It came to me in the car. I was a passenger, driving down a Honolulu street lined with palm trees and plate lunch shops: A scene. The kind that often comes to me. Dialogue. A gritty setting. The start of a novel.
So often these moments happen at times and in places where I'm indisposed; more accurately, where no means of writing and recording is at my easy disposal. You see, I need to write when I'm seized when the scene arrives, not wait for an ideal writing time and place.
But in that car, with the tradewinds stirring my imagination, I had at the ready something unavailable to me not too many years ago. A small computer known as a smartphone loaded with Google Docs. And so it was able to be. Even as we crossed the Ala Wai Canal, and Diamond Head receded in our rear view mirror, and we passed by an unnamed warehouse with wooden shutters, I was writing.
I came from a low income family and was raised in a low income area of Manchester, England. I scraped through school, not due to a lack of intellect, but more a lack of focus. While playing a popular game called Half-Life, I decided to develop a modification for it. I had very little knowledge about programming, but I created the modification through trial and error and stubborn persistence.
I really liked developing software, so I went to College and found a fast track course to enroll in Software Engineering. While attending classes I also developed software in my spare time, and moved away from game development and focused on web development. But this too happened because of a game. While playing online games I found myself in a "clan" and we needed a website, so I created it.
I received a degree with honors, but it was difficult finding a job. But I soon found a freelance job programming and it wasn't long before my career took off. I am now a senior developer and have been developing software for over 15 years.
In the early 2000s I was a Web Manager in New Zealand. Perhaps that job was akin to being a Social Media Manager in this era. Except back then, the companies I worked for didn't really know where to put me. Was I part of the Marketing team? Should I be in IT? Nowadays, almost every company has a separate digital team. But in 2000 when I worked for Ericsson NZ, the digital team was... just me. Because Web technology wasn't a core part of business at that time, my role wasn't held in high esteem. If I was noticed at all, I was simply "that guy who updates our website." It was the same at my next job, working for a power company.
In short, I didn't feel like I had a true community at work. So I went looking for one. Strangely enough, my community turned out to be people across the other side of the world. Blogging technology may be passé in 2016, but in the early 2000s it was my savior. I started using a blog product called Radio Userland in 2002 and was intrigued by a previously unknown (to me) world of Web enthusiasts. In 2003, I decided to start a new blog called Read/Write Web.
Almost immediately, I began connecting to other explorers of new technology. A lot of them were building new things in Silicon Valley, or trying to catch the next wave after the Dot Com boom and bust. Turns out the next wave included blogging and similar social software technologies. At long last, I'd found my community. It didn't matter that I was an unknown voice from a tiny country across the other side of the world. I had the Internet and I could publish my thoughts to the world. I read and I wrote - and my community did the same back.
As a single parent I always traveled with a backpack filled with things to entertain my young toddler. It consisted of ziplock bags full of blank paper, stickers, color pencils and a notebook to fill any idle time. In the car, we had a plastic shoebox filled with more of the same to entertain during the long rides home. My daughter never really enjoyed traditional coloring books. She loved blank pages that she could create and color her own designs on.
Although my toddler is now finishing middle school, she is still very much the artist. She now has the ability to create art online with apps like ArtStudio. She can create numerous art pieces with "pencils" and "colors" on her tablet that will never get lost or broken. Although she continues to draw in a sketchbook, she loves creating digital pictures, and storing them in the cloud to be viewed or shared later. She can now create her own characters with her finger or a stylus. Technology has even allowed her to publish her first book online. Technology is truly a work of art.
I am a child of the 80s, but I don't remember a time without a computer in the house. Back when less than 10 percent of homes had a computer, we had a TI-99/4A. It was set up in a bedroom that my dad converted into an office of sorts with dark faux wood paneled walls and orange shag carpet that had worn thin. That's where he would repair old CB radios, TVs and, eventually computers while I watched him work.
When he had something that was beyond repair he would let me take it apart while he showed me how it should have worked. He taught me to use the old DOS command line and to make simple programs in QBasic. My brother and I used to go with him to TI user group meetings where people would bring any new gadgets or information that they had come across to share with each other.
Being exposed to technology in this way from such an early age defined the trajectory of my entire life. It showed me that technology isn't some scary, impenetrable black box, but instead it is meant to be tinkered with and to bring people together.
In my 16 years as a Sonoma County Realtor, I have experienced the light speed pace that technology has played in helping me excel in this profession. Technology is constantly moving forward to help me and my clients experience what they need quicker and more conveniently.
