16 ways I embraced my interest in technology and engineering in 2018

After working hard to transfer to a STEM career in 2017, I was inspired to explore my interest in technology and engineering in 2018. It wasn’t always easy, but I managed to fit in quite a few new experiences over the course of the year.

The list below details the highlights of the year as far as technology and engineering went – I hope it’ll provide some inspiration if you’re looking for ways to make 2019 a little more geeky!

1. Continued learning about cyber security
The end of the SANS Cyber Retraining Academy didn’t mark the end of my cyber security learning. I’ve been taking courses, listening to podcasts, and reading books – in fact, reading during travel time was one of my top tips for new cyber security consultants. I’ve still got a pile of ebooks left on my list to read, which I’ll definitely be making a dent in come the new year.

2. Learnt to use Python properly
Having picked up some Python basics at the academy, I made it my mission to fully immerse myself this year. I’ve done this with a series of home projects, from web browsing monitors to network diagram generators and from Windows forensic tools to Premier League predictors. And I’m not done yet – I’ve already got some big Python plans for 2019.


3. Started playing Kerbal Space Program
For the uninitiated, Kerbal Space Program is about the closest you’ll get to working for NASA without moving to Houston. The game is essentially a massive sandbox for building rockets, planes, and more. I dipped into building planes and even Formula 1 cars after building my new PC, but I’m definitely keen to spend more time in virtual space in 2019.

4. Finally learnt some SQL
SQL is a language that had been hanging over my head for a long time, ever since the freelance WordPress development jobs I completed my journalism days. This year I was finally forced to learn how to use SQL, beginning with the construction of SQL basic queries and moving on to some slightly more complex scripts, which I’ll detail in future posts.


5. Joined a Project Cars 2 league
I don’t even have a regular driving license, so I won’t be hitting a race track in real life any time soon. The best alternative available is Project Cars 2, which is so good I now own it on two platforms and competed in an organised league this year, learning a lot about how to handle an IndyCar and how to develop a setup and strategy over a race weekend along the way.

6. Watched EJ_SA on Twitch
I think I mentioned this guy in one of my Kerbal Space Program posts, but it’s rare you can learn so much (or anything, really) from a Twitch streamer. As well as playing KSP, EJ begins each stream with space programme news – including from NASA and SpaceX – and even gets into some motorsport engineering with after-hours Project Cars 2 once a week.


7. Built my own computer from scratch
Like Python and SQL, building a computer was something I’d always had vague ideas about but had never explored properly. 2018 put an end to that as I spent months building my own PC, eventually choosing a graphics card and making it game-worthy. I also wrote a post with some tips for fellow first-time PC builders. Hey, mine hasn’t fallen apart yet!

8. Planned to go to a Formula 1 race
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it to a circuit to see a Formula 1 race in 2018 – but that didn’t stop me making some big plans for next year. Come July I’ll be heading to Silverstone to see what could be the final British Grand Prix, and I’m also toying with the idea of returning to Japan in late 2019 to visit Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix.


9. Visited the RAF Museum in London
I was determined to get out and do more in the warmer months, and in April I headed to the RAF Museum, which I discovered was right on my doorstep in north London. The museum provided a fascinating look at aviation technology throughout the RAF’s history, and I’ll certainly be returning to check out the brand new hangar that opened in the summer.

10. Read Adrian Newey’s autobiography
I was given Jenson Button’s autobiography, Life to the Limit, for Christmas last year. I sped through it in days, was immediately hooked on behind-the-scenes F1 books, and purchased legendary designer Adrian Newey’s autobiography How to Build a Car almost immediately. That took me a little longer to get through, but was my highlight of the year in books.


11. Visited the Brooklands Museum in Weybridge
My best day out of the year was a trip to visit the Brooklands Museum in Weybridge with some friends on a scorching day in June. We “flew” on a Concorde, saw Ayrton Senna’s McLaren, and took a wander around the old track banking. It was also right next door to Mercedes-Benz World, which has a nice little display of several Mercedes-powered Formula 1 cars.

12. Started watching IndyCar
My interest in IndyCar is yet to reach the heights of my Formula 1 obsession, but like Formula E, it makes a nice distraction for weekends without F1 races. There was some astonishing action even in the few races I watched this year, including a guest driver crashing the safety car on the formation lap and Robert Wickens’ horrific crash in Pennsylvania.


13. Watched Formula 1 religiously
As I mentioned in a recent post, 2018 was a fantastic year for Formula 1 – and I watched the championship every step of the way. For perhaps the first time ever, I saw every qualifying and race session of the season, and many of the practice sessions, too, when I was able to. It’s going to be a long winter waiting for the Australian Grand Prix…

14. Started reading Autosport magazine
After some great Formula 1 races at the beginning of the year, the few hours of analysis on Sky Sports at the weekend wasn’t enough to scratch my motorsport itch. It became a ritual to head to the supermarket after work on Thursdays to pick up a copy of Autosport for more coverage, and this in turn opened my eyes to other motorsport series.


15. Went to Brands Hatch to watch Formula Ford
It took more than a year and two wasted tickets before I made it out to Kent to watch some racing at Brands Hatch, but it was well worth it. I thoroughly enjoyed my day wandering around the circuit and watching the action at the Formula Ford Festival 2018 in October. I’m hoping both to return and to visit some other tracks in the UK in 2019.

16. Tried to spread my enthusiasm
I’ve also tried to share my passion for each of these things, from attending cyber security events for students to getting a group of my friends interested enough in Formula 1 to meet up for most races since the start of the summer. I even attempted to get my young cousin coding by buying him a book on creating video games in Python for Christmas.

So what’s next heading into 2019? Well, I’ve had a Raspberry Pi sitting around for about six years now and I feel like I finally have the skills to turn it into something useful, so I’m sure you’ll see some posts about that in the near future. I’ll be back with the usual almost-weekly posts in January – happy new year to anyone who reads this blog!


Formula 1 photo © Steven Penton (CC BY 2.0). Cropped.