With all the robotics programs to choose from, SeaPerch fills a unique niche. First off, it is underwater. All the others like VEX, FIRST, BotBall and Micro Robotics are land based. The only other underwater robotics program is MATE ROV which is geared toward high school students. Which brings me to the second differentiator, SeaPerch is geared primarily to elementary and secondary school students.
Going on its third year, SeaPerch Hawaii attracted 30 teams this year to compete at the statewide qualifying round at the Coast Guard Base on Sand Island. The teams had two challenges to maneuver, an obstacle course and a finesse course. In the obstacle course, the underwater vehicles needed to maneuver through 5 rings. For the finesse course, there were three tasks. The first goal was to push a lever, the second task was to then to pick up a rod and place it into a pipe and the third was to slide a colored ring from one side of a ladder rung to the other. Each challenge had a 3 minute time limit.
Teams that make it through these qualifiers move on to the 2015 National SeaPerch Challenge to be held on May 29 – 30 at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.
SeaPerch model designed for obstacle course
The SeaPerch kits are preconfigured but teams have the flexibility to add modified floatation devices in lieu of the supplied foam. I saw several vehicles using drink canisters. Each vehicle has three propeller motors controlled by an operator. I found it interesting how operators were reliant on spotters whose role was to watch the vehicle (from the surface) and relay directional instructions on which way to go. To do this they used their smartphones, not part of the SeaPerch kits.
The Office of Naval Research is overall sponsor for SeaPerch. Community logistics and support provided by the Coast Guard, not to mention all the parents and teachers who also provide support and mentorship. The volunteer network to orchestrate the competition was quite impressive, from judges, announcers, data entry to spotters in the pool. A lot of work went into implementing this program.
SeaPerch is a STEM feeder program that introduces students to underwater dynamics, electronics and marine engineering. As a launch point, SeaPerch students can continue onto MATE ROV or any of the other robotics programs and to perhaps on to a career in science or engineering.
Moon RIDERS: Research Investigating Dust Expulsion Removal Systems is a unique collaboration that involves NASA, PISCES, Google Lunar XPrize, Dept of Education, Iolani High School and Kealakehe High School. It’s rare to have such a diverse public private partnership involving a public and private school, and MoonRIDERS is being touted as a first for Hawaii. Both schools have an opportunity to build and operate an experiment on the surface of the moon.
Interestingly, a major problem with extraterrestrial landings is dust. Eons of dust, layer upon layer of this fine as flour, rough as sandpaper particles, get kicked up during a landing and can cause havoc with equipment and flight suits. This became evident to NASA since our first lunar landings.
Electrodynamic Dust Shield
NASA researchers like Carlos Calle worked to refine a method to remove surface dust called Electrodynamic Dust Shield (EDS). Using a phase shifted alternating current the EDS moved the dust particles off the surface of glass. This dust shield is just one aspect of the mission student teams from Iolani and Kealakehe will test. The EDS unit needs to be mounted to the base of a lunar lander but in order to get an assessment of it’s relative position an entire mockup of the lander needs to be fabricated.
The Iolani team using their maker facility at Sullivan Center fabricated a quarter size mockup of the Astrobotic Lunar Rover called the Griffin. The Kealakehe team is working on an alternative rover designed by EarthRise Space Foundation. Both teams started at the beginning of this academic year (Sept 2014) and are now at the stage of an engineering field test in March 2015 on Mauna Kea at a PISCES test site.
During the March field test the mockups will go through a series of tests to simulate a lunar landing. They teams will also have a chance to test the EDS and make recommendations on how to measure its performance. In addition to fabrication and testing the teams also engage in outreach as STEM ambassadors. Both the Iolani and Kealakehe teams have MoonRIDERS websites and social media sites including Twitter and Instagram. The Iolani team consist primarily of junior and senior level students but part of their mission is to introduce the project to lower school 3rd graders at Iolani and eventual take the show on the road to other schools.
This outreach effort is important since MoonRIDERS will outlast some of the students currently involved as they graduate from school. The timeline for the launch date is late 2016. But even after the launch, the hope is there will be future payload projects that will involve Hawaii high school teams, a critical role for PISCES and NASA as the enabler. Rob Kelso, Executive Director of PISCES said, “For students to go into an interview for college or job and be able to say they were part of a flight experiment that today is sitting on the surface of the Moon. What a testimony to their hard work!” Now the goal is to get more Hawaii students into this STEM pipeline, to share in this game changing experience and to create high value 21st century skills.
Excited about the prospect of creating makerspaces in some of our public libraries, I submitted the following testimony and attended the SB1278 hearing by the Senate Education Committee.
I strongly support SB1278, Relating to Libraries. There is growing environment in Hawaii for entrepreneurship, startup formation and tech innovation, and makerspaces are fertile ground for idea sharing, capacity building and peer support.