The Internet is by far the most popular source for buyers and sellers viewing real estate, and the ways people view homes on the Web has changed dramatically. Years ago I would post a few photos of a property, but now buyers can view a home using 3D videos, which allow them to virtually walk through the home with a click of a mouse. Recently I have even been using Drone photography, which provides an aerial perspective of a home and its surroundings. By embracing technology, I am helping both buyers and sellers achieve their dreams in the real estate market.
I am a world traveling performer-who has, as a wheelchair user, used many forms of adaptive equipment and tech over the years. I also work in the games industry as a journalist; which grants me access to evolving technology and hardware. I just spent this last week at E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo), using my new, lightweight, fold anywhere electric wheelchair aiding my quest in being in the middle of the action regardless of accessibility. Technology is always at the forefront of my mind.
I enjoy the road less traveled- instead of focusing solely on disability and how technology has impacted that journey.
All tropes aside; come with me, traverse the exotic technologic landscape, and venture into why Virtual Reality compelled me into a major career shift. My first encounter with VR was much like a first date-hesitant, shy, and nervous starting out. By the end of the experience I was dazed, and flushed with euphoria. In other words; I was in Love and I was determined to be an active partner in this burgeoning, nascent relationship with VR and its industry, rather than a passive casual dater.
I am no longer just providing coverage and analysis for the industry I inhabit; but looking forward to shaping its path from within. Hopefully, someday that will take place, since VR has already taken me beyond every boundary imaginable.
As a trumpet player the most important thing is the ability to produce notes that are in tune without effort. Now that may seem easy, but it's the greatest challenge; the sound of grace that can only come when no great force is used to produce the sound (here is a solo). This is unlike pressing the trumpet against your lips and making your face turn blue from lack of oxygen.
Four months ago I was in the small office of my trumpet instructor, on a tall stool that forces me to sit with proper posture. I had been struggling for months to find a balance between the amount of pressure I apply to my lips and the amount of air I put through my trumpet. My instructor took out his phone and showed me a five dollar app. That may seem like a lot for an app in today's market dominated by ads and in-app purchases, but the app let's me record myself playing the trumpet, and then I can slow the recording down. This allows me to hear every small mistake I make and discover my problem areas. So, now I know how to identify the problems, but how do I solve them?
The answer turned out to be simple. There is another app, showing in real time the exact tone of each sound being created, as well as the length of the wave length and the decibels. Using both of these apps, whose combined costs was less than ten dollars, I can make breakthroughs in my technique in half an hour that would have taken the likes of Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis weeks or even months to discover through simple trial and error. This new technology is giving way to a new breed of trumpet players, allowing me to be my own teacher, and saving countless hours from failing in the same way over and over again.
Wearable technology has come a long way, and has definitely changed my approach to fitness. I'm sure you can relate, how after long hours at work, kids, and just being plain tired, I had gained a few more pounds than I needed and wasn't getting enough exercise. I told myself, "I will get around to eating better and exercising later, when I'm less busy." Fast forward to the winter of 2014, when my doctor said I really needed to do something about my cholesterol, or I should consider taking cholesterol medication.
Right around this same time, I came across an article talking about how to lose weight. What it said was so simple: to lose weight, eat fewer calories than you expend. Being a geek at heart, I decided to approach this technologically, by using my smartphone and the MyFitnessPal app to log what I ate, and the MapMyFitness app to give me calorie credit for my daily walks. With the help of technology, I instantly gained an understanding of how the food I ate affected my health goals. Within weeks, and with the help of my smartphone and the apps, I started seeing real results.
I have always believed, "anything worth doing, is worth overdoing!" It wasn't long before I started wearing a FitBit device, and with the pedometer linked to my smartphone and connected to MyFitnessPal through the cloud, I was even more motivated to walk during the day, take the stairs, and generally stay active to ensure I kept the weight coming off. An added benefit of the FitBit was also tracking how long and well I slept as well. Recently I have added aerobic exercise and strength training to my workouts, so I have added a Wahoo TICKR X chest strap and a Garmin footpod, all connected wirelessly via ANT+ to my Garmin FR60 exercise watch. Now, after a workout, I tap my smartphone to send that data up to the cloud where I can use my apps to analyze and track my progress.
Can you imagine virtually watching an NFL game from the 50-yard line, while sitting on your couch at home, or "attending" that sold out concert that's half way around the world? We are still in the early days of Virtual Reality, but these scenarios will soon become reality.
