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UW Associate Dean’s Book Relates Fondness for Education and Dogs

October 23, 2018
three men and a woman at a table
UW College of Engineering and Applied Science Associate Dean Steve Barrett (right), Jason Kridner (second from right), Cathy Wicks and Mark Yoder (left) pose for a photo with BeagleBone Black processors. ( Photo)

Since he became an educator, Steve Barrett has strived to provide the best learning tools to as many young people as possible. The fact that one of the most useful items was named after his favorite dog breed was just a bonus.

Barrett, a University of Wyoming professor of electrical and computer engineering and associate dean for academic programs in the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS), has written 12 textbooks for use in microcontroller and embedded systems courses. He was introduced to one microcontroller, the BeagleBone Black, while it was in its planning stages. The open-source hardware Linux PC, just the size of a mint tin, soon became available for educational labs, and Barrett wanted to be involved. The deal got sweeter for Barrett, whose adult daughter owned two beagle dogs, as the unit was nicknamed “Boris” after the beagle mascot.

He and co-founder Jason Kridner wrote a textbook in 2015, “Bad to the Bone: Crafting Electronic Systems with BeagleBone Black.” It now is in its second edition and covers topics such as getting started with the basics of using BeagleBone Black in a classroom and exercises centered on motivational and fun robotic projects.

The goal of the book is to reduce barriers for faculty and students in order to use the embedded Linux processor. Through a partnership with Morgan & Claypool Publishers, it allowed students across the globe to have free electronic access to the work. Barrett, along with Kridner and Mark Yoder, taught the first American Society for Engineering Education BeagleBone hands-on workshop in 2013. Participants built circuits and coded with BeagleBone in an effort to increase confidence in teaching methods.

Barrett is a very visible presence in the CEAS and serves as an administrator, teacher and researcher. Despite his busy schedule, he always makes time to serve as a mentor to students and faculty. Sadly, his two “grand” beagles died earlier this year, but Barrett remains passionate about the BeagleBone project and using it to educate the nation’s youth.

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