Engineering with Arduino and beyond: An interview with author Ashwin Pajankar

The Elektor community is full of engineers eager to share their knowledge with like-minded electronics enthusiasts. Take Ashwin Pajankar, an engineer, teacher, Elektor author and YouTuber based out of Nashik, India. When he’s not already working on a new electronics project, he helps his peers – through books, courses and videos – teach them how to build with Arduino and other modern technology.

Alina Neacsu: First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Tell me a little about yourself. What is your current occupation?

Ashwin Payankar: I live in the suburbs of Nashik city in India. I have a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Computer Science and Engineering from Shri Guru Gobind Singhji Institute of Engineering and Technology in Nanded. I also obtained a Master of Technology (also in Computer Science and Engineering) from the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad. I speak five languages ​​and have lived and worked in three states in India.

I currently work as a freelance technical writer, YouTuber and instructor at Udemy. I also organize programming and electronics bootcamps for professionals and students. I have a preference for mathematics, physics, computers and electronics.

Ashwin Pandakar gives a comprehensive kickstart to the Arduino Nano in his book.

Alina: Do you remember your first electronics project with microcontrollers? Can you tell us something about that, like what technology you were using at the time?

Ashwin: My very first microcontroller project was very modest. In group 12, I first started working with microcontrollers (like 8085 and 8086 microcontrollers). I was taught the 8051 microcontroller. (It’s the standard microcontroller used all over India in microcontroller classes.) However, we didn’t have hands-on training with it in 12th grade. Then when I went to engineering (a four-year undergraduate course), I had the opportunity to work with assembler on the 8051 kit during the third year of that course. My very first project with the 8051 was a very modest project: a blinking LED using 8051 assembler code.

Alina: What did you like about the Arduino Nano 33 IoT board?

Ashwin: Well, before, when we had to connect each Arduino board to WiFi separately, we had to use special shields (which are a bit hard to get in India), or use ESP-01. Working with the ESP-01 is a bit complicated and beginners often find it challenging. The Arduino Nano 33 IoT is then a perfect ready-to-use IoT solution. It already has a NINA-W102 WiFi module built in. I check regularly on new products and was very happy to see the new board with built-in WiFi. So as soon as it became available in India, I bought it and started experimenting with it.

Alina: Do you have any advice for those interested in getting started with the Arduino Nano?

Ashwin: Yes. See the online documentation on the Arduino website. My book, Kickstart for Arduino Nano (Elektor, 2022), contains detailed and step-by-step instructions.

In Ashwin Pajankar’s workspace, you can see all kinds of objects

Alina: You mention in your book that you were in India while writing where you currently live. So how did the book come about during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Ashwin: The COVID-19 pandemic has been a trial for the entire human civilization. India was among the hardest hit countries with one of the highest hospitalization rates and the highest death toll. Nashik, my current hometown, also had the highest death toll in India. It was very disturbing because no one had ever experienced such a disaster before. There were constant lockdowns, curfews and restrictions. There were constant shortages of food, medicine and other supplies. There were no available beds in the hospitals. Ambulance and funeral services were overwhelmed. I myself have contracted the disease twice. The first time I was admitted to a government hospital and the second time I was treated at home. I remember looking around to find flu medicine for myself and my neighbors as they were very scarce.

Writing the book gave me meaning during this dark period. Due to my isolation and almost every other aspect of life coming to a standstill, I was able to concentrate fully on writing the book. The Elektor team has also been very helpful and guided me every step of the way. There are almost no words to express my sincere gratitude to them for the great support they have always offered me.

Alina: You are also heavily involved in online education, especially through Udemy. Can you share your experience with this with us? How do students interact with you compared to traditional classroom teaching?

Ashwin: I prefer online classes because it broadens my reach. I have also held programming boot camps with live audiences in the past. Online teaching helps me reach hundreds of thousands of students. People can get in touch with me by asking the questions on the portal. And because all courses can be taken at your own pace, student involvement is much higher.

Alina: When did you realize that you enjoy teaching other people about your favorite subjects?

Ashwin: During the summer holidays of my engineering studies, I tutored high school students and helped them prepare for engineering entrance exams. I then taught mathematics, physics, computer science and English. Then it dawned on me that I enjoy teaching and making knowledge more accessible.

Read Kickstart for Arduino Nano for a first introduction to Arduino Nano V3, Nano Every and Nano 33 IoT.

Alina: Ultimately, what is the most important thing you want to teach your readers?

Ashwin: The main takeaway I have for my readers is to learn how to explore the world of technology for yourself. It is very easy to maneuver in this world once you know where to find relevant knowledge. You can learn a lot by going through all the online documentation, code samples and various technical discussion forums.

Alina: Are you working on anything at the moment? Any new ideas for a book?

Ashwin: Yes. I was working with Raspberry Pi 4. During the shutdown there was a shortage of supplies. However, the situation has recently improved and I was able to purchase a Raspberry Pi 4 with 8 GB of RAM, which I experimented with. When I finish my own project, I will be ready to write a book about Raspberry Pi for Elektor. I love Elektor’s format and Elektor has the best design team. I therefore expect to write many more technical books with Elektor on various subjects.

Alina: Have you achieved or contributed to something you are most proud of right now?

Ashwin: Math, programming and electronics are the things I do for a living. Besides my professional work, I have always been active in giving back to society through social outreach projects in places and universities where I studied. After I started working as a freelancer, I still do it personally. My involvement in providing education to underprivileged children through my university’s IIIT-H community outreach program resulted in an interview in one of the most prominent newspapers in Hyderabad. In addition, I have received several awards for serving society with educational outreach. These are the things in my life that I am most proud of.

Editor’s note: This is an abridged version of Elektor’s interview with Ashwin Pajankar. You can read the entire interview in Elektor January/February 2023.

Leave a Comment