DerbyCon 2018

DerbyCon

DerbyCon organizers are da bomb!

This past weekend was DerbyCon, Louisville’s infosec (information security) conference — “by hackers, for hackers.” The organizing team is all-volunteer, just bringing the community together for connections, education, and fun. Every year is more amazing than the year before.

Villages

This year, there was a brand new Mental Wellness Village, run by Amanda Berlin (@InfoSystir). Part of the time, it was a chill/relax/quiet room, with coloring books, crafts, yoga mats, and massages. And there was also several amazing talks and events there, like dealing with depression or impostor syndrome, and managing time and life. Everything I attended there was amazing. I hope to spend more time there next year.

I also spent about half my time in the Social Engineering Village, which is always a blast. Chris Hadnagy (@HumanHacker) of Social-Engineer.org (who has a brand new book!) hosts challenges and events like a capture the flag, trying to beat an FBI polygraph examiner, escaping handcuffs and crawling past a laser grid, and a panel discussion on ethics.

SE Mission Impossible

Patrick is about to escape handcuffs, pick a lock, and crawl through frickin’ lasers

Events

Apart from my two main hangouts (the mental and social villages), I did indeed go to a few presentations, and visited almost all the special events and villages, and competed again in Hack Your Derby.

The Hack Your Derby (@HackYourDerby) contest is an annual competition for creating something really cool and unusual with a hat. Last year, my entry was a derby that was covered in crime scene tape (yes, I keep crime scene tape in my truck; why don’t you?). This year, instead of an expensive professional derby, I used several of the cheap plastic derbies that the judges hand out to those who want them. My idea was to combine twelve hats into a giant die. It took me a few hours to use masking tape to put die-rolling numbers on the inside of the hats, staple them together in an inverted spherical shape, and rig up a chin-strap. But the idea actually worked! I wasn’t convinced it would all come together until I had the whole thing done.

The musical acts this year were Vanilla Ice and Offspring. Holy cow! At my age, though, staying up until 11:30 for an act to even start is beyond me.

Hack Your Derby

My derby was a functioning d12 (12, 4, and 6 are visible)

I also loved attending CrossCon, the Sunday morning Bible study for Christian hackers at DerbyCon (and other cons).

Venue

This was our first year in the downtown Marriott instead of the Hyatt Regency. The new space did have more room, and we weren’t all squished together in the halls as we moved from session to session. On the downside, there wasn’t a single central gathering place like there was in the Hyatt. I heard a lot of complaints about rooms being cold, but I’m cold-natured anyway, so I always felt great.

Videos

You can see every video of DerbyCon on Iron Geek’s site.

 

 

 

 

Dave Kennedy

I, for one, welcome our bobblehead overlords

Ben Hibben

The Hardware Village teaches soldering and other skills

F Society

Vanilla Ice and Offspring brought hackers onto the dance floor

I also loved attending CrossCon, the Sunday morning Bible study for Christian hackers at DerbyCon (and other cons).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SkillsUSA

SkillsUSA 1BOn June 28, I was a judge at the SkillsUSA national computer programming championship.

SkillsUSA

The SkillsUSA has been around since 1965, and the national championships have been held in Louisville since 2015. The event spans three days at the 1.3 million square foot (roughly 20 football fields) Kentucky Fair and Expo Center (“the Fairgrounds”).

In 2017, there were 6,200 students competing in over 100 different competitions. Everything from public speaking to diesel engine repair to cooking to first aid to t-shirt design to game programming. It’s a lot of fun (and a lot of walking) to go check out a wide variety of contests.

Computer Programming Contest

SkillsUSA

Several dozen programming students from around the country qualified as their state champions, and came to face off against each other in a times competition.

As judges we based our decisions on several factors:

Programming: As the contest began, everyone got a printout of two assignments. I can’t give specifics, but they were relatively straightforward tasks.

Requirements: Not everything was explicitly spelled out, but could be assumed, or the contestants could (and should) ask us for clarifications.