The problem with Virtual Reality is that until you experience it, you don't "get" it. Watching videos isn’t a good representation of how immersive it is, and reading an article won’t do it either. The high demand for specialized devices and steep price tags made me wonder if they were worth the money. But then I found Google Cardboard, and bought a viewer on eBay for under $5. It’s basically a piece of cardboard with two plastic lenses that you put your phone into. Mine came in the mail, and it was simple to assemble.
I went to the Google Play store, downloaded an app, and put the cardboard up to my eyes. I was immediately transported to another world! I was speechless, well actually I was saying, “Wow!” At one point, I was inside the Royal Palace in England. It felt like I could just reach out and touch what I was seeing, like I was standing in that room. With the addition of an earpiece and a microphone, I used another Virtual Reality app to join real-time chat rooms with real people from all over the world. From my same couch I was transported to a space station, or the side of a mountain, with no aliens to shoot, no candies to crush, just me and some other people "communicating" together.
As an underwater photographer, I can tell you the excitement level of discovery can be describe as ecstatic. Larger animals, such as sea lions, rush out at you, pause for a split second and then they are off like a flash. You need to stay focused and ready for that kind of high energy interaction. If you’re not vigilant of keeping track of your position constantly, you can easily get lost. This beautiful and wonderful world can turn nightmarish fast.
Unlike being lost on land, if you lose your bearings underwater, a deadly time clock starts. You carry a limited supply of life-giving air with you. As anxiety rises, so does your breathing rate, using your limited resource more quickly. Some new electronic compasses are equipped with a special feature that will keep track of your course changes underwater, and then point you the way home with a push of a button. On one particular dive I was chasing a California two-spotted octopus and lost my position. I stayed calm, used my electronic compass, and had no trouble getting back to the boat.
Last year, I took a high school class called "Design Tech and Robotics." We had a large warehouse to work in full of power equipment and precision milling tools. My teacher also set up a large trailer in the rear parking lot that took up 20 parking spaces, which we called the "proto-lab." Inside of this lab we had some of our most commonly used tools, including a maker bot and an epilog laser cutter.
At one point in the year, our teacher gave us an assignment to come up with something to cut out of wood using our epilog laser cutter for the purpose of mass production and selling it at our robotics team's craft fair. It was around Christmas time, and the new Star Wars movie was in theaters, so I put the two together and came up with the idea to CAD out easy-to-assemble Star Wars-themed Christmas tree ornaments, both TIE fighters and X-wings. I was pretty good at computer-aided design, so that part was easy. But I had never used the laser cutter before, so it was a little daunting when it was time to go into the proto-lab to use it.
I thought maybe I'd just plug my design in and start laser cutting, but it wasn't that simple. I sent the file through the computer and the laser printer sprung to life, shooting lasers at the wood and over-burning it. It was also printing off center, and was all out of whack. My teacher wasn't pleased that I wasted an entire piece of wood, and came over and asked, "Do you have any idea what you are doing?" I of course didn't. He expected me to know because by this point, most of the other students had already used the laser cutter. He was a little impatient with me, saying things like, "It isn't rocket science." But after 30 minutes of adjustments, he helped me position things properly and I managed to finish my project. My Star Wars ornament was chosen out of 17 projects to be sold at our craft fair. And now I even teach other kids how to craft projects using the epilog laser printer through our school's summer robotics program.
Fortunately, I found an alternative at my local recycling co-operative: I realized that their assortment of plastic trays that had once packaged scientific equipment like mini test-tubes and micro-titration tips, were exactly the right size to snugly fit a pair of servos side-by-side that would drive the robot wheels. The grid of holes in the trays that held the scientific equipment could be used to push cable ties through to attach sensors, an Arduino, and a battery pack. And surprisingly, the trays came in a range of wonderful bright colors, including neon pink and orange.
With a bit of modification using a rotary tool and the addition of a few 3D printed parts, the recycled trays ended up being ideal bases for some quirky custom robots, and were an order of magnitude cheaper than the acrylic parts I had originally intended to have cut. I was glad to put materials to use that would otherwise have ended up in landfill. Now I supply recycled materials and repurposed industrial offcuts at all of my workshops.”
“One day while raking leaves I thought about fields of data that are available online and how you can treat them like hammers. If all you've got is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. I say that with a new kind of hammer, there can be new sets of nails to discover.
I then thought about my day job as a blogger and how I wasn't doing anything with blog comments! Blog comments were structured, publicly accessible, tied to people, and timely. So I thought of a way I could leverage blog comments to learn things early.
