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.

 

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.

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.