Education Technology

Mike Pridgen

Product Engineer

My name is Mike and I’m an MSP430™ microcontroller (MCU) applications engineer. An MSP430™ device is an MCU, which is like a small computer that controls other pieces of technology to make the system work.

On the job
I am on the MSP430™ MCU customer applications team and our job is to support TI customers in building products with MSP430™ devices. My role is to help customers with any issues that need attention. These issues come in both directly to the team and through the E2E (engineer to engineer) online forums, so I spend a fair amount of time on the forums helping to solve problems.

I’ve also had the chance to work on the MSP430™ MCU LaunchPad™ Development Kit ecosystem. With TI recently selling its one-millionth LaunchPad™ kit, it is really neat to be involved in a project that is so widely used and in so many different ways. Knowing that our customers are using LaunchPad™ kits as an integral part of their test and development process is very rewarding.

How does coding play a role in your job? 
All of our MSP430™ MCUs require some level of software to operate, so everything I work on requires coding. I do everything from writing short code examples of how to use a particular feature on a specific MSP430™ MCU, to helping our customers find the best solutions for their own custom software on MSP430™ MCUs.

How did you learn to code on your calculator?
In middle school I was always taking things apart and rebuilding them — primarily just for fun but also learning how they worked at the same time. In the same way, I taught myself coding because I wanted to see how the programs on TI’s graphing calculators worked. Learning to code allowed me to focus this energy on electronics, and quickly went beyond just writing code.

I built my first computer early in high school. During college, my favorite courses were Microprocessors and Digital Design because after writing the software, you got to see something real happen: an LED blink, a speaker play a tone, something besides just some characters or shapes on a screen. These classes are what hooked me into doing small scale electronics: I get to see how my work (coding and hardware design) actually interacts with the surrounding world in a very tangible way.

Why do you think learning to code is important?
The biggest benefit of writing code is learning how to break a large problem into smaller, easily solvable, pieces. This ultimately teaches logic and problem solving, which are the most important skills any professional can have, regardless of career.

What is one piece of advice you would give to students?
I would encourage students to be curious and to learn how and why things work.

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