I constantly use YouTube as a resource for learning about science and electronics, and have always wanted to be a contributor to this online community of hobbyists and professionals. Using STEP funds, I kickstarted my own YouTube channel on which I post videos of electronics tutorials, science demos, and also related adventures of mine. The goal of the channel is to be a source of information and inspiration for those wanting to learn more about STEM. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqtrURpwIEsJI_KZVUYMrWA
I dedicated many weekends to this YouTube channel. Usually I would try and make a demo on Friday night and finish it Saturday afternoon, and then do video editing and post the video on Sunday. This is a TON of work for one lousy video, which indeed was often times lousy! So, I have learned a ton about what it takes to produce YouTube content; it is way harder (for me at least) than the YouTube pros make it look. I am at a disadvantage to some of the senior guys making content because they have, for example, an entire career’s worth of electrical engineering knowledge that they can use to whip up a quick lesson or demo. For me, however, I must read about the subject I want to talk about during the week, experiment and build something that hopefully works on Saturday, and then finally edit and post the video Sunday.
As such, I have learned that I must work consistently and hard in order to get the most out of this experience. At first I would just make videos on the weekends, and not think about the project much during the week. But I quickly got addicted to the process and began doing much more work for the videos during the week. This is a pivotal transition for any hobby or learning experience, because your project becomes a regular part of your life and is always on your mind. Because of this, learning takes place much more efficiently, one progresses faster, and ultimately learns things permanently. I have vivid memories of the projects I did for this YouTube channel, and also vivid information and knowledge in my memory. I unfortunately cannot say the same for all of my classes I was taking last semester, for which I had homework and tests! Truly, the best way to learn is to “do it yourself”, ask your own questions, and have fun!
Definitely working long hours to get this project going was a sacrifice. I spent many weekends inside building circuits or programming the next demo. Some of the time it was very stressful, because things don’t work as expected or sometimes not at all. But, the feeling of getting a demo to work is so rewarding. I learned much perseverance and determination while getting this channel to where it is because I pursued the completion of a video relentlessly each weekend, which forced me to struggle through the challenge and get things to work!
Pointing the camera at myself was very uncomfortable at first, and I still have trouble acting “naturally” in front of a camera. In editing the videos of myself, it was interesting to see me from a third person view, as other people do. This is a rare experience, and I think I am still learning from watching myself on the screen. Namely, I am learning how to better express myself to and communicate with people through a screen. I am usually pretty good at explaining things in person, but for some reason (for me, at least) it was much harder to communicate through the camera. At first my videos took a lot of editing and re-shooting footage in order to string together a coherent video. I have since then honed in on my “formula” for creating and editing video, and I think it is getting much better. In all, this project has helped me communicate and teach not just through the camera but also face to face, as I can picture what I look like from the third person and adjust my communication style to make the delivery (i.e. when explaining something) the most effective and coherent.
Another big component of this transformation experience was getting feedback on the channel. It feels really good to get emails and comments from people who either have questions about the demos or just want to say thanks and good job. I feel accomplished when people say my videos helped them, and I think that just encourages me want to try harder and make more videos. I also can’t help but feel good about getting more subscribers and views, and strive to make my videos as good as possible as to attract more viewers and subscribers.
I have grown as a person and also as a professional as a result of this project. I have not just learned about analog to digital converters, low level programming of microconrollers, serial communication and software development for data acquisition hardware, etc., but I have also learned a lot about problem solving and perseverance, two of perhaps the most important character traits of a professional physicist. I have no doubt this project has and will continue to make me a better physicist and prepare me for my future in grad school and beyond. STEP has truly been a great learning experience, and it has been undoubtedly a milestone in my personal and professional development.