Functionality: When time was up, we judges ran the programs to make sure the programs did all the things that they were supposed to do. We also made sure that they didn’t do the things that they weren’t supposed to do.

Readability: We also browsed through the software that they wrote, to see how readable it was (for whoever it is that eventually would take over your software, if this was for a job).

Interview: Each contestant was also “interviewed.” We asked the kind of questions that job applicants might get asked during an interview.

Getting Involved

In 2017, I judged the public speaking competition, which was also a lot of fun to do. There were many incredible speakers.

With so many events going on, the event always needs volunteers to judge, check in, chaperone, and otherwise take care of the contests, students, equipment, and other aspects.

If you’d like to help out as well, reach out to the SkillsUSA team.

 

So Long, and Thanks for Alley Fish

My favorite local theater is closing down after 25 years of entertainment.

The Alley Theater

The Alley Theater has performed some amazingly fun shows over the years.

Evil Dead: The MusicalEvil Dead: The MusicalEvil Dead The Musical

Any play about singing and dancing zombies is bound to be a blast. “Evil Dead: The Musical” (at one time, the production had the website LouEvilDead.com, which was amazing) was no exception. The Alley performed this one three times. The first run was in October 2009, with the final night on Halloween (which was a Saturday that year). Most of the audience wore costumes, as you’d expect. I went more casual, wearing my “I spent Halloween 2001 with Bruce Campbell” shirt from his “If Chins Could Kill” book tour.

The play blends the three movies “Evil Dead,” “Evil Dead 2,” and (my favorite) the campy “Army of Darkness.” The violence is comically over the top — in fact, the first few rows of seats are the “splatter zone.” The theater provides ponchos for the brave souls who sit so close, since the fake blood sprays into the crowd during the play.

Here’s a scene from the Alley’s second production, from the theater’s official YouTube channel (which also includes this threat).

And here’s my favorite song from the play, although this link is not from the Alley. The choreography that this scene uses is similar to the way the Alley would normally do it, with Ash and Jake singing and dancing backup.

In August 2017, Bruce Campbell came to Louisville on another book tour. This was also the day of the total solar eclipse. (Coincidence? I think not!) Instead of going into the path of the totality like a lot of my space friends, I stayed in town to see Bruce. I got his autograph on a chainsaw blade (signed both as Bruce and as Ash), which I donated to the Alley.

The TickThe Tick

The Alley brought the big blue goofy comic-book/cartoon/live-action character “The Tick” to life on the stage. First in 2015, and again in 2018.

Both runs were very funny, and included references from every incarnation of the bug of justice. Sterling Pratt wrote the play(s) specifically for The Alley to perform. Scott Davis, creator of The Alley himself, played the Tick in the first run, and Connor Blankenship played him in the second run. Andrew Mertz perfectly played his sidekick/partner Arthur both times. As Keith Waits wrote, “The Tick” is really Arthur’s story.

Fan favorite characters like the Caped Chameleon, the Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight, and Barry the Tick joined the fun alongside the blue and white heroes, and their friends Batmanuel and American Maid.

Other Great Shows

Shakespeare's Star Wars Inspector Hound The Bible Abridged The Trail to Oregon Hughes-ical Bat Hamlet Hitchhikers Guide Top Secret Point Break Princess Bride Matrix

“William Shakespeare’s Star Wars” was a hoot. “What light through yonder sensor breaks?” “Once more into the trench, dear friends.”

“The Real Inspector Hound” combined an interactive murder mystery (we hung out with some of the cast, in character, before the play started) with a play-within-a-play for surreal fun. During the first act, two theater critics sitting just to the side of the main stage discussed the play and their own lives as the actors performed. During the second act, one critic was killed and the other got swept into the play, with characters repeating much of the same dialogue from act one, but with very different meanings. It was amazing. Shavon McGill might still not be back from oiling his gun.

