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.

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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.

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.

Cool Job: Wire Tranfer

I’ve done a lot of things for a living over the years, and after working with a number of short-lived startups and a large corporation in Louisville, I left town for a new start.

Cool Job, Part 5: Wire TransferWire

A recruiter friend of mine found a job for me. This was before the internet had revolutionized our daily lives, so recruiters were a great way to find something, especially out of town.

The job was at Essex Group in Fort Wayne, Indiana. That’s the northeastern corner of the state, around 250 miles away from Louisville (four hours on the road… barring traffic, construction, or weather).

Essex is a wire manufacturer, with several brands around the world. They’d bring in various metals, and turn it into long spools of wire, sort of like a giant Play-Doh Fun Factory, but with more metal.

Be Excellent to Each OtherFort Wayne

My job was to build an EIS (Executive Information Summary) system. EIS was the precursor to Business Intelligence (BI, sometimes called dashboarding). The goal was to take all the data from all the departments from all the locations, roll it up into drill-downs, and highlight areas that need attention from the bigwigs.

This would help them find problems that arose (with any luck, even before they arose), like:

  • we’re almost out of inventory item XYZ123, which we need to make this thing over here that makes us a lot of money
  • this location’s so-and-so division is almost two weeks behind on their critical project, which will jeopardize all these other things
  • four of our ten managers are shorthanded by over 20% in whatever job
  • the market price for one of our supplies is going up in a hurry
  • …and stuff like that

Boss: “Are you good at PowerPoint?”
Me: “I Excel.”
Boss: “Was that Microsoft pun?”
Me: “Word.

Until this job, I had really only written software. I learned a lot about data management and reporting from this job.

In fact, I still do a lot of this kind of thing, but using very different technologies and techniques. Turning “facts” into “information” into “action” is still highly useful.

What a Data be Alive

Once I had gotten a good grip on using Excel to pull data from the mainframe and SQL databases, and worked my magic on it, I took a strong interest in the data itself. How was it organized? How did it get in and out? When did it go in? Who put it there? What did it really mean? How did we know it was correct?

I spent a lot of time hanging out with the DBA (DataBase Administrator) team, and learned from them. Before too long, I didn’t have to rely on them to get the data I needed — I got it myself, and cleaned/joined/moved it the way I needed it to be.Data Box

Fun Stuff

While in Fort Wayne, I got involved with the local gaming convention, took over as editor-in-chief of Haymaker APAzine, drove to my first GenCon (in Milwaukee), saw They Might Be Giants in concert at the Wooden Nickel record shop, and found a church I really liked (after trying probably thirty others).

After I left, I missed out on the people voting for an inside joke — to name their new government center after former mayor Harry Baals. But the city officials wouldn’t go for it. As NBC reported: Scratch “Harry Baals” off list of names for government center. Buzzkill.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

I loved my job. I was learning great stuff, and kicking butt while doing it. I was getting paid nicely. But we had just had our first son, and two of my brothers were also have their first kids (one was born just three days after my boy), and I wanted these young cousins to grow up together.

So I used my newfound database skills, and took a job as a Database Administrator back in Louisville.

Go back to Part 4: Corporate Agent or on to Part 6

LouieLab

LouieLab opened on December 1, 2016.Louie Lab

LouieLab

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.

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:

 

Pokemon Go

Pokemon GoI’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

This sermon looks at Pokemon-Go.

Background

Pokemon Go is an augmented reality (AR) game. It’s played on phones, and mixes the real world with the digital world. In a way, it’s like a cross between geocaching and yelp, but with a scoring system.

Seek

To play Pokemon Go, first players must find Pokemon.Pokemon Go Map

Jesus came to seek and save the lost (us). When he sent out his disciples, he gave them instructions on where they should look for their audience.

Jesus called His twelve disciples to Him and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness. He sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions: “Don’t go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 10:1-7)

Choose

After finding some Pokemon, players choose which ones to keep.

Jesus chose all of us, while we were not worthy.

You didn’t choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you will ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, since I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:16,19)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

TrainTraining

To advance in the game, players train their Pokemon.

Spiritual training keeps us “in shape” as followers of Christ. Just like a physical muscle or skill, if we don’t exercise, we’ll lose strength.

The more frequently we’re kind to others, help those in need, study the scriptures, and pray, the better we’ll get at it. Then, in moments of stress, expressing the love of Christ will be second nature to us.

Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things — for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8)

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Corinthians 9:25)

Bible books that sound like they could be Pokemon:
• Amaziah
• Baalam
• Basemath
• Dodo
• Jehoshaphat
• Nergalsharezar
• Zebedee

Evolve

In the Pokemon Go game, the creatures improve their abilities after enough training, and actually become a new creature.

In Christ, we also become new creations, after being born the second time.

