L.A. This Is How We Hack

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Well, L.A. was in for a jam packed weekend of hardware, learning, hacking, new friends, and impressive IoT projects! I drove down from San Francisco, and agreed to give the NorCal / SoCal feud a rest for the sake of the hack. We took over Rhubarb Studios on the 14th floor of the US Bank building, even with the smog layer, and overlooking all of L.A. Cauri, the founder of Rhubarb Studios, made his co-working space open and available for creativity by making every surface available for white board pens! The wall, the tables, the windows and even the floor had hacker notes all over them by noon!

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This hack was similar to our others on our tour, with many sponsors paving the way for hardware, sensors, components, cables, and the software to create apps. Several mentors participated both days, which is so amazing of them to also donate their weekends to connect directly with developers using their wares.

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I tried to meet everyone upon arrival as I checked them in downstairs and the staff of the US bank building helped us out too. It’s a bit unusual to take over an office building on the weekend, but far better than trying to mix in during the week when all the 70+ floors would be full of other employees!

16699627888_e7effa35f0_kHackers gave their pitches, formed teams with people who decided to work together before the weekend and then stragglers somehow found a project idea that they believed in and joined up. So amazing that usually if you are really there to hack, you won’t be left to work alone.

Come Sunday, I was informed that actually I would get to be a judge for this hackathon. I was thrilled because the innovation I already saw the teams achieving was very advanced and though it would be hard to award some teams and not others, I knew I could hone in on their ideas and combine with the several other judges to make the best decisions we could. Many factors come into play, the originality of the idea, the improvements to an existing product/app on the market, the difficulty of the task (especially within a weekend). Now that I’ve been to several hackathons, I have a little bit of a sense of what is original and what has been attempted at other events. Are there really new ideas? I hope so!

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Before the teams got everything together to present for the judges in a Science Faire style set up, I was lucky enough to work with some of the mentors on 2 projects. Ron from Cylon.js helped to show me a DIY kids version of how to make your own makey-makey using existing hardware. He was really excited to try using the Linino ONE as he had only tried it previously with an Arduino Uno. He was even pleased to find that his own company website, Cylon.js had a whole page and description of how to use Arduino Yun along with the terminal window way of coding. We almost got it working, but Ron was a mentor and had to help teams on Sunday who were feverishly preparing their hardware and software! He knows it’s homework to look into how Cylon and Arduino Yun can work together, and maybe streamline the instructions online.

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IMG_6227GameWithLininoRight before the judging, Paul DeCarlo brought out his thrilling hack, an old Nintendo System, combined with his laptop and an Arduino Uno and an Xbox Kinect. Wow, no wonder he is a Microsoft mentor! He was playing an old punching game (that he picked up at a flea market) using the Kinect to recognize body position and motions. He described the way he made it by downloading the Firmata sketch to his Uno and created a circuit he found online using an integrated circuit (little black chip with legs!) It’s one of those projects that looked easy, but also very mystical.

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We played the game, all were impressed, and then Paul said, “Hey, let’s try to substitute in the Linino!” We had maybe a half hour before judging would start, but of course I said, “Ok!” Paul is so brave, he found the StandardFirmata sketch and double checked his own blog about the project to remind himself how it’s done! I was so impressed, but we definitely got it working! Maybe the first Linino to ever work with Nintendo! So cool!!!!



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Judging took a while, but was so interesting to listen to all the pitches from the teams. Then we chose our overall winner, the sponsors chose their special awards and then while everyone munched to their yummy dinner, I performed “This is How We Make!” in my mom’s dress that she made in 1969. Anouk, my new wearable tech friend, was especially happy! Glad to please the hacker crowd with my “nerd-core” music, a genre I didn’t even know I was a part of! Congratulations to all the winners, and the overall winner of Bellbot. Thank you for your dedication and persistence! See you in Phoenix!

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