“The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)” was a three-man performance that encompassed the greatest story ever told, and then some. The theater even invited me to lead off the opening performance with a prayer, but the schedules didn’t work out so I had to miss that. Instead, they had me preach a whole sermon before the final night. I was honored, and remain humble and grateful for the opportunity.

“The Trail to Orgeon” was an improv musical based on a computer game where almost everyone dies of dysentery. We, the audience, got to name the characters, and decide who died and how. I was there for opening night, and since half the audience was improv comedians (and friends of all the performers), we gave them challenging names that were incredibly long or barely pronounceable. Because that’s the kind of friends that we are.

“Hughes-ical: The Musical” took the various John Hughes movies (Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Beuller) and gave it a boombox soundtrack.

“Bat-Hamlet” was part of the SuperHuman:A Festival of Plays (a parody of the well-known and local Humana Festival of Plays). It tells the tale of a boy avenging his murdered father. You probably know the rest.

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (from which I adapted this post’s title) was a staged reading of the original radio scripts. (It was a radio play before it was a book/tv-series/movie/computer-game/etc.) The adaptation was well received.

“Top Secret” and “Point Break” brought beloved(?) 80’s movies (here and here) to the stage.

“The Princess Bride Experience” was inconceivable.

No one can be told what “The Matrix” is. You had to experience it for yourself.

The Arts Caravan

Putting on great stage shows wasn’t enough for the Alley, so they turned a bus into a mobile stage so they could take it out to schools and festivals.

Improv JamImprov Alley

 

Despite all that great stuff, the Alley production that I’ll miss the most is the weekly Improv Jam. On Saturday afternoons, we’d gather at the Alley for hours of improv workshopping. It was a wonderful way to get a foot in the improv comedy door.

I’ve made some great friends over the years of jamming with people who knew what they were doing, and with others who, like me, wanted a chance to learn and practice improv skills. Ironically, even though improv is made up on the spot, it does take time and effort to get comfortable with it and competent at it.

I’m grateful to wonderful improv teachers like Shauvon McGill, Ryan Kemp, Scott Davis, Spencer Korcz, and others for all the great jam lessons.

Alley Oop

The Alley is dead! Long live The Alley.

(If you’re reading this before July 28 2018, there’s still a chance to catch a show at the Alley before the doors close for good.)

The Alley

 

 

 

 

Improv Comedy

At DerbyCon this year, I spoke about improv comedy. More specifically, how it applies to “social engineering” (talking your way out of trouble, or more maliciously tricking someone into giving up information that should be kept secret).

I didn’t even notice until posting the link here, but it amuses me that the video preview shows the demo slide that I often use, with the magic rabbit and the demolition reference.

DerbyConDerbyCon

“Hackers” get a bad name in popular media, but at its core, a hacker is just someone who wants to know how something works. That could be a program, a gadget, a policy, or anything else. Sometimes that includes taking something apart or breaking it or looking for a loophole.

Several hackers founded the infosec (information security) conference known as DerbyCon in Louisville seven years ago. I’ve attended five or six (I forget), but this is the first time I’ve spoken there. The founders are all a great group of folks, and love giving back to the community and putting everyone at ease.

The conference has four main tracks — Red Team (offense), Blue Team (defense), Purple Team (bit o’ both), and 3-Way (miscellaneous topics) — plus Stable Talks (shorter sessions on a variety of topics). There are also several other areas and events, like a social engineering village, a car hacking village, a capture the flag contest, and more. It’s very popular — in fact the 2500(ish) tickets this year sold out in just 3 minutes! If I hadn’t been speaking there, I wouldn’t have been able to go.

ImprovImprov All-Star

My presentation was a Stable Talk, so I only had 25 minutes to speak. I wanted to leave time for some audience participation and exercises, so I sped through some things faster than I’d like, and there wasn’t as much detail as I’d have liked, but them’s the breaks.

