Advice for a 16 year old?

Hi I'm into arduino and programming. I am in my schools robotics club and we compete in FTC competitions. With this in mind I was wondering what STEM major would fit these attributes. I am aware that ultimately, the choice is mine, but I'd like to hear from you guys and if you can, describe how arduino affected your major choice.

Technical training and tech writing.

I can tell you, from a lifetime as an electronics technician, that the single most valuable skill to an employer is the ability to teach. If you want to congratulate a teacher, tell him he would make a good salesman. You have to sell the students on the merits of your subject to get them to fully engage in learning. If you can teach, you can sell. If you want to compliment a salesman, tell her she would make a good teacher. A good salesman can teach a prospect how to identify good design and build quality in a product. If the product that salesman is peddling is well designed and well built, the customer will see the merits in that particular product. The product sells itself to the educated buyer.

A teacher is a force multiplier. One person who can perform a process or procedure can turn all other employees into a person who can perform that process or procedure. A side benefit is that the teacher gets sent to schools and seminars. "Train the trainer."

A tech writer is a teacher with writing skills. The Chinese have a useful concept: Supreme Excellence. Supreme Excellence is not perfection, but as close to it as flawed human beings can get. Ignorant people will tell you that them that can, do; and them that can't, teach. This is Supreme Ignorance. A teacher has a profound understanding of his subject. A tech trainer or tech writer needs to break a task down, determine the correct sequence of events, and present all necessary information, in the proper order, to the end user. If you watch a Youtube video in which the on camera guy says "Do this, do that, but first..." - this is failure. If you read a tech manual or watch a video and it just sounds like common sense, that is Supreme Excellence. If it sounds like common sense, the information presenter has presented all the steps in the right order. If it looks easy, only someone who has done it realizes how hard it was to prepare that lesson.

A tech writer and tech trainer can sell the product, write the manual, write the advertisements, and interact with users to determine what improvements to make. He will be the last one let go during an economic downturn, because his teaching skills will be needed to bring the work force up to speed when the market recovers.

Everywhere I ever worked there was one guy who could fill in at any work position if a worker did not show up. He could repair any equipment on site, and perform calibration and alignments on anything. He never watched the playoffs or read a novel on the job. Always busy, always learning. On that day when you show up on the job site and find the gates locked and a new security firm keeping people out, that guy is already working somewhere else, because competitors have spotted him and realize his worth. He had three standing job offers while he worked with us. Be that guy.

Hi, @david_v10
Welcome to the forum.

What majors are available, they may be different for each country.
What year of schooling are you at?

Thanks.. Tom... :smiley: :+1: :coffee: :australia:

david take a good look at where troincs is headed. in 20 years, your lifetime, it will be so AI and robotic out that there will be no labor force, all robots that fix themselves. The only real jobs will be doing things that computers can't. Creating, a robot can't do that just do known things better, solving robot strange reactions, a robot phycologist read Isaac Asimov. (I Robot). My prediction, everybody will want to be buried on Earth. handling "Ashes", such as using a drone to spread ashes will always be big bucks and done by people. i looked into doing this at the Grand Canyon is very viable you must just meet their requirements. the fleet of quadcopters will not be allowed to be "Robotic" due to the sanctity of very rich people. Does anyone else got anything?

Wel, the Arduino and STEM wasn't around when I was 16. Neither were personal computers. My first exposure to computers was using punch cards and programming Fortran 2.

Whatever career path you take, here's one piece of advise that will serve you well. Always be training your replacement.

To do robotics projects, you (or your team as a whole) need skills in programming, electronics and mechanical engineering. The STEM subjects that underpin those disciplines are largely mathematics and physics.

1 Like

Practical skills are great but short lived in our fast pace technology world.

Invest in understanding the fundamentals of science, then apply by learning specific tools but always be open to change.

So +1 on Maths and Physics, computer theory, algorithmics etc. Have fun on the side applying what you learn with practical experiences.

16 is still young, you have time to decide what you want your job(s) to be or look like (although at that age I also knew I wanted to be in "computers" - so that was my hobby - and I invested in myself through a formal scientific education - and humanities do not hurt, they are part of a well rounded education)

1 Like

From what I’ve observed over the last few years, there’s been a huge drift away from systems programming into application programming.

Systems (hardware, firmware & OS) would be a good place to get a foundation - then you can make a better informed choice as you evolve - because you’ll be the only one in the room that knows how the code & hardware works at the lowest level of integration.

Application programmers simply can’t exist unless a systems programmer has been there first.

Hi, mate.
Do not leave out practical electronics, building things with hardware as part of your major.
To many times we have posters come on the forum with basic electronics problems, BUT are very capable programmers.

[soapbox]
I find that a bad combination, ALL programmers should do at least one year of hands on hardware construction and basic electronics to show them what they are playing with.
[/soapbox]

Tom.... :smiley: :+1: :coffee: :australia:

YES! My nephew is a very accomplished software developer (there is a patent somewhere in Cisco with his name on it) but knows nothing about the hardware!

@david_v10
At the risk of repeating what other have said physics, mathematics and electronics, they are all interrelated. I get frustrated with people who clearly know something about electrical circuits but then make silly mistakes because they don't understand the basics.

When I started my apprenticeship in 1977 in telecommunications telephone exchanges were in huge buildings and built around relay based technology. Now they are applications on a server somewhere. Telephone exchange buildings, at least in the UK, are to be sold off soon as they are not needed now. My point is that the technology changes beyond all recognition in a lifetime. Electronics and computing are big, fast developing subjects, whatever you do there will always be more to learn and more to do, just follow what interests you, but do not skip the basics.

Well if you take your age and switch the numbers around you get about my age.
Back in the day, one person could pretty well put together an entire solution end-to-end. Much harder today. There are so many moving pieces that it is impossible to have a deep inside knowledge of it all. So, imo, there are two routes: One become a specialist in a specific field where you are confident there will be a good deal of longevity. Two, become an expert in a wider field and work as a designer/architect able to tie all the specialties together.

Having managed a team of JAVA programmers for years, most could not put batteries into a flashlight but 2 had PhDs and the rest were masters. Electronics did not mean a hoot to them; their salary compensation was not harmed either.

In a ever-changing world, Computer/Network Architecture is always in demand and while electronics becomes throw-away technology, there is always someone deciding how the next big thing will fit into the market (or datacenter or cellular network or space communications.)

Hello, David.
You are just three years older than my great grandson.
May I suggest you take EVERY science type and math type class you can get. Yes, even biology.
The reason is you cannot foresee what you will be asked to do in the future. You must prepare for all. I know that is hard, but none of the classes will be a loss.
Chemistry will give you knowledge in materials used in electronics. Math will allow you to connect what you see with what is taking place on an atomic level. Biology will give you insight into how things react to electronic signals and produce electronic signals.
Good luck,
Paul