Women in Technology

Yesterday’s Women in Technology conference, led by Shannon Fehr, featured an amazing lineup of speakers. I’m proud to have been a small part of it.

Some of my favorite people organized and spoke, like Grace Simrall, Sharon Kerrick, Haleh KarimiDesiree Thayer, and Anna Kepshire. I highly recommend getting in the loop for this one, and attending next year. Maybe even as a sponsor, speaker, or volunteer.

The C2 Event venue was wonderful, and it was a nice treat to see so many vegetarian options for lunch.




Startup Weekend 10

In April, I volunteered once more with Startup Weekend Louisville. This was our tenth event, and we kept the same leadership team the whole time, which apparently makes us unique among the worldwide startup weekends. According to the global Startup Weekend organization, most teams only lead a few then peter out or hand it off.

The event was held at both LouieLab and the Kentucky Science Center, which is next right door. The Science Center, and its giant IMAX screen was an amazing four-story backdrop for the keynote, pitches, and final presentations. And LouieLab, with its separate rooms and easily reconfigurable rolling tables, was wonderful for hosting the eleven teams that we had.


Friday night was the kickoff. We had around sixty attendees, and half of them pitched an idea. From there, the attendees voted on their favorites, and formed themselves into teams.

Our keynote speaker was Mayor Greg Fischer! Before entering into public service, he was an entrepreneur himself (in fact, my brother used to work for him years ago). He gave high praise to the startup community, and to our Startup Weekend crew in particular, thanks to us spurring on a new crop of go-getters twice a year.


The teams claimed their spaces at LouieLab, and worked like mad from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. A lot of the work involved talking to potential customers in person — getting their feedback, and adjusting the team idea based on that feedback.


The winning team was LifeBit, a wearable emergency alarm for the deaf and hard of hearing. It listens for alarms in the smoke alarm frequency range, and buzzes a smart phone. (Most deaf people have attuned themselves to waking up when their phone buzzes, and many even go to sleep holding it.) I like that solution because it doesn’t have to get fancy about tying electronically with a fire alarm, and isn’t limited to a specific brand or model. It could even be extended to buzz at other loud noises (tornado sirens, train horns, and such).

The LifeBit team was automatically entered into the annual Venture Sharks competition, with $37,000 on the table for the winning team. Most of the competition had already been operating for a year or more. LifeBit only had only existed less than two weeks when they entered. They didn’t win the big prize, but they did win the audience choice award.


We had ten organizers, eight mentors, and four judges. This is the first time that our leader was Paul Blakeley, who was a teammate of mine at my very first Startup Weekend several years ago.

Everyone (I believe) had a good time and learned some things.

We’ll be doing it again in the fall (most likely early/mid October).


LouieLab opened on December 1, 2016.Louie Lab


It’s a new collaboration between Louisville government and the people. It’s designed for use as a coworking space, so government and people can work on specific projects together, like the Civic Data Alliance‘s hackathons through Code for America.

At the opening, two tech projects were demonstrated:

  • Smart Louisville, the city’s next-level open data interface
  • CASPER, the smoke alarm detector with a built-in 3G signal

Smart Louisville

Smart Louisville TeamVolunteers from the Civic Data Alliance built the interface between Amazon’s Echo Dot (“Alexa”) and various city data interfaces (“APIs”).

I was a (minor) part of the team that put all of this together. Most of the work was done by Reydel Leon, with lots of input from Michael Schnuerle (the city’s first Data Officer), Ed Blayney (who just won a Navigator Award for his work on SpeedUpLouisville), Matthew Gotth-Olsen (who manages LouisvilleKY.gov, and was once in a hardcore band), and others.

As it turns out, the most common 3-1-1 call is to find out about junk pickup day. Soon, anyone in Louisville with a Dot can just ask it, “Alexa, when is junk pick up day?”

The volunteers also have developed the interface to programmable light bulbs that can change color and intensity based on pre-selected options. That way, for example, the bulb could:

  • turn yellow to warn allergy sufferers during high pollen days
  • flash red during a tornado warning
  • flash through a full cycle of colors in time to a dance beat (although my theoretical ‘disco mode’ seems unlikely to ever get developed)
  • …and many more, in fact, the city would love to hear your ideas on useful interfaces

Where There’s SmokeCASPER

CASPER (the Completely Autonomous Solar Powered Event Responder) was developed by local makers Nathan Armentrout, James Gissendaner, and David Jokinen at the LVL1  smoke alarm hackathon a year ago. It listens on the standard smoke alarm frequency band (so that it should work with any variety), and makes a wireless call to alert the authorities. It’s primarily in use right now at vacant and abandoned buildings, since fires at a vacant building spreads to neighboring properties 80% of the time. The city of Louisville has several in use now, and plans to roll out many more. Other cities are also expressing interest.

