Microcontrollers Stole my Summer (Intern Files #009)

Sunny Lee, Start Garden, 2017 HF Intern

Sunny Lee, Start Garden, 2017 HF Intern

As my time at Start Garden finally comes to end, I can’t help but feel like my time here is unfinished. I’ve had the chance to work on projects with people with very different backgrounds than mine. All of those people had one purpose though, to embed sensors and microcontrollers into the environment/city of Grand Rapids and gather data through The Things Network.

Coming into this internship, I felt like I knew very little about microcontrollers, Arduinos and data collection via IoT. Right now I definitely feel more confident but I know there are gaps in my knowledge. When it actually comes to databases and the complex circuitry of these microcontrollers I do feel a bit lost. This however engergizes me to learn beyond my summer experience at Start Garden.

My colleague and Hacker Fellows Intern, Hanisha and I also ran into a few problems during the last week of the internship due to the basic code and hardware. Eventually the problem was fixed, but I felt like we lost so much valuable time when it came to the finishing touches of our project. I guess you can say that Hanisha and I almost finished all of our projects perfectly…

Working in Start Garden’s co-working space, I met so many amazing people with such great ideas. One of the main perks of working at Start Garden is being exposed to the entrepreneurial ecosystem they are building within West Michigan. This network of doers, thinkers, makers is so embedded within the community. Entrepreneurs in West Michigan seem to not only need the support network, but desire to be a part of it.

For instance, I got to meet Kat, who won the May’s 5x5 Night, a monthly pitch competition Start Garden hosts where the winner gets $5,000. Kat recently started a new company called Locker Lifestyle, and she makes very cool pouches that holds keys and cards for people who exercise. We met pretty early in my internship and hit it off. I was shocked to learn that she was actually the same year as me.

Unfortunately, after July Fourth weekend, I realized that we weren’t going to have a chance to see each other again. Around the last two weeks, I met another contact named Brad Hammond, the president of one of the startups that work in Start Garden. I was immediately saddened to realize that we didn’t have the opportunity to become good friends. There were many situations like this. I would meet so many people coming in and out of Start Garden working on very innovative projects. So many people that I didn’t have enough days in the summer to have in depth conversations with them all. I realized that I really needed a way to keep in touch with everyone.

Since I don’t feel completely comfortable with ending my experience with Arduinos and sensors, I’m going to do my best to figure out my gaps in knowledge and find out everything I can about microcontrollers: how they work, how they send data, and more importantly, how to integrate them into my home and my life.  For the social ties, Hanisha and I had lunch meetings almost every day to wrap up each connection. On Wednesday, we had lunch with the whole Start Garden team, and we were able to say our farewells to the people who helped us adjust to the work/social environment.

On Friday for lunch we met with one of our project managers, Jeremy Czubko. He had a special guest for us, and we were able to meet his wife Kerry. As we were eating, she gave us some valuable advice on how to tell if a company had a good work environment, and I started to think of what a great work environment Start Garden had been.

After this lunch, I promised myself that I would definitely come back to Grand Rapids before the summer ended, and if I found out my coworkers were coming to Ann Arbor, I would do anything to meet up with them. I’m actually seeing Brad on Tuesday at an Ann Arbor NewTech meetup!


Sunny Lee, 2017 Hacker Fellows Intern, currently a rising Junior at the University of Michigan studying Computer Science. She is working with Start Garden for Summer 2017.