I took Robert Scoble's Most Influential in Tech list on Twitter and I scraped all of the home page URLs off of the bios. I grabbed those URLs and I took them to a service called BackType (since acquired by Twitter and shut down). BackType would take any URL and scour all of the comment fields in blogs around the web, returning new comments where that URL appeared in the URL field of the comment, and delivered by RSS. I took those RSS feeds and I plugged them into an RSS to IM real-time notification system.
This allowed me to break several news stories: an important engineer would post a comment on some obscure blog asking about a secret forthcoming project, and I would get a real-time notification of the comment. So then I'd go report on the otherwise secret forthcoming project. It was pretty awesome and I never told any of my research subjects how I found out about their news, except for once at 4 am in a pizza line at SXSW.”
I retired from teaching elementary school in 2008 and soon realized that it was up to me to "write this new chapter in my life." I joined Weight Watchers, lost 20 pounds in three months, and returned to jogging like I did during my Junior College years.
I was so nervous, and excited, when I ran my first 5K in May 2009. It was called "Moms on the Run," which raises money for women going through breast cancer treatments, and it was a wonderful feeling to contribute to a great cause and get a great workout for myself at the same time! Since that first race, my daughter and I have been running in about seven 5K's a year! Depending on the race, we sometimes wear our pink or green tutus, and sometimes even mustaches!
In Sept. 2014, my daughter and I got our FitBits, which has added a lot of enjoyment to our races and our weekly workouts. We'll compare our 7 Day Steps and sometimes "taunt or cheer" one another, depending on the number of steps. It's such a great feeling to "hit 10,000 steps" after an early 5K race together. The last three years I have received plaques for 2nd or 3rd place in my age group, which has motivated me to not give up if I'm starting to "run out of steam."
I have met so many inspiring people. Not only the runners in their 70's and 80's, but those with disabilities and pain, who participate and don't give up! In the last race that I ran, there was an 85 year old man who began running in his 50's. He said, "You just gotta keep moving and stay alive, then you can eventually win first place in your age group!"
“When I attended my third Ruby Manor conference, I listened to Tom Stuart, and his talk was entitled ‘Programming with Nothing.’ Tom would probably tell you his talk was ‘just’ an explanation of the Lambda Calculus. From my perspective—not having studied computer science and never having encountered Lambda Calculus, Church Notation, or any of these foundational principles before—it was an awakening. The next year Tom published an O’Reilly book called Understanding Computation. The talk and the book have fueled an insatiable hunger in me to learn more about this field.”
I’ve long since believed that global availability of low-cost broadband is the Holy Grail of technology. A few years back, my wife and I were blessed to visit Cape Town, South Africa. As Managing Editor of Engadget, I was tasked with reporting on an incredible trial being conducted by Google. In essence, Google was tapping into unused TV frequencies to broadcast Internet to previously unserved or underserved areas. The result? Schools in some of Cape Town’s poorest regions were able to connect their classrooms, and indeed, their pupils to the magic of endless information.
We visited a number of these institutions, interviewing both instructors and awestruck students. Watching someone experience the internet for the first time is transformative. Whereas many American students count down the moments till class is dismissed, these children were captivated by a newfangled pipeline of answers to any topic offered in their curriculum. Witnessing the impact of technology on a culture so very different than mine has forever changed me.
Before starting the long journey home, we caught a boat that took us out to Seal Island in the raucous waters of False Bay. There, we entered the same seas as great white sharks, with one in particular thrashing our cage and permanently altering the pitter-patter of our hearts. It’s easy to take a working WiFi signal for granted, but whenever I encounter a finicky connection, I think back to my time in South Africa. There, the hearts of the people are as beautiful as the coastline, and the growing reach of the Internet is creating a new level of empowerment.
I am a mother in Venezuela of a child with autism (he is now an adult). I am also the director of a center for the treatment of children with autism. The idea of being connected to people, to knowledge and to information regarding our needs is remote, especially for mothers whose main interest is the care of a person with a devastating disorder.
At a time in Venezuela when local politics has changed the future and sent us back to the 19th century, many of us Venezuelan's are still able to stay current with what is going on in the world, and to also make plans for the future. This is because technology connects us to people and resources abroad, so we can get the help we need to treat our patients and find the medicines for many illnesses and conditions. These medicines are scarce and almost non-existent in our country. And at this point it is impossible to travel and attend courses and conferences outside the country, or to even travel inside the country, so we rely even more on technology.
