(Our first programme was called “IoT in Africa” In this post, Global Coder Synvalnus Gatorwu describes his experiences on our 2017 Summer Programme)

It began as a whatsapp invite, and suddenly I felt an excitement to attend.

MY FIRST IMPRESSION

The impression I had upon entering the lab on a Monday morning was one of mixed feelings. I didn’t know what to expect. What I saw however raised my hopes that it was going to be practical, and not one of those talk shops.

As a science student during my O’level and A’level days, the lab is not a strange place to me, but an IT lab certainly is.

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Synvalnus Gatorwu

The next observation I made was our tutor. He was a British and obviously an experienced IT personality. I concluded that the next three weeks was going to be one of those serious intellectual times in my life, and I wasn’t wrong, it was a life changing one.

Initially, I had just come on the first day to see if this was something worth my time. After what I saw upon entering the lab, I changed my status to one of “I am really going to cancel all appointments and devote these three weeks to this”

This is how Rexford Nkansah, a web developer who was with us described Sam Moorhouse, our tutor:

The Instructor Sam Moorhouse, the instructor for the 3-week summer program is an industry expert experienced in working on real-world applications using battle-tested platforms and or tools in real-world organizations.

Although his experience and knowledge are deep, Sam’s teaching skills allow him to draw the students out into the bare open with simple-to- understand expressions and explanations. I personally enjoyed his lectures and hands-on assistance.

For me, in one sentence, he is an experienced teacher who knows how to teach the most complex of things in the simplest of ways.

Week One.

The first week of the program was exciting. We were introduced to intriguing subjects that got the entire class yearning for more. For someone like me, it was an eye-opener to be introduced to Internet of things, the Raspberry Pi, and more.

We started with the basics of Python, linux, went through a bit computing and networking fundamentals, using the Raspberry Pi, and IoT programming using programmable web and the particle IoT platform. All these are were new to me, and as a broadcast journalist, a statistics graduate and public health student, I asked myself “how come I didn’t know all these”

The entire program was so practical, there was hardly any lesson that didn’t involve hands-on, we got to apply everything we studied, and immediately appreciated their use in the real world.

The biggest surprise was the introduction to the Raspberry Pi, which I hadn’t seen before, its usage was an eye opener.

Week two

Began with another exciting Monday as we were informed of our trip to Accra on Thursday. Flask, was our first lesson in week two, and I was so elated to have seen how it works.

Heroku as another joy as we deployed the application and saw it work. The MQTT was also a delight to operate.

Need I state that, these are all new to me, unlike some of the students who already know of some of these, for me, it was a joy because I had not heard of these before.

Git and Github become a sensation among all the students. ‘git add’, ‘git commit’, and ‘git push’ probably will be the last any student of the program would forget. These terms became the mantra of the entire program.

Behold, it was Thursday, and time for the trip.

I had to finish up a meeting at the National Communications Authority Head office, yet I
couldn’t miss such a glorious opportunity to see real software engineers at work. I dashed to Accra by 5am, got my work done with the officer, and met up with the team.

My first reaction was to bring my journalistic prowess by interviewing Joshua Kumi, the brain behind Tech Leads and Sam’s man on the ground. The interview was live on facebook.

I was yet to appreciate the beauty of the IoT in Africa and Tech Leads T-Shirts, when I saw students in the bus, it was such a beauty.

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Synvalnus models our tee-shirts #bluesteel

Our first stop was at Rancard.

For me, it was like magic, starting from Ghana, they have spread their tentacles across the globe. And it was time for me to ask questions on how it was done, making it possible for text messages to be sent across platforms in real time, and the volume of it was amazing.

The “control room” my own term to describe where their work was being monitored was
awesome. At least, it demystified my thinking on how this “magic” works.

Our next stop was at hubtel

I must say, we had a lot of detail in hubtel because the presentations were a number, and then we had the opportunity to be taken round their various departments, unlike rancard where we were a bit restricted, hubtel gave us a treat, and for the first time, I saw computers with such giant screens.

We interacted with some of the engineers who were busily “coding” and who left their work to interact with us. I couldn’t resist the temptation of touching the screens to have a feel. I, for the first time, saw how and where phone applications are tested before released into the market.

I must confess, some of the terminologies used were new to me, and as a journalist, I came home to do a lot of homework.

Just before we left, we were showed the only laptop that was used to start the company an old dell computer. Lesson, little beginnings can lead to great ends if only one doesn’t give up.

The icing on the cake for me was a student from a country in the western world who had come to do internship, and to think that Ghana would have a company that would attract such was for me very hopeful of Africa’s potential.

On the Friday of the second week, Sam Moorhouse led us to choose our projects.

This was the most exciting time of the week, we all went home thinking and dreaming of our projects.

The week was an excited one as we all completed our projects ahead of time for the scheduled exhibition on Friday.

This is how a Senior Web Developer who spent time with us, Rexford Nkansah put it.

“Controlling an LED with a button press through the Raspberry Pi General-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins with the above code was fun.

As the LED goes on, the endless possibilities achievable with the Raspberry Pi kept popping up in our heads. Each nod by a student meant a light bulb in their mind came on. The experience was engaging and fun.

Writing basic Python code to turn our idea (turn on a light bulb by button press) into reality (light actually turned on) was priceless. As trivial as it seemed, the feeling and joy such an experience carried were more than words could describe.

Our understanding of the use of the breadboard meant we could build complex circuits using different sensors to achieve varied results. A firm grasp of the fundamentals was all that was needed, and the ideas started flowing.”

The IFTTT

The If This Then That event open source function was simply scintillating. In combination with our Raspberry Pi functionality, we could get emails sent after a button press.

Think of a panic button for your shop. Or the panic ‘word’, where a sensor would pick up your voice, and trigger an event.

In short, our ideas run wild. The practical understanding meant, we all took home a strong appreciation for what tech could help us all achieve.

This, was the project my team and I embarked upon, and an application, I am exploring for my website http://www.healthylifegh.com I intend to have publications sent to all social media accounts of my budding organization that specializes in churning out health news from Ghana to the world.

Our project used all we had learned, wrote a code in python, used the If This Then That (IFTTT) function, and then had a circuit in place on our breadboard, in addition to others, connected to a sensor.

When the code is running, this is what the project would do:

The concept is this: When my door bell or button is pressed, check to see if I am around and light a bulb so I would know, there’s someone at the door.

If I am not in, send me an email so I would get to know, there’s someone at my door.

And it did just that.

As a person new to these, I have come to appreciate the world of code, open source applications and electronics.

At the end of the program:

Every student of the Tech Leads Ghana 2017 Summer Program in collaboration with IoT in Africa took home a Raspberry Pi Model 3, a 16 Gig SD Card, a micro USB charger brick and cable, a breadboard and an HDMI cable.

Priceless gift! A big thank you to Sam.

My application of the program is going to help me reach a larger audience than I used to with my health news.

My gift of the Raspberry is going to be used in my newly acquired office.

Thanks to you once again for the great door opened to me into the world of IT.

Koforidua Technical University, where it all happened, will certainly be a place to remember.


Thanks Synvalnus Gatorwu! The Global Code Summer Programme returns to Ghana in July 2018. You can help by getting in touch and buying a Raspberry Pi as a gift to a student. Thanks!

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