News RoomLouie Lab Group

Here is some press coverage of the opening:

Other Nifty Tech Stuff

Here in Louisville, we’re also founding a chapter of the VRARA (Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality Association). We had dozens of people at the kickoff meeting last week.

Warp Zone, our video game creating coworking space, just had another successful Ludum Dare game creation weekend.

The KY Science Center just ran another three-day Celebration of Coding event, aimed at getting youngsters involved in software.

Vogt Awards 2016

Vogt Awards Demo Day 2016This past Tuesday was my third (at least) time attending the Vogt Awards Demo Day.

Vogt Awards

Local innovative early-stage companies are chosen each year to receive $25,000 apiece, and expert mentoring and training. The demo day is their chance to “show and tell” the cool stuff they’ve been doing. This year’s event was held at the Frazier.

The Frazier History MuseumShakespeare's Wheel of Death

The Frazier opened in 2004, along Louisville’s “museum row” (which includes the Science Center, Slugger Museum, KMAC, Ali Center, and others). They’re currently hosting an original First Folio from Shakespeare, the first collection of his works, and a historical toy soldier collection.

The Frazier also hosts the local “Dream Funders” television show, an entrepreneurial competition, which will air its second season on November 30.

The WinnersBreath Diagnostics

I already knew half the companies, so coming to congratulate them and cheer them on was like a reunion.

  • Breath Diagnostics detects lung cancer through patients blowing into a bag. It’s faster, cheaper, safer, and more accurate than current diagnostic methods. You can’t make balloon animals out of it, but it can keep you from dying, so that’s good.
    • I already knew these guys. We completed the Nucleus LaunchIt program together, and I’d seen them at a previous Xlerate Health Demo Day, and would occasionally run into Rick Rummel at various healthcare events, like the ones run by HEN.
  • Collabra Music helps music teachers and students work together online.
    • I also knew some of these guys. I used to work with Brandon Kobel, their CTO. Zack Pennington, one of the founders, is all over the Louisville startup scene, with things like chia and axes.
  • Curio Learning is writing an app to help teachers find and share professional development strategies and content.MailHaven
  • G3 Tri-Tech makes the Infinite Swim gadget, to let triathletes swim for miles in a pool without having to constantly turn around for laps.
  • MailHaven makes a smart mailbox, to securely accept packages and notify the recipient of deliveries. It’s sort of like having a tiny robotic Allen Funt who can text you.
    • Kela Ivonye is another Louisville startup mainstay, and Nathan Armentrout is a LVL1 member, and often there tinkering on something. His laptop sticker collection looks a lot like mine.
  • RMC Solutions keeps the insides of concrete mixers clean with a high-speed rotating water “enema,” if you’ll pardon the mental image.


Startup Weekend Louisville #9

Startup WeekendOrganizers

Louisville’s ninth startup weekend was held at Bellarmine College on October 14-16, 2016.

I volunteered this time around, spending most of Friday at the check-in table to help welcome and orient people as they came in. It gave me a chance to see friends as they arrived, and meet a lot of new people.

This was our largest event ever, with 80 some-odd people. A little over half of them pitched their one-minute idea, and eleven of those ideas were upvoted into teams.

The teams spent all weekend (54 hours from start to finish), with top-notch mentors. On Sunday evening, starting at 5:00, the teams each gave a 5-minute (ish) presentation on their idea, research, prototype, and business model.Judges

The three judges were Fred Durham (CafePress), Grace Simrall (city of Louisville’s Chief of Civic Innovation), and Chris Bailey (Revio).

The Winners

The three winning teams were:

  1. UpNext, a phone app to make karaoke easier
  2. CritterFacts, daily texts about animals
  3. Touchband, a social media wristband

UpNextOther entrants were: Samurai School, Buy Spy, Ring of Fire, Glass Capitol, Bocca de Lupo, Book Club, JamFit, and News Lancing.

Around the Web

Here are other looks at the event:

Here are some other events coming up:Everyone

And here are some resources for the local startup scene:


Government Innovation Summit

Last week, I spent two days at the second annual Government Innovation Summit in Louisville, Kentucky.

There were some great seminars and breakout sessions, and 500 or so leaders from all around the country.

On Wednesday, I attended the LouieStat Live workshop.