Here are the salient points that I covered:

  • “Rules”
    • Accept:  Yes, and…
    • Connect:  Relate to your audience
    • Respect:  Support your partner
    • Direct:  Focus on action
    • Project:  Follow the fear
    • Expect:  Mistakes are gifts
  • Stay Creative
    • Local Improv Groups
    • 48-Hour Film Project, Startup Weekend, Hackathons
    • Games (Who Would Win, Once Upon a Time)
    • Toastmasters International, Pecha Kucha
    • Learn, Travel, Meet – Engage!
    • www.sharpen.design

Download

You can download the slides here.

in remembrance of Kemp

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.

Pitch!

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.

Work!

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.

Present!

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.

Volunteers

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).

Outer Space

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

This sermon uses outer space to express the love, wonder, and provision of God.

“Space is big. Really big.  You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts next to space.” — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

I preached this at ConGlomeration science fiction convention in Louisville, KY in 2017. A friend of mine, Les Johnson, is NASA’s program director for their solar sail program, and as such was a Guest Of Honor at the convention. We’ve been friends for a few years, and since we’re both Christians and we both have a NASA background (although mine is way old), I decided that an outer space sermon would be cool.

The Hitched Guide to the Galaxy

Since the church is called the bride of Christ, and being married can be known as getting hitched, I titled this one after The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a classic science fiction comedy radio-play / novel / game / movie / etc.

I was volunteering at a Star Wars-themed event at the same time, and found a way to make PowerPoint slides do an opening crawl, which was pretty cool. I quoted the Hitchhiker’s Guide for the opening text, since the point it made was fitting for my message.

Sermon Around the Moon

On December 23, 1968, humanity was about to get its first glimpse at the dark side of the moon. Apollo 8 was about to orbit our orbiter. The crew radio’ed this message back to Earth just before they lost communication.

Bill Anders: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”

Jim Lovell: “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”

Moon SermonCommander Frank Borman: “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
“And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”

My God, It’s Full of Stars

The Bible often gets flak for being scientifically inaccurate. But there are some interesting phrases that were written many centuries before mankind understood space.

He sits above the circle of the earth. (Isaiah 40:22)

He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters, at the boundary of light and darkness. (Job 26:10)

He hangs the earth on nothing. (Job 26:7)

He made all the stars: Arcturus and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations. (Job 9:9)

Isaiah identifies the Earth as a globe. Job describes the day/night separation as a circle, claims that it’s floating in empty space, and names several heavenly bodies.

A scientist once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist asked, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “The first turtle stands on the back of a second, far larger, turtle, who stands directly under him.” “But what does this second turtle stand on?” “It’s turtles all the way down!”

Heaven and Earth

God created everything — whether or not we believe it, whether or not we understand it, whether or not we can even see it.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky above proclaims His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)

He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. (Psalm 104:5)

The Lord answered Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:1)

He made the universe for the same reason he made us — to glorify and praise Him.

The Final Frontier

As we study astronomy and other sciences, it can be easy to get lost in the details. The facts can distract us from the truth. Just about everything we learn only leads to more questions.

Do not regard the sun, moon, and stars as gods to worship. God your father has given them to all the people on earth. (Deuteronomy 4:19)

What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. Since creation, God’s invisible qualities have been clearly seen, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20-21)

The universe that God made is so wondrous, many consider the universe to be the biggest and most powerful thing there is. But the creation is not greater than the Creator.

A friend of mine is a geneticist. As he studied bodies, then organs, then cells, then nuclei, then DNA, and so on, he found God by looking smaller and smaller and smaller.

With my NASA experience, and a long interest in astronomy, I found God as I looked bigger and bigger and bigger.

The Ox-Files

*He later identifies them as cherubim in (Ezekiel 10:15).

Some people wonder if Ezekiel saw extraterrestrials in his wheels within wheels.

In appearance their* form was human, but each of them had four faces. Each of the four had the face of a human being, of a lion, of an ox, and of an eagle. (Ezekiel 1:5,10)

They sound pretty weird, I’ll grant. But the four-faced heads can represent four kinds of authority.