Now more than ever we need technology. The computers, tablets, cell phones and apps all help strengthen an NGO like ours. Thanks to technology we have medical consultations, we can translate scientific material into Spanish, we can attend special webinars, connect with centers of innovation, and find out what is going on to help our children within the autism spectrum.
“I love traveling, and I have a sense of adventure that drives me to visit new places and meet new people around the world.
Doing this, however, has never been straightforward. I've been a wheelchair user all my life, and finding accessible services to facilitate my travel is a nightmare. There's not much reliable information on the web to find things like adapted accommodation, or related services, such as specialist medical equipment and car hire. Organizing travel as a wheelchair user tends to be full of risk and uncertainty.
I'm a corporate lawyer by background, but I love technology, and have been fascinated by its potential to solve real problems for everyday people at scale. So, I decided to quit my well paid job and follow a new path to create a tech startup, making accessible travel easier.
I decided to learn to code by joining OneMonth.com, enrolling in their Ruby on Rails course. It was tough, but it was incredibly rewarding and a stimulating exercise. By the end of it, I was able to create a prototype of Accomable, an Expedia/Airbnb type solution for accessible travel. We launched in the summer of 2015, and now have accessible property listings across 30 countries with a growing user community nearing 10,000 people.”
"I live in the middle of nowheresville, literally on an island in the ocean. In the city, I had access to other people's recording studios. Out here I need to be self sufficient when I want to record a song I’ve written or record a friend’s band. I use a powerful desktop computer with a digital audio workstation and an array of microphones. I combine acoustic and homemade electronic instruments—theremin, vocoder, various synthesizers and effects processors. I even reprogram Nintendo Gameboys to create music. The signature sound of my band, 8BITches, was created with 5 Gameboys playing in counterpoint. "
“It was supposed to be simple. A harmless, pleasant trip to visit my mother. There was no plan in place, and there was no need for one. As I rang the bell, and entered the apartment, I thought how today was the day that we would have a nice day together. I avoided all computer related questions. Computers were something she would disappear into for hours.
I decided we would go and have ice cream together. I picked a place free of junkies, drama, drugs or computers. I paid for the treat that was to bring us closer together, even if only for a few moments. But my smile faded when I turned and saw my mother on her phone. This wasn’t an ordinary call, since she was screaming and typing away on the phone at the same time. I begged and I pleaded for her to get off the phone, and eventually I took it away from her. She became louder and more obnoxious as she wrestled the phone out of my grip, quickly returning to what I learned was nothing more than petulant junkie drama.
As our ice creams melted in my hands, I realized that I had been replaced. It was the portable device where she could find any information she wanted, or speak to anyone she desired at any time, at the tip of her fingers. I thought I was the person she wanted to see and speak to. But, I was simply a way for her to get from point A to point B without having to wait for the bus.”
After years of watching me struggle with addiction and mental health issues, the father of my youngest daughter felt it was best to return to his homeland, England, and take our little girl with him. I had no knowledge of what had taken place until it was much too late…..needless to say, my world was crushed.
It was unclear in the beginning exactly where in the world, literally, they were….there were rumors: Greece? England? Although I had begun a new life of recovery, I tried to accept that I would never again see her or have a chance to repair the damage I had done. Guilt and inconsolable grief enveloped me, and very nearly drew me back into a life of “numbing the pain."
When a “tech savvy” friend decided to step in, everything changed! She helped me learn about and use the Internet, helping me locate my daughter’s grandparents’ address through public voting records from thousands of miles away. Eventually, this led to contact with my beautiful little girl and her father. That was 5 years ago...
I have been so blessed to watch my child grow, change, and live a wonderful and full life through cyberspace: email, Skype, social media all play a major role in our relationship. Words are cheap, but seeing our love and forgiveness, even through the computer screen, is a healing process that could not have happened without technology. Silly maybe, but kissing the camera and hugging our laptops at the end of Skype sessions is a ritual!
My trip to England a year ago was icing on the cake.....our arms around each other, the smell of my precious child lying next to me, her sweet accent when she calls me “Mummy.”
"When Maisy was first diagnosed with hearing loss last summer I was sad and worried that hearing aids were going to change my spunky little kid. But now, almost a year later, she is even extra spunky! Hearing aids aren't what they used to be, and neither is the stigma that used to surround them. To Maisy, they are just part of her routine. When someone asks why she wears them, she casually says, "they help me hear better."