He will change our weak mortal bodies into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power he will use to bring everything under his control. (Philippians 3:21)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. (Romans 12:2)

Go

What makes Pokemon Go different from other games is that it overlays the real world. To travel in the game, you must travel in real life.Bible

For us to advance the gospel, we often must travel in real life. Christ’s last words to us before he ascended were:

Jesus said, “Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-19)

It’s hard to make disciples of all nations when we’re sitting on the couch. Going out, meeting people, making friends, helping others, trying new things… all of that leads to us building relationships. By following Christ ourselves and spending time with others, we can share God’s love and fulfill our purpose.

Download

You can download the handout and a flyer for the sermon here.

Text Analytics

I’ve worked professionally with databases for a living for around 20 years, to varying degrees.

I’ve worked with words professionally for roughly the same amount of time (as an author, editor, and publisher).

It’s only natural that I’d be interested in ways of mashing them together.

Text AnalyticsSix Plots

If you’d like to learn more about text analytics, text mining, unstructured data mining, and several other synonymous terms for turning a big pile of words into meaningful data, here are some good resources.

Sentiment Analysis

If you want to sort piles of words into good/bad, happy/sad, calm/mad, and such, that’s where sentiment analysis comes into play.Sentiment Analysis

SQL Server and R

Most of my database career has been using Microsoft SQL Server. I’m at the beginning stages of learning R, a data science language.

Mining the Bible

As a case study, I’ve imported dozens of translations of the Bible into SQL Server, where I can look for correlations. It’s an interesting text to work with, since all these translations (a) started from the original Hebrew and Greek, (b) are written in English, and (c) have passages uniquely identified through a numbering system. That allows for some intense analysis.Bible Sentiment

Here is some great work that other people have already done in that field.

 

Guest Post: Stan Siranovich

For those who’ve wondered what a National Day of Civic Hacking is like, here’s a post from Stan Siranovich that covers his (and my) experience at last weekend’s event.

National Day of Civic Hacking

A Day at the Louisville 4th Annual Hack for Change

Stan Siranovich – Data Scientist | Data Analyst – Specializing in Chemical and Biological, Laboratory, Manufacturing and IoT Applications

Ever wondered what’s it’s like to go to one of those all-day hacking events? I did too and wanted to find out. So when the Louisville 4th Annual Hack for Change came up I registered and went. Here is what I found out when I arrived…

This particular hack was going to work on several different projects, and after an intro and brief project description by Michael Schnuerle, and a break for some coffee and donuts, we moved into the various project groups.

Some of the projects were:

  • A 311 Chatbot to allow easy submission of issues to the city of Louisville (h/t to the OPI and Innovation Office of Louisville Metro Government)
  • An Analysis of KY Voting Precincts, including senate and house boundaries and voter record data
  • A CityVoice deployment for Louisville Metro on the Dixie Highway Revitalization Project
  • An analysis and visualization of Bicycle Accident data in the Louisville and Southern Indiana metro area

(for more details please visit the 4th Annual Hack for Change link)

Being an avid wheelman with a life-long interest in the clear presentation of data, I chose the Bicycle Accident project. Dave Mattingly coordinated the project and there were six of us in the group. In experience level and position along the “data pipeline,” we ranged all the way from Dave the Data Commando to a recent Code Louisville graduate. After a brief round of introductions we got to work.

I started out by pulling the data into RStudio and doing some exploratory analysis which included using the ggplot2 and base R visualization packages. As it turned out, there were no deep insights to be had and our goals would be well served by some simple visualizations that would allow Louisville Metro Government to identify problem streets and locations.

After spending some time developing a map in CartoDB, I decided to switch to Tableau Public. (I was much more familiar with Tableau.) After a few glitches pulling in the map outline and selecting the visual properties, I was able to post a useful map showing the location of bicycle accidents by location, number, type, weather condition, etc. After that, it was a simple matter to post the map on the Tableau Public site.

Meanwhile, Dave was hard at work with Qlik Sense and was able to develop a working prototype.

After a working lunch, provided by the sponsors, Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher paid us a visit. Next came some hand shaking and consultations with the individual groups; he then provided appropriate contacts in city government to further the development work for several projects.

We finished with the individual groups giving a summary and in some cases, a demo on what they accomplished. Overall, it was a productive and satisfying day’s work. I’m definitely coming back for the 5th Annual Hack for Change and even some other Hacks as they arise.

Finally, a big thank you to:Civic Data Alliance

for making the event possible.

Event Photo Gallery

Bike AccidentsBike Accidents by YearBike Accidents by DayBike Accidents by HourBike Accidents by AngleBike Accidents by WeatherBike Accidents ZoomBike Accidents SQL DataCivic Hacking Team FOIACivic Hacking Team ChatbotCivic Hacking Team CityVoiceCivic Hacking Glass Capitol
Civic Hacking Teams

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).

WonderFestWonderFest

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.