  • Mankind has been given domain over the plants and animals on Earth.
  • The lion is known as the king of the beasts.
  • The ox is the strongest domestic animal (“as strong as an ox”).
  • The eagle has been called the lord of the air.

So it’s not a freaky alien — it’s metaphor for complete sovereignty.

To clarify, Ezekiel opens and ends the chapter with this:

I saw visions of God. (Ezekiel 1:1)
This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. (Ezekiel 1:28)

Those were visions that described the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. That there’s a lot of prepositional clauses.

“I’m not saying it was cherubim… but it was cherubim.”

Aliens Among Us

There are, however, alien beings here with us.

You might know one, or even be one.

I urge you as strangers and aliens to abstain from sinful desires that battle for your soul. (1 Peter 2:11)

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They admitted that they were strangers and aliens on earth. (Hebrews 11:13)

Obviously, this wasn’t meant to mean space aliens, but to call out that as followers of Christ, our lives should be so distinctive that all can see we’re “not from around here.” Our citizenship is in the kingdom of heaven. Earth is just our way-station, our temporary assignment, our airport layover.

Read more about aliens here.

New Heaven

Sure, the universe is cool and all, but that’s just the start.The Hand of God

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. (Revelation 21:1)

The new and improved model is coming.

Well, the improved model is coming, anyway.

Jesus must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised. (Acts 3:21)

I believe that the new heaven and new earth are not separate and distinct from the heaven and earth we have now — they’re the perfected and redeemed heaven and earth.

When sin entered the world, all of creation fell. But God cannot make something that is beyond his redemption.

Just as he is redeeming our souls and giving us perfect bodies, He will redeem the entirety of creation.

“Even old New York was once New Amsterdam. Why they changed it I can’t say. People just liked it better that way.” — Istanbul (Not Constantinople), as popularized by They Might Be Giants

New City

God’s new Jerusalem will be roughly one half the size of America.

I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven. (Revelation 21:2)

Its perimeter length and width and height were each 1,400 miles. (Revelation 21:16)

As Winston Zeddemore said in Ghostbusters, “That’s a big Twinkie.”

New Land

Besides having a new enormous city to live in, the redeemed land will flourish.

The desert will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. It will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. (Isaiah 35:1-2)

On each side of the river grew a tree of life, used for medicine to heal the nations. (Revelation 22:2)

Creation is currently in a holding pattern, waiting for the day that God will remove the curse.

“We can make him stronger. Faster. Better. We have the technology.” — The Six Million Dollar Man

New Bodies

I may look like an overweight balding middle-aged guy, but… Well, yeah, I am an overweight balding middle-aged guy, but that’s just temporary.

There will be no more death, mourning, crying, nor pain. No longer will there be any curse, hunger, nor thirst. (Revelation 21:4,22:3,7:16)

The people will no longer be sick and helpless. The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the mute will sing, and the lame will leap. (Isaiah 33:24,35:5-6)

Every physical ailment and infirmity will vanish. I’ll actually be able to sing and dance.

New Fun

Heaven won’t be sitting around in the clouds playing harps. Unless you really really enjoy that sort of thing, I guess.

He will fill us with eternal pleasures. (Psalm 16:11)

In those days people will live in the houses they build and eat the fruit of their own vineyards, and long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall sing with everlasting joy on their heads. (Isaiah 65:21,22, 51:11)

Many will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:11)

We’ll never get bored. Each day will bring new fun, new discoveries, new travel, new work, new food, new friends, and more.

Yes, I have favorite theoretical physicists. Why don’t you?

Come, Let Us Reason Together

As two of my favorite theoretical physicists say…

Albert Einstein: “The more I study science, the more I believe in God.”

Michio Kaku: “It is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.”

Download

You can download the PowerPoint slides here.

Additional Reading

DerbyHacks

DerbyHacks LogoStudents from the University of Louisville hosted DerbyHacks 2.0 on February 24-26, 2017 at the Institute for Product Realization complex, overlapping into the Engineering Garage, the Advanced Manufacturing Competency Center, and FirstBuild.

