Graduation came and went with shuttered dining halls and somber goodbyes. Come July, no tuition bill arrived to neatly organize my year’s expenses into two payments. I was in the “real world” now, and that meant working to get by.
I was well prepared for the transition with a house and steady job. But as someone who thrives on unpredictability and experimentation, I was looking forward to having my evenings to tinker and work on my own projects.
Then it hit me.
All those resources I’d been reliant upon for years were gone. No more computer labs. No more oscilloscopes. No more drawers of wires and components. No more microcontrollers and FPGAs.
I didn’t even have a multimeter.
It’s funny how a university spends years preparing students to academically handle engineering challenges, yet once students step off campus, all the necessary tools are lost. Student discounts expire with diploma in hand, making technical software and other equipment prohibitively expensive for recent graduates.
Fortunately, with the prevalence of mobile devices, cloud computing, and open source, there are more opportunities than ever to dabble in creative development. Android devices can provide a limited hardware platform while software like vvvv can offer an environment to prototype interactive media.
Even so, I dream of again having seemingly endless resources at my fingertips. Implementing even a few of my more grand ideas would be such a sweet reward after years of envisioning. Maybe in graduate school or a hacker space, I’ll have the tools I cannot afford on my own. But for now I will make the most with what I have.