Aspiring techie. Where do I find the skills, the tools, the work?
As a child I grew up on legos and K'nex, and I wish my first computer had come earlier in life. I want to pursue more things like programming, robotics, working on cars and lighting the neighborhood with massive LED Beacons of custom-PC goodness. I've tried some researching of certain topics on my own, but I usually run into some difficult roadbumps. Particularly, there often runs a gap between beginner and advanced knowledge I find hard to bridge. I started off great with some programming classes at college, but their department is lacking. The other significant obstacle that comes to mind is cost. It's hard to shell out for new tools and parts for every project.
Do you have any advice? Where could I find an entry-level job at an electronics re-saler, or something like that? I don't really have the skills for a mechanic, but what might be a first step? Or, something pre-programming that I could learn from- particularly for game or software development? Which schools in the Midwest have more hands-on training?