Hackathon

DerbyHacks isn’t the same kind of hackathon as the Open Data Day Public Safety Hackathon. This one is a three-day competition under the auspices of the Major League Hacking network.

I attended this hackathon as an observer/advisor, not as a competitor. I love the hackathon spirit and atmosphere; the innovation energy inspires me.

Over a hundred students from Kentucky colleges got together to create cool stuff. I’d guess that half the students were from UofL, where the event was held, but there were several from the University of Kentucky, from Berea College, and others.

Some of the teams created physical products, and others created digital ones.

Resources

There were several sponsors, presentations, mentors, tools and parts, and so so much food.

Experts from the region came to offer tips and troubleshooting to the teams.

The city’s Chief Data Officer, Michael Schnuerle (right), talked with several teams about Louisville’s Open Data Portal, and the myriad of ways that it could be used.

Teams

The full list of 26 teams is here, with the winners at the top (look for the diagonal yellow “winner” stripes).

Knowing several astrophysicists, I was quite impressed with CenterScope, that automatically centers your telescope on a star you want, without you having to manually fiddle with the delicate calibration knobs.

It was cool to see Alexa used for Smart Chess by letting you speak your move, with a synchronized electromagnetic chess board would move the piece on your board and on your remote opponent’s board. Your opponent would then speak his move, and so on.

A bunch of my friends formed the LouTrail team to recommend local restaurants and attractions. They won a special award for best use of local data.

Silent City combined the input from (proposed) sonic detectors throughout the city to map the noise pollution, much like Air Louisville did for the air quality (cleverly syncing asthma inhalers with a smartphone gadget to “phone home” when it was used, to identify to parts of town that were hardest on the lungs).

New Home for Me combined data for crimes and a dozen other sets with real estate listings, to help home buyers find a place that really fits their needs.

Physical Threat Intelligence used facial recognition technology as a “key” to grant access (and potentially other tasks).

The Smart Dollhouse was lots of fun. The team wanted to work with “smart home” technology, but since they couldn’t bring an actual house with them, they brought a tiny one. They installed cameras, motion sensors, heat sensors, and app-controlled door locks. Since the dollhouse had an elevator, which was broken, they fixed it! And also tied that to a smart app. It won the award for most potential value / biggest market.

The big winner was SnapCal, led by my friend Ishwar Agarwal, an app that uses pictures of your food to determine the calories. It sounds simple, but took a lot of computer know-how to pull off, using Machine Learning to translate an image into a food, then displaying the nutritional information. Besides being technically challenging, I think it reflects the health and fitness focus of today’s youth.

The Future

Since Louisville’s Mayor Greg Fischer was an entrepreneur himself (behind the combined soft drink / ice dispenser), he loves coming to hackathons, especially ones that are student-led and student-competed. Our future is in good hacky hands.

Public Safety Hackathon

Hackathons

A hackathon is an event for making. Sometimes it’s making something physical, sometimes digital, sometimes service-based.

(No, it doesn’t mean we’re breaking into people’s computers.)

The hackathons that I’m a part of tend toward digital. It might be converting something to a new format, transferring it to a new platform, combining things, securing something, analyzing something, open up access to something, or anything else along those lines.

In the past, I worked with Louisville’s Civic Data Alliance volunteer code brigade on projects like this:

Open Data Day

Open Data EventsMarch 4 2017 was “International Open Data Day.” Hundreds of cities around the world held hackathons and other events to celebrate, to educate, and to serve.

Open Data is a philosophy that information should be available at no cost. Government data, being underwritten through taxes, belongs to the American people (at least in theory). Downloadable/accessible datasets for crimes, parks, restaurant health inspection scores, and similar information can be used to help everyone.

The Louisville government is at the forefront of open data. The data.louisvilleky.gov website has hundreds of datasets free for public use in a variety of formats (shapefile, json, csv, and more).

