Taking Data to New Heights Certificate Student Applies Course on Internet of Things to His African Mountain Climb
  • May 16, 2017
Taking Data to New Heights Certificate Student Applies Course on Internet of Things to His African Mountain Climb
  • May 16, 2017

Long before Victor Chinn enrolled in our Certificate in Internet of Things in early 2017, he and his wife had mapped out a trip to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. As it turned out, the trip and the program dates overlapped.

Victor, an accomplished climber who’s scaled Mount Rainier and other peaks across Washington, was excited to tackle the challenge of climbing the highest mountain in Africa. But he worried about the timing, knowing he’d miss several classes of his first certificate course.

His instructor, however, saw it as an opportunity to take what Victor was learning in class to the next level — literally. Mount Kilimanjaro tops out at 19,341 feet.

“My instructor suggested that I take a Raspberry Pi with me on my trip,” Victor said, referring to the hardware device that students in the internet of things (IoT) program use for their assignments. “I was surprised at how easy it was to do — it worked out really well.”

Victor was able to program his Raspberry Pi to connect with a satellite and measure different types of data on the mountain, like temperature, pressure and elevation. That’s the power of the internet of things: The growing ability to access all kinds of data from anywhere, through just about any device, using the cloud.

“Bringing the IoT sensors with me up Kilimanjaro opened up a new way to view that environment with quantifiable data and information,” he noted.

We recently caught up with Victor and talked about his experience in Africa and how he might use what he’s learned in the certificate program to elevate his career.

First of all, how did the climb go?

It went great. My wife and I both made it to the summit successfully.

Can you tell us about the connected device you used on Kilimanjaro?

The Raspberry Pi is basically a CPU with sensors. For this trip, we added an attachment called a Sense HAT, which has sensors that measure temperature, pressure and humidity and an LCD display to show the readouts. This device also connects to a GPS satellite to show where you are, including the elevation.

Why did you choose to take the IoT program?

Before the class, I didn't have a very good understanding of what the internet of things is. When I heard about this program, I grabbed it, because I wanted to jump into this field. I wanted to do a deep dive, and this course certainly met that expectation.

What has your experience been like in the course?

One of the things that makes this class different from many others is the amount of hands-on learning that goes on. The "things" in the program title refers to the hardware that we’re working on, including processors and sensors and all the electronics. These things can record or measure all kinds of useful pieces of information — temperature, humidity, pressure, location, heart rate. You end up with a powerful ability to measure anything you want that's digitally quantifiable.

And the instructor has been excellent. I really like his teaching style; he brings a wealth of experience to the class. I think the class has been extremely fun. It reminds me of my childhood, when I was tinkering with electronics as early as the seventh grade.

How does the IoT certificate relate to your work?

I own Colby Instruments. We make a very high-frequency, programmable delay line instrument. Taking the internet of things program for me was like saying, “Let's go play and dabble in this area and see where it goes.”

I'm thinking of maybe shifting my company more towards IoT and devices, little sensors and things like that. Who knows, it may take my company in another direction.

Any other future plans based on what you’re learning in this program?

I have an idea to make a smart backpack. It would give you temperature, pressure, humidity. It could measure your heart rate, tell you your location, maybe remind you, “I see that the UV level is very high. Do you have sunscreen on?" It's a smart backpack for the outdoors, but you don't have to be smart to use it, so to speak. 

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