Maisy has mild to moderate bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. She was most likely born with it, but she wasn't officially diagnosed until she was two and a half years old. It is genetic, and caused by the Connexin 26 gene. Maisy can hear--she can even hear a whisper (trust me, I test her)--but sounds aren't as crisp to her as they are for someone with normal hearing. To help her catch every sound, she wears Oticon Sensei Pro hearing aids, but we call them Super Ears.
Besides being pink and sparkly, Maisy's Super Ears contain some amazing tech. They are Bluetooth capable, and they can connect to iPhones, iPads, FM systems and can even be used as wireless headphones. They amplify the sounds that Maisy misses (s, f, and th sounds mostly) and they auto-adjust when she's in loud places (like the movie theater). They help her hear us and the world around her, but most importantly, they help her hear herself.
May is Better Speech & Hearing Month, and we hope you enjoyed learning about Maisy, who is a little girl, who wears some little tech with big purpose!"
“My wife and I celebrated our tenth anniversary by kayaking up on the hypothermia-inducing waters around Nova Scotia. It's some of the most beautiful, but most dangerous, kayaking in the world. On one sunny day we paddled to a lovely, isolated beach. As we ate lunch I spotted some clouds building on the horizon. Having been warned about quick weather changes, we decided to head back.
We were quickly swallowed by fog so thick I could barely see my wife floating a few feet to my side. It was eerily quiet, with the mist seemingly absorbing all of the sound--except for that of the waves crashing off the rocky coast lurking somewhere to our right. We couldn't land and we were completely blind. Thankfully, I had a little digital assistance.
As I do on every paddle, I'd recorded our path on the way out on our portable GPS. Though I could hardly see my hand in front of my face I had a bird's-eye view of myself superimposed over satellite imagery, plus a little red line showing me a safe path.”
“Around 2000 I drove cross country from California to Massachusetts with my dad. We had stopped in Las Vegas where we met a gentleman, twice, who told us that our plan to go drive home through the Rockies in October in an Acura Integra would be a very bad idea. Snow chains would be needed. We had AAA trip tics for the Rocky route, but at the last minute, thanks to the mystery man, we took Route 40, a southern route. No maps, no phone - I don’t know if I’ll ever feel that sense of adventure again. Being tethered to the larger world by a small device in my pocket has connected the world and made it better in many ways. But it has taken something away, too.”
“I was working on a new website for a large retailer. They were paying a small fortune for an off the shelf store locator package and were getting ripped off. I was told I had to use it, even though the cost offended me. I asked if I could write a new version, one that they would own and control, but I was told that would be too much work. I decided to go for it, and one Sunday I started to code. I got into that magical flow state and the next thing I knew the birds were chirping as the sun was rising.
It was so exciting to shock everyone who came in by showing them a fully functional version that was faster and better in every way. This hooked me. Ironically, fast forwarding to my role as a VP of Engineering, I now look to make sure my engineers aren't required to perform heroics.”
“I was writing web pages, constantly moving this one pixel to the left, while having that same half-hearted argument about using ems instead. But JSConf was in a week, and I couldn’t wait.
At JSConf I attended the Nodebots event, thinking ‘maybe I'll get an LED to light up. That'd be cool.’ It took me SIX hours, but I did get an RGB LED changing colors to three potentiometers. A few hours after that, I had a web server and could change the color from the browser.
One year later, I showed up to that same conference, but this time in a dress covered in RGB LEDs, controlled by a board that I could program in JavasScript.”
“I was working on an Easter Bunny project, removing the stuffing from a toy rabbit, inserting a servo to make it wiggle its ears, and placing two RGB LEDs behind its eyes. The carousel was working at the first attempt to drop a single mini chocolate egg, but after laying four eggs, no more eggs were released. I removed the blockage and started again, but after another four or so, no more eggs dropped. An egg bound Easter Bunny is not cool, so I looked online and was unable to find an answer. The first method I used to unblock the hopper holding the eggs were to stir them, but after some thought I decided to shake the eggs. I ordered some mobile phone vibration motors, but they did not work because more power was required. I could not find a larger vibration motor in time for the Maker faire, so I knew that I would have to make my own. I found a small 6v motor in my parts library, and a 10mm nut. I drilled and super glued the nut to the motor, connected the motor to a power supply and switched it on, and it nearly jumped off of the table! The motor was added to the egg delivery system and programmed to run for five seconds before an egg was laid. It worked!”
