Scenario #42: You are in the second to last week of the iSTEP internship. Being a member of the tech team, you are working on final testing and development on the SABT. The plan is to leave a couple of the SABTs with Mathru for their use. Suddenly, AVR Studio, the application you are using to program the SABTs refuses to detect connected MCUs. What do?

The scenario above is one that’s quite similar to the ones that TechBridgeWorld asked us to envision and develop responses to over the course of our orientation and training week back in May (wow, that seems so long ago). Except this isn’t a make-believe scenario, it’s something that happened on the field in Bangalore this past week.

I’ve noticed a funny thing about field research – it’s all hunky-dory once you’ve settled down and have a stable rhythm and routine going, but once something goes wrong, the situation can snowball and go downhill at an alarming pace. It’s because the work done on the field is more or less the work you’d do off the field, except the resources you have at your disposal are vastly limited.

So, back to the scenario – I’m now unable to program the SABTs with new code to test out changes. Luckily for me, all the SABTs had a stable version of the code running on them, with most of the changes Poornima and I planned to implement on the device. However, we were also in the middle of some in-context user testing with the students and teachers and would be unable to test changes based on feedback we got.

In other words, the situation wasn’t as bad as it could be. However, corrective measures were the order of the day, and I immediately began researching ways to fix the issue and came up with 3 potential fixes, each less attractive than the one if followed. The first solution involved traveling to SP Nagar, Bangalore’s local electronics market. The second involved contacting Atmel distributors in the city. The third involved cutting off the damaged kinky part of the cable and stripping back the insulation.

Soon, after work, I found myself on a bus headed into town in search of the elusive ribbon cable I needed. After 2 hours of bussing into the heart of the city and another hour of searching in and around SP Nagar, lady luck shone in my favor. By this time, it was getting quite late and I was quite dizzy from being redirected from store to store. But I finally ran into a small store hidden in the bowels of the market, where I found what I was looking for.

The storekeeper cuts a ribbon cable to match my "specifications" at SP Nagar

Simply *ALL* the ribbon cables!

A few minutes later, I was Rs. 120 poorer, but significantly happier at the prospect of returning to my beloved SABT with a new ribbon cable – yes, I may or may not have developed feelings for my code and my device and will probably suffer crippling separation anxiety next Friday (gasp!) when iSTEP 2013 comes to an end.

What was the moral of this story? Oh yeah. Field research – an exotic temptress, but also an unpredictable one. The key is to think on your feet and not be averse to having to go the extra mile to get things back on track. With that, I sign off on my second to last (again, gasp!) blog post.



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