Meet the Maker: Anmol Agrawal, Tinkerer for Life

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Anmol Agrawal
@anmol1771

 

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Anmol is addicted to learning. His dedication to gaining new skills and knowledge is what made him the awesome maker he is, and he’s only 24! His Earthquake Warning System has been featured on various blogs on the web, and earlier this year we were lucky enough to chat with him about his process.

 

I am based in Bangalore, which is also known as the Silicon Valley of India. My home town is a small city in central India, Raipur. I have moved around alot in my life as my father went places due to work. So, I am more of a wanderer.

 

My maker superpower is to be able to learn anything that I want. What I want to learn is, most of the times, circumstantial. Like during my college days. I participated in a business plan competition at IIT Kharagpur. I participated because hype around that event was extra-ordinary and I wanted to experience what it was about. At that time, I knew nothing about businesses or business plan. Although I didn’t win, I was hooked to it. I started reading lots of books (mainly “The Personal MBA” by Josh Kaufman) and applying the knowledge around myself. Gradually, I became comfortable with fundamentals of business. Then in a meetup, I realized that most of the new startups nowadays didn’t start with business plan but with some kind of prototype. That’s when I started learning about UX, UI and Interaction design from books, blogs and online courses. Now if I had some concept/idea, I could quickly sketch it and turn it into low or high fidelity mockups and wireframes. But something was still missing. My ideas were still just in paper and just a snapshot of what it could look like but wasn’t actually functional. Because of that, I started learning full-stack development including HTML, CSS, JS, Ruby, Rails etc. I took about 40+ courses from Lynda.com. After that, I knew learning all these stuff is just not enough. I need to apply it in real-life situations. That’s how I started going to meetups, hackathons, conferences and seminars to pratice the skills. Being a self-directed learner, I became a part of Uncollege program as a fellow. I got to work on polishing my already acquired skills and learned a lot about networking and speaking skills. I learned more about myself.

So yeah, as you can see, nothing was ever planned for a long term. I just connected the dots and things fell into place. In my opinion, too much planning is also not good as you might miss the new opportunites around yourself. That’s why I love serendipity more than planning but still I try to balance both of them. Keeping an open mind is crucial for being a self-directed learner. If one has that, they could absorb anything like a sponge.

 

 

I am inspired by…- It’s a long list of people who I am inspired from, I am highly inspired by kids. The way they look at things are so different than what we adults see. They want to understand what is it, why is it like that, why not the other way, what ifs etc, I love when they keep bombarding with their questions (which is irritating for most people 😀 ). It’s never ending and still they enjoy it, they always have fun. Although I am 24, I am 10 at heart.

 

The most exciting project I have worked on is…– I am a side-project addict and I do them everyday. There is one project that is really special and it was 2-3 years long.

I didn’t get a job in my college during campus placements. As I already mentioned about how I learned about design and development, the next part was to turn the acquired skill into job offers. I thought that if I could build up a portfolio showing how I applied all the knowledge I have gained, I could convince people to give me an opportunity showing that I could do a particular task and I can learn new things if needed. I built up my portfolio, and I started sharing the whole experience with everyone who was interested. I got rejected from lots of interviews due to reasons like not having a Masters degree, not having a work experience etc, which every fresher faces. I continued going to hackathons and eventually I started getting into the finals and sometimes won it too. After that I started getting some job offers. In January, I spoke at GardenCity Ruby Conference, Bangalore on the topic “Fun with Ruby and Arduino”. Two companies really helped me in making my talk successful – LittleBits and PubNub. Now I am contributing to both these open-source communities in spreading their word and creating the content.

Now my next big project is to replicate this “system” with other people, other industries and other technologies. For that reason, I am trying to be an Evangelist of everything that I am involved with.

 

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I have used littleBits to make a…– Although there are a lot of cool stuff that adults and kids have already built and put on LittleBits’ website, I think there are a lot more possibilities. LittleBits looks deceptive in a way that it’s small, modular, colorful (and cute too :P) and that one could build only fun stuffs. I am working on the other end of the spectrum that one could build complex stuffs too with them which could be shown to companies as prototypes or teach in the schools about how things we see around ourselves work. Some of things I have already done with LittleBits:

1. Created an earthquake warning system based on early warning system that is installed in some parts of US.

2. Demo of Smart lighting on streets, built a package delivery detector and some home-automation projects.

3. Some voice-controlled home automation stuff.

4. Programming the arduino in different languages like Ruby and JavaScript (normal C/C++, python is used).

5. Created a blog post series called RubyBits (which is Ruby + LittleBits) on my blog.

 

 

I am going to use littleBits to make a couple of things on my mind. One of the fun stuff I want to build is variations of alarm systems to wake myself up. I admit, I sleep like a koala. My brother used to wake me up in numerous ways like screaming at my ears, throwing a jug of water at my face, pulling the blanket out of the bed or sometimes pulling me out of the bed. I want to build a “Tom and Jerry” type contraptions to build a model of these different “strategies”.

I am inclined towards industrial applications like earthquake warning system, smart lighting etc as they create impact on mass at once. I am planning to work on creating a model of solar thermal power plant, a wind power plant (both of them with some modifications in their design) integrated with Internet of Things stuff (micro-controllers, microprocessors, sensors etc) with dashboard system to monitor and control the system.

 

littleBits has taught me that no matter how complex a subject is, it could be learned in a fun and simple way. Electronics was the subject that I absolutely hated in high school. I never understood as I had to imagine something at micro level which I can’t see, just bunch of diagrams (believe it or not, that was my reason). As you can figure out, I am nowhere near from Electronics background. When I played around with LittleBits, I started getting interested in Electronics. I was able to make anything very quickly and now I want to understand what’s happening under the hood i.e. each LittleBits module.

 

 

 

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