"I teach English to local students in Patzcuaro, a Spanish colonial town high up in the mountains of Mexico. After about an hour, I noticed the class energy would flag or at times increase and become disruptive. After using up all my ideas for fun activities I turned to the Internet. Believe it or not, the internet is actually cheaper and faster in Mexico than my internet here in the US. Sometimes I’d be blocked from iTunes or Amazon to buy music for lessons, but I found tools to cloak my Mexican IP address and get access. I also found ESL sites that offer downloadable activities and lesson plans. I freely used what others had created, but was inspired to develop my own activities and games. The free-flowing exchange of ideas online that crosses international borders can be a powerful educational tool."
“In the early 1990’s, I was looking for ways to increase ‘sustain,’ the period of time during which the sound remains before it becomes inaudible, in my guitar. The available sustain effects caused uncontrolled feedback, and sometimes my guitar's pickups received radio stations. So, I made a cancellation circuit and an array of antennas to cancel the radio signals at baseband. That’s when I figured out that the same cancellation circuit could let antenna arrays communicate with each other using non-interfering subchannels in the same frequency band, which greatly increases spectrum efficiency.
I built the world's first radio MIMO system at the University of Colorado in 1992 and filed patents. Today, this technology is used in most wireless and cellular standards. Since then, I invented more technologies that are used in today’s standards, as well as many that are proposed for next-generation telecommunications. Although I no longer play my guitar in a band, I still enjoy performing. I’ve been recently training in aerial dance and hope to perform in Cirque du Soleil."
“I love to cook great food for friends, such as Jurgen. I traded recipes with him for leg of lamb, which is one of his favorite dishes. But, he worried about not tasting it due to his damaged tastebuds from the chemotherapy.
I met Jurgen via Facebook, and learned how he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Many people do not survive AML, and Singapore--where he lives--isn't the best place for treatment for something so lethal. So, Jurgen left his family in Singapore and moved to the UK to challenge his death sentence alone, without the support from his loved ones.
I wrote an open appeal to my friends on Facebook, to create a virtual support group for Jurgen. Jurgen's personal diary was displayed, showing every excruciating step of his battle: the multiple rounds of chemo, the painful bone marrow transplant, the sickening medications, the gut-wrenching suppression of his immune system, sleepless nights and several near death experiences. My network of Facebook friends responded with support and advice, based on personal experience, on how to mitigate the downsides.
Then, I got the news. Jurgen was in 100% remission! The treatments were working. Soon I will use Facebook to organize a leg of lamb dinner for my new friend, using his recipe, of course.”
“Northern Virginia has violent summer storms. Water comes down in sheets, and the wind is so intense that the rain pours horizontally, then vertically, and then in every which direction. During one storm, a large branch from a nearby tree snapped off, nearly hitting me in the head. As I dried off inside, I thought about the noise from the rain, and a sudden insight came to me.
What if all of that noise from the rain, or all of those signals, could be used to contain a new signal hidden in the noise? And what if you could not only hide the signal in all of that noise, but also use that noise as the carrier of the information, as well as the unique characteristics of that noisy environment as a method of encrypting the data?
I called my business partner, since we had been thinking about how to transmit information using Radio Frequency between devices without anyone being able to detect the signal. We applied the idea that came from the storm and developed a robust method for not only hiding a signal from detection and interception, but we also created a very secure method of generating cryptographic keys. Furthermore, we realized that our idea, which we patented (8929550), could be used to help networks better manage the use of frequencies and increase their bandwidth.”
“I've started DJing again, about one night every couple of weeks, along with parties and weddings. I gave up all of my vinyl, which almost makes me cry to think about. But now there's this program, Serato, which uses a vinyl template. You can send any song to it from your computer. You scratch the vinyl and the program keeps up. DJ software used to have these touchpads, but they just didn't feel right. Part of the art form of DJing is having light hands on the vinyl. That's how you know someone's good. If they don't do it right, the needle skips. Serato shows your mistakes, so it keeps the art. The one special part of DJing that Serato takes away is the vinyl you found that no one else had, but that's okay.
In one of my cases for my day job, the District Attorney announced himself with just a little too much emphasis. ‘I'm John Smith, representing THE PEOPLE,' I said, 'I'm Robert Meraz, representing my client, and the REST OF THE PEOPLE.'
If you don't get the judge mad at you sometimes, you're not doing your job as a Public Defender. Even when I know the judge is going to rule against me, I want to make sure they feel it. It's got to hurt a little bit when they put someone away. I may not always be able to get my clients released, but I won’t let them get screwed just because they can't afford an expensive lawyer.”