Public Safety

In Louisville, we chose “public safety” as our hackathon theme. Volunteer hackers could work on whatever project they’d like, of course, but event captains (Becky Steele and Margeaux Spring) arranged for representatives from the police department and other areas of government to share their needs and offer advice.

The hackathon was held at LouieLab, a dedicated space for government and the people to work together on projects.

Forty to fifty volunteers worked on projects all day (detailed blog about the projects here).

Public Safety Hackathon

Our volunteers from 2017; look at last year’s team here.

My Work

I worked on two projects, and also floated around a bit helping teams as needed.

I wrote my first Alexa Skill! The Amazon Echo / Amazon Dot has a speech interface, so people can access the internet by voice alone.

In the News

The event was covered here:

and blogged about here:

Get Involved

The Civic Data Alliance will host another hackathon for the National Day of Civic Hacking, and will ramp up to monthly public meetings and hackathons once per quarter.

Join the meetup group and the slack team.

Louisville

Startup WeekendI do what I can to stay involved in the local community.

Here are some of the groups, places, and events where I spend the most time.

https://davemattingly.net/louisville

 

Global Game Jam

Warp Zone is Louisville’s shared working space for video game developers (one year old this week!). It was founded by the Louisville Makes Games group, which is in turn comprised of several small independent game companies.

Read up on the spot in Business First, Louisville DistilledNerd Louisville, Never Nervous, or On the Record Magazine.

Or check out this short intro video of the zone.

Global Game Jam

This annual event gives game developers just 48 hours to create a brand new video game based around a theme that is announced on Friday night. The teams then have until 7:00PM Sunday night to upload their games to the worldwide game repository (in order to be eligible). Then, all the teams demo their games. Visitors are welcome to attend the final presentations.

The theme this year was “Waves.”

The Games

All of these games were made in just 48 hours! Many of them even had a custom soundtrack that was composed and recorded over the weekend, as well.

Duolastic: This can be described as air hockey played with cones made of jello instead of regular paddles. That gave the developers a chance to play with some unusual elasticity properties. What was impressive is that several players (in pairs) could play against each other at once. There were a few two-player games going on in the room by audience members with laptops… while the demonstration was still going.

React: This is more of an experience than a game. Dancing gradients of color dance on the screen based on user input. Sort of like a screen saver that thinks it’s a mood ring, based on clicking or touching like a piano or drum. The effect was soothing and beautiful, like staring at a fishtank or a fire. I lost my mood ring. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

YellScreaming Mosquito: You play a mosquito that goes up when he flaps and falls when he’s not, and who dies if he touches the overhead clouds or water underneath. But the interface is the amazing part. This was pitched as “flappy birds controlled by noise”. The whole room would scream as he fell, causing him to rise up again. It was the most innovative and engaging game interface I’ve seen in years. I could see this quickly becoming the phone app game that every child loves, and every parent hates, possibly even launching a new craze.

Gupi: You play cute alien fish that swims through the water, eating floating hamburgers and avoiding a snake that twists all around. The artwork was so adorable that you might want to keep playing just to watch more of it.

Flowr Powr: You play a robot who spreads flowers over a boring grey planet. Even robots need to stop and input the flowery aromas, I suppose. The background textures, the lights and shadows, and other visual elements worked well together, making the colorful blossoms stand out even more. “I, for one, welcome our florist overlords.”

Ice CreamSweet Wave: This was a virtual reality game (that can also be played 2D). You play an ice cream truck employee who hurls ice cream cones at onrushing children, to get them to shut up. If you didn’t take care of the brats soon enough, they’d overwhelm your truck and start shaking it back and forth. The cartoony art, the smooth gameplay, and the chance for everyone to play a game using the latest VR tech made this was another standout achievement for the Warp Zone teams.

Photo Gallery

React Duolastic Screaming Mosquito Gupi Flowr Powr Sweet Wave

Want More?

Warp Zone has frequent social events, game jams like this one, classes, demonstrations, and other events.

Join the meetup group to keep abreast of the latest happenings.

Warp Zone is at 612 W Washington St, Louisville, KY 40202.