Friday, March 30, 2012

First Robotics at CenturyLink Field

You may remember a few years back with the FIRST Robotics competition was held in the Tacoma Convention Center. Back in 2008 SOTA, with the help of Bellarmine Preparatory School entered their first robot into the competition and came in second place, also taking rookie of the year honors.

I was able to attend the FIRST competition last Friday at the CenturyLink Exhibition center and it was as fun as always. These competitions treat the engineering and science competition as if it were a rock concert. Music was blaring, bleachers were filled with cheering fans, many people were dressed in costumes or as mascots for the three on three basketball competition being waged in two large arenas.

For those who wonder where the future Computer Scientists, Computer Engin and Information Technology professional may be coming from, it is definitely time to check out this event. I didn't get the official count but their were around 45 different teams competing and cooperating at the event. Two students from a visiting California high school gave myself and a fellow WTIA board member a tour of the grounds and a walk through the pits. One of the high schools had 80 team members. Four visiting HS teams were from Turkey.

Bellarmine was there, as was Puyallup High School and SOTA as well, this year creating a super team with the students of SAMI.

I hope next year that I keep a close enough eye on the calendar to promote the event to others.

Here is a much clearer set of pictures from the event from the Seattle PI.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Heartland Weimaraner Rescue Project Launch

It is finals week at the end of the quarter for the Managing Technical Teams class and the student groups have launched their projects. This team helped to rebuild and add features to website for an organization, Heartland Weimaraner Rescue, dedicated to the adoption of and care for abandoned Weimaraners. A fitting response to my directive that they "make a contribution to the community utilizing technology".

Below is one of the teams release, which resulted in their getting posted in Press Release Central of the Kansas City Star.

UW-Tacoma students launch updated website for Heartland Weimaraner Rescue of Pleasant Valley

HWR Tech Team from UW Tacoma: From left to right: Robert Flood, Tom Rochat, Mary Kozy, Brad Shellman, and Alfredo Tabulina

HWR Tech Team from UW Tacoma:
From left to right: Robert Flood, Tom Rochat, Mary Kozy, Brad Shellman, and Alfredo Tabulina
Fresher, more visually engaging, and up-to-date web design with social media integration helps Pleasant Valley group to help abandoned Weimaraners find their forever homes.

Tacoma, WA (February 27, 2012) – Pleasant Valley-based Heartland Weimaraner Rescue (HWR), a nonprofit organization with the stated mission of rescuing and placing unwanted Weimaraner dogs, has recently
launched an updated website, The website update was taken on by a group of University of Washington Tacoma Information Technology & Systems (ITS) students for a team management class project with the main focus being contributing to the community using technology. Not only was the website brought up to date in its look and feel, but an advertising video was created and added to the home page to help showcase the group’s amazing work.

New functionality added to the site includes an e-commerce page utilizing Google Checkout that allows visitors to purchase merchandise in one location with trusted payment processing. In addition, a $10,000 grant was garnered from Google to offset the per transaction cost and keep the funds with the organization. Social media tie-ins that aid visitors in locating HWR’s Facebook presence (as well as Twitter functionality being added) will also help drive traffic to both venues. A simple “Donate” button was added to each page to increase potential for monetary donations. In addition, more intuitive dropdown navigation makes finding content easier for site visitors and the overall design was created with future expansion of the site and content in mind.

One of the challenges facing HWR was overall maintenance of the site and keeping information about adoptable dogs up to date. Embedded content that reflects information posted to the HWR’s page makes those updates a one-step process. Gail Orth-Aikmus, founding director of HWR, stated, “What an honor it was for our rescue group to be chosen as a project by the University [students]. While most groups would appreciate the work that has been done, I can honestly say that the work that [the UW ITS team] did for us saved our rescue group, and kept me involved in my ‘quest’ to save as many Weimaraners as I can.”

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Storehouse Food Bank Project Launch

It is the end of the quarter for the Managing Technical Teams class and the student groups are launching their projects. The one requirement given was that "it must make a contribution to the community utilizing technology".

They have done a great job this quarter. One of the deliverables to me was a press release. Below is one of the teams releases, which resulted in their getting an article in a local paper there. I may post a few more when I have the time.

University of Washington Tacoma Students Reach Out to a Small Covington Food Bank

Covington, Washington, 2/14/2012 - Tuple Thunder Technical Team, a team of University of Washington Tacoma (UWT) students, reached out to the Storehouse food bank of Covington Washington to upgrade their database technology and provide on online presence. This upgrade in technology will allow the Storehouse to expedite their food tracking donations.

Since late 2006 the Storehouse has been using an older dilapidated database to track their distribution records. The software was out of date and no longer effective. A member of Covington Christian Fellowship Church, Brad Urich, had written a new software program in 2010 but the Storehouse was lacking technical knowledge to transfer information from one database program to another. The purpose of UWT Students effort’s demonstrated the ability to harness information collection, and to streamline data collection.

The Storehouse never had an online presence thus making it difficult for churches and families to share information about current donation programs and events. The UWT Students created a website to provide a forum to disseminate informational flyers to family's and supporting organizations and announcements of future events.

A recent contract with Home Depot of Covington donates damaged or closed out items to the Storehouse. The UWT students prepared a new MS Access database to specifically track the donation of Home Depot items.

If there are individual people and/or families in need and are within or near the Covington area, the Storehouse will provide basic food items, no questions asked. The Storehouse has been around since 1999 and continues to this day.

The students of UWT in the Information Technology and Systems program are required to take a variety of course that prepare them for real life experiences in the workplace. Amongst these courses is TINST490, Managing Technical Teams. Although this course edges towards the less technical side of the program, student will still be gaining essential skills that will prepare them for future situations. Students are learning to organization, communicate and facilitate in teams while providing a positive contribution to the community through the use of technology.

Hopefully you have seen the press release from the EDB about Infoblox renewing its lease in Tacoma for another six years. Growing from sixty...