LouieStatLouieStat Live

Louisville Metro Government’s Office of Performance Improvement & Innovation uses the LouieStat methodology. LouieStat encourages reporting on a weakness orientation basis (e.g. instead of “We’re 95% on time,” say “We’re 5% late.”).

This wasn’t just a theoretical discussion of what the process is and how it works — this was a full actual meeting, so that the audience could see the entire process, and how everyone was involved. In this case, it was the first official LouieStat meeting for EMS. There were several officials present, representing technology, communication, administration, and such, plus the new director of EMS (Jody Meiman) and some EMS managers (Chad Scott and Diane Vogel).

Some of the EMS concerns that I learned were that the average ambulance check-in time has increased by about 5 minutes, but that it’s largely due to new policies and processes on the hospital side making dropoffs take more time. They’re addressing that by providing the hospitals with more radio call-ahead information to help them prepare. (Busy ERs might have to doubleup with two patients in a triage room, and knowing the gender and general complaint of the incoming patient helps them organize.) Also, there are way more low acuity (non-emergency) ambulance runs than I would have guessed.Social Muscle

I chose this session because of my love for data transparency. I’ve been familiar with LouieStat for a while, and know some of the people that created it. I even made Louisville’s mayor Greg Fischer chuckle when I answered his question about why it’s important to take incremental steps before all the information is gathered, when I answered that “You can’t steer a parked car.”

Social Muscle

There were great ideas offered by the panel of leaders, and examples from the community, but my favorite one came from William Evans, the Boston Police Commissioner. To pave the way for improved race relations in the future, the police bought an ice cream truck that they drive around parts of town where they are frequently hated and feared. By giving out ice cream, they hope to forge bonds with the younger generation, and keep them away from violence.

While the commissioner was saying this, Greg Fischer was smiling and staring off in the distance… I wonder how long until Louisville gets a city ice cream truck?

Lightning TalksLightning Talks

My only complaint is that (as expected) they were all too short. I would have preferred breakout sessions instead, so that we could split up and dive a little deeper into one topic of interest.

The talks themselves were great, and covered a broad swath of societal issues. Early in the planning stages, there was a chance that I would have been speaking on behalf of community involvement, stemming from my volunteerism at the Civic Data Alliance, hackathons, and other local events. It was good to see Daro Mott again (speaking about data-driven government), who once came from Cleveland a year or two ago to speak at a TALK (Technology Association of Louisville KY) event, and who I’ve seen once or twice when I’ve spoken at Cleveland SQL Saturdays.

Open Data

Open DataI was so overwhelmed (in a good way) by the speakers on this panel that I could barely take a note. Beth Blauer is the Director of GovEx (the Government Center for Excellence) at John Hopkins. Joy Bonaguro is the Chief Data Officer for the City of San Francisco. Jean Clark is the President of Periscope Holdings.

The panel was so dynamic and uplifting, that I wished it could have gone all day.

Third Wave

Steve Case, the founder of AOL back in the day, came to Louisville as part of his twenty-city tour. His new book, The Third Wave, applied the concepts (farming, industry, post-industry) of Alvin Toffler’s original Third Wave book to the internet. First came the planting of ISPs, then the connected backbones of industry (Google, Amazon, etc.), and now the third wave — nigh-invisible integration and proliferation in real-world devices.

As he says, “250 years ago, America was just a startup.”

I sat at a table close to the stage, and Steve sat with us for a little while before going up to speak.Becky Steele

Bonus Events!

On Wednesday evening, TALK hosted a cybersecurity event, focused on the internet of things. Greg Garcia (the White House’s first cybersecurity chief) spoke about the wonders and the dangers that await us.

On Thursday at lunch, at the Summit itself, my great friend Becky Steele was crowned the Continuous Improvement Champion for her work at Code Louisville. I believe she’ll defend her title in the gladiatorial arena at next year’s conference. Or not.

On Thursday night, EnterpriseCorp (the entrepreneurial arm of the city’s chamber of commerce, Greater Louisville Inc) held its annual Evening of Entrepreneurship. Steve Case was the keynote speaker here, too.



Nerdy Event Roundup

There are a lot of great things happening in Louisville this weekend.

Geek Dinner

Get a jump on the weekend activities at the quarterly Geek Dinner. Gather at the BBC in St. Matthews on Thursday at 6:00. No pitches, no presentations, no recruiters; just a friendly get-together for technophiles.National Day of Civic Hacking

The National Day of Civic Hacking

Also called Hack For Change, this is annual event is a way for the government to promote the use of public data.

I’ve been to this one every year. I love it.