“I'd just gone to an AngelHack hackathon and was determined to build my dream app when I found out about learning Ruby on Rails on Skillshare. I signed up for "One Month Rails," and the community immediately removed my anxiety, because everyone was there to learn and share. I learned about Ruby, AWS, Heroku, navigating the command line and debugging code by Googling it. I learned that coding isn't hard, you just have to be willing to try and not give up.
Veterans make wonderful software developers. We don't give up.”
“If it weren’t for modern technology my music management company would have folded a long time ago. In 2007, the independent record company I co-founded was sitting on thousands of CDs and DVDs that used to generate a healthy revenue stream. That year, the orders for CDs and DVDs pretty much stopped coming in and digital sales weren’t coming close to replacing the revenue from physical product sales. My bands were hit hard by this shift, too. The future looked bleak.
Now, eight years later, I feel like I’m back in business. I manage bands all over the country, most of whom I never see face-to-face. I used to be in clubs every night. When I worked for Enigma, Giant, A&M Records, I flew out to meet bands on tour. I met with distributors and record store managers and got them to buy more cds and give my bands top placement on end-caps in the stores.
Now, I’m here at my house in Pittsburgh on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and email all day every day promoting digital releases and tours, and booking tours. I even just negotiated a huge national ad campaign that uses one of my band’s songs in a T-Mobile commercial. I have a smaller income stream from music, but I also have lower overhead. Technology, once the enemy of my music career, has become my bread and butter. The slices are leaner, the butter is spread thinner, but it's still my favorite job.”
“I was a technical writer, and then I learned that there were these magic characters that would let you match anything in search and even replace it even though you didn’t know exactly what you’d found. I fell in love with regular expressions. I couldn’t believe how much power they gave me. Using sed and awk scripts (intermixed with shell scripts), I once indexed an entire 1000 page documentation set in about 6 hours.”
“My husband bought me an iPad for my birthday when they first came out. Two years later, when I got a newer model, he purchased a bluetooth keyboard to go with it. It travels with me when I interview subjects for my freelance pieces, and it fits in my purse. It proved its worth a hundredfold when I was a new mom, when I was constantly breastfeeding. I wrote two books while snuggled on the couch with the baby, the iPad and bluetooth keyboard propped up in front of me. No pen and paper, typewriter, word processor, desktop or even laptop computer could have given me that outlet that I needed.”
“Why is it that cats and dogs are always eating each other’s food? It seems cat food is as addictive as crack, if you’re a dog, and vice-versa. To add to this, all of my pets are on ‘special’ diets and feeding plans. Dental issues? Check. Weight problems? Check. Kidney issues? Check.
Fed up with paying premium food prices with animals that are sneak eaters and counter surfers, not to mention opportunistic raccoons, I designed and patented my automatic pet feeding bowl. Each pet’s collar controls the opening and closing of it’s own dish. So, now when the family cat approaches the cat bowl, the ‘charm’ sends the signal to the bowl to open (within a very close distance of approximately 2-3 inches). When the cat breaks contact with the bowl (either he is nudged aside or simply loses interest in his food and chooses to leave) the signal is lost and the bowl closes. This keeps the dog out of the cat's food and allows the cat to eat whenever he chooses.”
"When my youngest daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after she was born, it felt like our whole world was turned upside down. We were under-informed about her condition and frightened by what we did not know (which turned out to be a lot). The Internet was, of course, happy to oblige our late-night Googling with a whole host of harrowing health issues, future learning challenges and expected delays, and things like ‘life expectancy,’ which no parent should have to think about in the first days of her child’s life. I was absolutely and unconditionally in love with our girl, but at times I was in a panicked state of paralysis about what lay ahead. The Internet, though, changed all of this.
I discovered hidden online communites—Facebook groups, websites, blogs—a multi-layered, interconnected, human network of people whose lives have been impacted by Down syndrome. Now my daughter’s future didn’t seem so scary, and I didn’t feel quite so alone. I subscribed to blogs, I ‘liked’ Facebook pages, and I created a new Pinterest board devoted to Down syndrome. My newsfeeds started to fill up with images of kids whose features reflected my daughter’s, with advice from those more seasoned in the kinds of challenges we might have to navigate. I read stories of individuals with Down syndrome doing everything from going to college, to starting a business, to getting married.
The Internet is an infinite source of information. It is helpful, yes, but at times cold, overwhelming, and misleading. The Internet is also a collection of stories, and storytelling is the oldest and most profound way we have to grapple with understanding the human condition and making meaningful connections."