Robots!

The cool robot kit (minus the cool stickers, which weren’t printed yet :-)

What’s been taking my time for the last couple months?

We have just launched the new Red Hat Co.Lab Robot Kit, ​which I had the good fortune to create with SparkFun, an open source hardware company. The kit, which will be used in Co.Lab workshops Red Hat runs for middle school girls who don’t have access to high-quality STEM education, uses the BBC micro:bit as the brains and is completely open source.

I make a lot of funny faces in the video.

I’ve written the first (of several) activities for the ‘bot and recorded the “helper” video to go along with the activity, and as of today, the robot is *live*!

I’m not nearly done — this is only the first activity! — but I am delighted that my little ‘bot project has been born.

My tutorial, based on the excellent one that SparkFun had created :-)


The tip of the Thank You Iceberg:
* Mel Chernoff, for giving me this job!
* Derek Runberg, who never complained even when I sent him the fifth “just one more quick question” email
* Paula Weigel, who allowed me the opportunity to collaborate on this project;
* Adrian Likins, who helped me get the A/V setup in place (and answered a million questions); and
* C V Britton, who *very* patiently helped me figure out how to explain DC motors in a way that didn’t involve “and then a miracle occurred.”

(PS how lucky am I to have such amazing people in my life?!)

Making a Difference (even in small ways)

Random Seattle pic of Chihuly glass. Because it’s pretty.

A large part of last fall and bits of this spring were spent going to universities and talking to instructors and their students about open source: how it works. what career opportunities look like, how to get involved in open source, etc.  I have loved doing this, as I really do think open source is, in many ways, magic.

I especially love it when I get a chance to talk to young women and am able to pass along whatever (small amount) of wisdom I accumulated being a female in a mostly male-dominated field (the web and IT).

Back in January, I (along with one of my Red Hat co-workers, Cas Roberts)  had the opportunity to go to Seattle for the University of Washington’s Society of Women in Engineering Career Fair and award dinner.  As part of that trip, I arranged to have an (early) breakfast with anyone who was interested in hearing more about Red Hat.

I honestly didn’t figure more than one or two women would show up, as it was at 8:30 on a school morning and would probably either conflict with class or, more importantly, sleep.  I was pleasantly surprised when 13 women turned up and spoke with us for more than an hour.

All good, all satisfying, all worthwhile.

Then, a few weeks ago, I received an email from one of the women who attended the breakfast, asking *my opinion* on her course choices for next year.

Now that made me feel like I have really had the opportunity to make a difference.

On being “liked”…

Social Media changes all the time and in order to keep up, I subscribe to quite a few mailing lists.  Most of the time I read and move on, but every once in a while there’s something that’s so *wrong* (yes, on the internet) that I have to say something.

Today’s gem was:

“What are clicks among friends?
Alot [sic] of folks lately are out liking FB fan pages in exchange for the owner of that page liking theirs as well. Nothing wrong with that, keep in mind that most will not return the favor. I will, guaranteed!” [name deleted to protect the clueless].

My response:

“For what it’s worth, I do think there’s something wrong with that! It’s uselessly attempting to game the system and is no more reflective of a real relationship than the scores of “linkback” schemes that were all the rage in the 90’s (before Google made that a Bad Thing by penalizing the behaviour).

“Like” pages you actually “Like”. “Friend” people you know. Anything else is the digital equivalent of gushing over how much you like something you’ve never even tried at a cocktail party in order to try to win someone’s friendship, and that’s just plain tacky (IMHO, of course). “

 

I’ve seen the future…

…and I’m a little in love with it.

Adrian and I recently set up an account at Coastal Federal Credit Union (their GoGreen checking can pay up to 2% interest — w00t!) and I went there the other day to deposit a check.  Surprises abounded:

First, their teller windows (and lobby) are open until 7pm (and I think from 7am, though, to be honest, I didn’t really read that part, since I am “not a morning person” in an almost cliche way).

Second, their teller windows are staffed by virtual tellers (looked a lot like the picture to the left)!  There’s a screen and a video picture of your teller (mine was Carol).   I have no idea where she was, but from that moment forward it was rather like a traditional drive-through arrangement, except:

  • I could reach the window
  • I could understand everything she said (no fast-food-style squawky speakers)
  • When I put my check down, it was into a little slot like an ATM (I have to confess I did miss the SWOOOSH of the pneumatic tube)
  • And, of course, she was not 10 feet away (I presume.  That would have been sort of silly)

Wow.  Just plain nifty.  It would’ve been quick too, had I not spent so much time saying:  “This is soooo cool! ”

I will also confess that having watched too much sci-fi — and this week’s Dr. Who — I also had a bit of difficulty remembering that she was a real person and not just “Interface.”

 

Delightful UI suprise

20 px

Image via Wikipedia

Driving to Raleigh the other day, I noticed the new, easy-to-spot “lane paintings” on I-40. They’re large (4-5 feet across) and look just like the shield that is used to denote interstate highways.

It’s *great*! It makes it SO much easier to tell which lanes stay I-40 and which ones become Wade Ave.! I am all for increasing information density when possible and this was an easy way to do so.  YAH Raleigh!

Growing pains…

It’s an odd (and somewhat unsettling) thing to realize that my web content is spanning two sites.  I’d like to hurry up and get the migration done, but I also know I need to do the proper housecleaning before porting content — when you’ve been online since 1996, you accumulate a lot of driftwood.

I always tell organizations that I’ve worked with that diluting your message can be nearly as harmful as not having one, so clearing out the clutter (particularly in the main pages of the site) is a must-do.