It’s a great way to make new geek friends, create something, and learn new stuff.

Here’s a flyer that you can use to spread the word!

ISSA Kentuckiana Network Forensics Workshop

The ISSA (Information Systems Security Association) is hosting this network forensics workshop. Proceeds benefit Hackers for Charity (a group that I love to support; Johnny Long and his family’s mission to teach tech to street kids in Uganda).


WonderFest is Louisville’s model-building and special-effects convention. It even hosts the country’s largest model contest for sci-fi, horror, comics, etc. There are also seminars, workshops, celebrity guests, and other coolness. I’ve attended several times, and even exhibited there a few times when I still ran a publishing company.

LEGO Kids FestLEGO Kids Fest

I’ve always loved LEGOs, but still haven’t been to one of these trade shows. This is at the Fairgrounds, right across the street from the Crowne Plaza that’s hosting WonderFest.

Neighborhood Summit

Also at the Fairgrounds, this summit focuses on healthy, sustainable, safe, attractive neighborhoods here in Louisville.

Butchertown Art Fair

Check out the exotic creations of the Butchertown neighborhood, home of LVL1 makerspace, Play Louisville, Cellar Door Chocolates, and other cool local businesses.Sub Rosa

Sub Rosa Reunion

Gather with freaks, geeks, and weirdos just like you at the Sub Rosa reunion, hosted by everyone’s favorite ginger: Divinity Rose.

After hanging out, stick around the Bard’s Town to catch the Friday showing of…

The Roast of Prince

The Louisville Roasters pick on someone new each month. This time around, it’s the color formerly known as purple. Roasters include David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, and more.Julie of the Wolves

Louisville Outskirts

This benefit for Girls Rock Louisville includes one of my favorite local bands, Julie of the Wolves. Art destroys apathy.

Bonus Event

Next weekend, check out the Louis-Villainz Market for Mischief.


VEX Worlds 2016

This year, I once again volunteered at VEX Worlds, the world championship of robotic competition, held in Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

VEX Worlds

The REC Foundation (Robotics Education & Competition) organizes robotic competitions around the world, all year long. These focus on high school students, and also have event brackets for middle school and college.

The VEX Worlds championship moved to the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center in 2015, where it uses all four wings and the Freedom Hall arena.

Opening Ceremonies Lots of Booths 1 Lots of Booths 2 Lots of Booths 3 Lots of Booths 4

The 2016 event set the Guinness World Record for the largest robotic competition, with 16,000 worldwide teams only sending their winning 1,100 teams to the USA.

You can watch ESPN for championship highlights on July 20.


Students came from all around the world for the championship. Over 30 countries competed, including a team of Syrian refugees (who named their robot Robogee).

You can watch the parade of nations at opening ceremonies here.

Syria Lebanon Ethiopia Russia Canada Malaysia Australia China China Mexico Team Interview

My photos here include teams from Australia, Canada, China, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, and Syria.


The kids enjoy dressing up. I can totally relate.

Costume Avengers 1 Costume Clowns Costume Hothead Costume Idea Man Costume Rose Head Disney Girls 1


Dozens of companies from around the country attend to meet the fans and showcase the cool stuff they’ve got cooking.

This year, all four days of my volunteering were at the TALK (Technology Association of Louisville Kentucky) booth, where we joined forces with Sullivan University, Boice (now a part of Data Strategy), and Marwood Veneer. One of the big draws to our booth was the Rad Science Skateboard Build, the STEAM curriculum codeveloped by Marwood and TALK. Our buddies at the MakerMobile were giving tours and making stuff.

NASA — my old company –was there, too, giving rides in their MRV (Modular Robotic Vehicle).

TALK 1 TALK Booth Maker Mobile 1 Maker Mobile 2 Holodeck 1 NASA MRV MRV Dash


The VIP lunch, and volunteer dinner gathered hundreds of great people.

The speaker for lunch was Kentucky’s Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton, who has a degree in Industrial Engineering. I didn’t even realize that.

VIP Lunch 1 VIP Lunch 2 VIP Lunch 3 VIP Lunch 4 VIP Lunch 5

VEX Dinner Stage VEX Dinner Crowd VEX Dinner Northrup VEX Dinner Paul 2 VEX Dinner Tony

Coming Up

The championship will keep coming back to Louisville until at least 2019. They’re always looking for volunteers. If you’d like to get involved, get in touch at the REC Foundation Volunteer page.


Venture Sharks

Last week, my company CompassioNote competed in the semifinal round of Venture Sharks.Venture Sharks

We went up against eight other teams, and the top four of those teams (including us, yay!) were chosen to move on to the final round.

