Saturday, August 22, 2009

End of the Quarter Colloquium at the Institute

Yesterday marked the end of the Summer quarter at the UWT and consequently the end of quarter colloquium for the Institute. Undergraduate students who conducted independent reading, research or internship present on their findings and experiences. Graduate students give updates, findings and the occasional final defense of a thesis or capstone event.

These presentations are open to all, but up until the present are generally attended by mostly other students and faculty. Summer can be tough on attendance because there are no other courses taught in the Computer Science or Computer engineering programs. That means a lesser number of students and faculty present on campus.

Too bad, as there were some excellent and informative presentations given. A graduate student presented on research into algorithms for measuring authority on Twitter, a group of students discussed a project in which they were building a social network infrastructure to support dietary tracking and an undergraduate doing research on 3D rendering models for re-contructive surgery announced his project was selected for presentation at a US medical conference.

I tweeted on some of the proceedings, which you can find at Droid16 on Twitter or over in the sidebar here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

MSL Bridge Building with Marshmallows



I had the honor of judging a bridge building competition today. The eighth grade contingent of the Math, Science and Leadership program at the Institute were asked to build bridge structures using toothpicks and mini marshmallows. The bridges then had to withstand several books being piled on top one after the other until the structure collapsed. When they had used all the books from the set they had bought, a water jug was used to additional heft.

Bridges were judged not only on how well they withstood the pressure, but also for original design and efficiency in the use of the materials. The one bridge which stood the longest was reinforced many times over with additional toothpicks and many mini marshmallows. The structure which ultimately was judged the best was constructed out of a lattice of pyramids reversed on themselves.



Cindy from the business school was the other judge, and it we independently were in agreement on all of our picks.

Well done eighth graders.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Barcamping at Suite 133

Got here a little early than many this morning and it was enjoyable walking the quiet streets of Tacoma on my way to Suite 133.

Around 25 people signed up to attend the first Barcamp (the software developers unconference) and by 9:45am most if not all had arrived. I signed up for the 11:30am time slot and will be talking about "The South Sound Tech Universe."

The first session was a discussion of how one might bootstrap a software offering or idea into a sustainable business. Not one that makes the huge dollar, but one that can sustain with a handful of employees. Mike did a great job of conveying the basic ideas to address and the desire to be an entrepreneur.

Next up, Marguerite gave an enthusiastic presentation on branding, prospecting and personal image and how to leverage blogging and twitter.

The time for my presentation came quickly and to bribe my way to a bigger audience I offered a map of the Puget Sound Tech Universe to one of the attendees. The presentation time allotted came and went fast. Before the day began I wondered if I would get tired or bored. No way and no time to do so as the presentations came fast and furious one after the other.

Erik Hanberg
gave an excellent talk on entrepreneurship in technology and business building recommendations. As you may have discerned, I did not go the tech track so much as the business track. But if the presentation in Foo room was too business oriented for you, you could also head over to the Bar room.


All and all a successful first iteration of Barcamp for Tacoma. I imagine another will be forthcoming in Winter.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Visit to Northrup Grumman



As I have been going about creating a list of software and technology companies in the South Puget Sound, I have also been able to visit a few. So far (with the help from a couple of excellent MSL interns) I have identified around 70 companies. Some of them have changed names. Examples include TUI Consulting, which was bought by Axon Solutions Inc. and still hosts a number of SAP folks here, and just recently Sagem Morpho, one of the states biggest technology companies, which became even bigger through a merger with Printrak, and now goes by MorphoTrak.

Some of the companies are small shops of two to four people.

Some you are likely well aware of if you live near Tacoma, such as Intel in Dupont and Topia Technology which is headquartered downtown.

But it wasn't until recently that I was aware that such a large contingent of Northrup Grumman computer and environmental scientists existed here in Pierce County. They have been operating here since 1983, and have been specializing in the development of environmental software since 1993.

The Northrup Grumman Corporation itself is a global defense and technology company with 120,000 employees worldwide. The branch located in Lakewood, WA, has been growing slowly over the last several years and when I met with their site manager, Bruce Sisco, in June, they were up to 50 people.

As of this week when I visited their offices in Lakewood, they are now up to 51, with the latest hire being an alumnus from the Computer Science program here at the Institute of Technology at the UWT. What is more, they are intent on growing over the next few years and may even double in size.

Their vision is to provide effective tools to Government and the private sector for prediction of impacts caused by environmental events. If some of their public sector solutions for environmental event prediction gain traction I can see them having an even larger footprint.

Here is a description of the software and solutions they are developing.


Environmental Decision Tool (EDT): The EDT is our initiative for a family of software products that exhibit our vision to provide effective tools for prediction of impacts resulting from environmental events. The EDT can tailored to provide solutions for:

Flood Protection
Coastal Protection
Surface Transportation
Utilities
Health & Safety
Recreation
Fire Fighting
Oil Spills
Others

The EDT provides decision-makers with situational awareness and a forecast of the environmental impacts on infrastructure, facilities, equipment, agriculture and people from the combined effects of weather, hydrology, and other natural causes. The EDT expedites the analysis of multi-source, multidisciplinary, complex data sets and equips the decision-maker with the required information. The EDT delivers innovative, ergonomically sound information displays to identify environmental impacts.


I enjoyed my tour of their facilities and the software development and testing labs. I was familiar with the area their building was located in because I worked in a restaurant across the street from them back, back, WAY back, when I was in high school. However the address is about to change, as they are moving to bigger quarters in the near future in order to accommodate their growth.

I look forward to more visibility of the company, building a closer relationship with the Institute and their development efforts in the future.