, afraid of the response, afraid of not being knowledgeable enough to participate,” Frederick said, “But being selected as the winner was such a confidence boost.”

Santa Catcher was far from Frederick’s last win. Now, he’s one of the most tenured members of the community, achieving the highest level possible: Hertz. Frederick’s Element14 projects have also been featured in Lifehacker and Hackaday. Plus, his community membership has allowed him to start his own small business commissioning custom builds of his previously launched projects for community members and other customers.

When he reflects on his favorite project, Frederick thinks of the Forget Me Not Challenge where 20 challengers tried to create a smart home solution for vacationers out of a Raspberry Pi Model B+, an EnOcean Pi Transceiver and PiFace digital board. Throughout the 12-week challenge, he blogged about his [CaTS] project, which aimed to make adjusting appliances and temperature easy, security of doors simple and automatically feed his beloved cats like clockwork. He even created an open source code repository so others could build on top of his work. Frederick took the top prize.

But one of his fondest memories of the challenge? That even in competition, other Element14 members felt more like community. Frederick noted that creators “didn’t see each other as competitors” when the going got tough on some people’s projects. In fact, “the others would assist and try and get a person back on track” if they got lost along the way.

“For me, the element14 community has been an accelerator and an enabler for my hobby—and now my business,” Frederick said. And as for advice for his younger 2012 self? “Start interacting with members, start participating, it’s worth it.”

Read also: Element14 allows Sneha Nidhi to continue a lifetime of learning

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