Venture Sharks

Venture Capital sponsors the annual Venture Sharks contest in which teams of entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of judges.

Teams get four minutes to pitch their idea/service/product, and another four minutes to answer questions from the judges.

Each year, there are ten semifinalists chosen from among the fifty or so applicants.

The winner of Startup Weekend (one month beforehand) is automatically accepted as the eleventh entry. That’s how we got involved.

Two of the other ten selected entries had to drop out, so there were only nine teams instead of eleven.

May 4 is also Star Wars day. ‘May the Fourth’ be with you.

The Finalists

These four teams advance to the finals, on May 4th:

  • CompassioNote: That’s us! Aaron Priced pitched our service that compares our customers’ contacts to life events like new homes, new jobs, marriages, and deaths.
  • Farm Specific Technology: Austin Scott invented a flex-roller crimper to make it easier and faster for farmers to remove cover crops and replant cash crops.
  • Switcher Studio: Nick Mattingly (no relation) and his team developed an app/service to make video and sound editing easier and faster. Works on Apple products, and costs roughly $50 a month.
  • Uncrash: Trenton Johnson wrote an app to help body shops and garages with their workflow and customer communication.

Our judges were Alli Truttman (Wicked Sheets), Tendai Charasika (SuperFanU), and Ross Jordan (Yearling Fund).


So who the heck are these guys, and what do they do, anyway?

You can watch this video of our final pitch at Startup Weekend, but even though our company was only one month old by that time, our idea had already matured. (The same can’t necessarily be said of our personal maturity level.)

The one-liner:

  • CompassioNote helps companies have better relationships with their customers by using personalized data.

What that means:

  • CompassioNote compares your list of contacts against several sources for life events so you’re notified when something of interest happens to the people you know.

What that does:

  • It gives you a reason (and a time) to reach out to people that you mostly know, but not all that well, to establish or strengthen that personal bond.

Who this helps:

  • People who raise funds (museum supports, alumni, political campaigns, etc.) can keep up with their important donors.
  • People who sell supplies or services can keep up with their contacts at major clients.
  • People who have a lot of friends and acquaintances don’t have to let those casual relationships fade.

“Being human is good business.”

In essence:

  • We add the human touch back into the processes that automated systems have rendered obsolete, or at least invisible.

The New Stuff

At the semifinals, we announced our integration with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, and our partnership with KiZan Technologies on both the development and sales channel fronts.

Your Next Move

If you’d like to find out more about what we do, or become a customer, or refer a customer, sign up for our mailing list and let us know what specifically interests you.

If you’d like to cheer us on at the Venture Sharks finals, register for the luncheon.

If you’d like to help us spread the word, tell your friends about us on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Cool Job: NASA


Oh, the humanity!

I’ve done a lot of things for a living over the years, and one of my first was also one of the coolest.

Cool Job, Part 1: NASA

On 1/28/86, the space shuttle Challenger blew up.

Later that year, I got a call from NASA with a job offer, which I accepted. Over the phone. They didn’t realize I had an orange mohawk. I was still a teenager, after all. Ya gotta live.

A few months after that, I moved down to Florida to work at Kennedy Space Center, where I worked in the Mission Planning Office and helped write the software that scheduled shuttle launches, landings, and maintenance.

NASA's Trailer Park

Capt. Kirk: “No, I’m from Iowa. I only work in outer space.”

I got a haircut before starting, and looked like a real person. But before long, I was back to my old cranial tricks.

My office is visible in all of the footage used in the movies. That one giant building that’s always shown is the VAB – the Vehicle Assembly Building. It’s the mechanic’s garage where the shuttle goes for its oil changes and other maintenance.

My job was actually in NASA’s “Trailer Park.” There were some old railroad cars pushed together sideways with the open sliding doors lined up, making a large single office with branching rooms, sort of. It was a cheap way to use old equipment to make something new-ish. It was air-conditioned, carpeted, and otherwise very nice inside, but I found it amusing that it was practically made of garbage.

When we went back into space the following year, I got to stand on my office rooftop to watch the launch. The vibrations shook my whole body. It was amazing.

I didn’t like Florida, so once we got back into space, I considered my work done, and I moved a thousand miles north so I could do some other nifty tech stuff instead. More on that in my next cool job installment.

Space Shuttle

The stars look very different today.

But writing space shuttle software for NASA as a teenager is certainly a powerful feather in anyone’s geek cred hat.

Go on to Part 2: Wolf3D