In an effort to build an innovation ecosystem, there needs to be places where people gather to share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build. Makerspaces fill a void for people who have a great idea but need the support structure to help see that idea become a reality. A makerspace functions as a physical space where technological experimentation, hardware development, and idea prototyping can take place.
You often find makerspace in academic environments. Local high schools like Kalani and Iolani have makerspaces for students to build projects. But once a student leaves school facilities like these are rare. Oahu has two notable makerspace, Oahu Makerspace in Kakaako and HiCapacity in Manoa.
The libraries offer an opportunity to spread this capability to areas not currently served by existing commercial makerspaces. It also serves as a place where subject matter expertise from the community can participate in mentoring budding entrepreneurs and makers. Libraries seem a perfect place for makerspaces since they are already places for self-directed learning and knowledge sharing.
The committee passed the bill unamended:
The committee(s) on EDU recommend(s) that the measure be PASSED, UNAMENDED. The votes in EDU were as follows: 8 Aye(s): Senator(s) Kidani, Harimoto, Chun Oakland, Keith-Agaran, Kouchi, Nishihara, L. Thielen, Slom; Aye(s) with reservations: none ; 0 No(es): none; and 1 Excused: Senator(s) Dela Cruz.
Both Stacie Kanno, Interim State Librarian and I testified in person. The Senators were intrigued with the idea and asked questions like: Would librarians need to learn new skills to support a makerspace? What are some proposed models for the future of libraries? Will there be a day when libraries don’t carry books? Do the libraries envision building dedicated wings for makerspaces? What libraries could be possible sites?
Stacie did a great job expressing interest in the libraries embracing this idea which went over well with the Senators. I was there to speak for the support the libraries could tap for the makerspaces, in the form of mentors and subject matter experts. I emphasized the need for the libraries and the community to discuss how to best take advantage of this opportunity. Also as a pilot program how would this be evaluated and measured in the hopes that it could expand to more libraries. This might be a good topic for the upcoming Unconferenz 2015.
I concluded my testimony by suggesting that libraries already have gigabit Internet access and this added benefit for the participants in the makerspace might yield interesting content projects. Also, if established they have a media friend in Bytemarks Cafe.
Three years later, the HIA continues to survive primarily as a Facebook group, with online discussions motivated by key individuals like Jared Kuroiwa, Peter Kay, Derek Gabriel, Ryan Hew and others. Interestingly, the group has not met face-to-face to discuss plans to organize, although many of the individuals know each other — until now.
Jared Kuroiwa, Jason Axelson, Sen. Glenn Wakai, Spencer Toyama, Burt Lum (l-r)
The question whether there is a voice for tech in Hawaii still remains. It came up repeatedly during a Hawaii Venture Capital Association lunch in January 2015. It was also a topic of conversation at the f2f gathering of the HIA. Jared Kuroiwa along with Robbie Melton, help moderated the discussion and summarized the following conclusions in the Facebook Group:
Investigate having a “technology group” within the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii (or other organization).
Look at if there are enough people wanting to form our own organization/501cX (pledge vote coming up).
HIA will still track bills and will have a wiki.innovationhawaii.com site set up to make it easier for people to find things.
HIA will continue to work with other tech organizations to form a unified position. If you are a leader (or member) of other tech groups, please feel free to share.
Derek Gabriel made a strong case for #1. Consulting with Len Higashi (HTDC) and with strong support from Sen. Glenn Wakai, the idea of joining an existing business association like the Chamber made a lot of sense. The organizational structure already exists and credibility established. The Chamber already has an Economic Development and Innovation Committee. Companies and individuals only need to spend the money, somewhere between $150 – $300 to join.
With case #2, Ryan Hew continues to be willing to provide the services, gratis I might add, to form a 501cX organization for the HIA. He has graciously offered this from day one and continues to do so. The challenge here, and probably the main reason it has not happened since that first meeting in Feb 2012 is that once the organization has filed the paperwork, the hard and laborious work begins. Maintaining a 501cX requires a dedication to administrative work that very few have the time or resource to commit to. So as much as an independent HIA as a 501cX is appealing, until someone steps up to work the day to day details, HIA will most likely continue as a Facebook group.
With item #3, Jason Axelson volunteered to set up a wiki for the group. One complaint expressed was that information about the original charter for HIA was hard to find. It is scattered between the Facebook group and the website HawaiiInnovation.com. One good thing over the years is the Charter has remained consistent:
The Hawaii Innovation Alliance (HIA) aims to create a more unified voice representing the islands’ innovation community (technology, startups, entrepreneurs, new and social media, etc.) to foster innovation, educate lawmakers, and advocate appropriate policy.
Finally, it may not be a bad thing to have HIA continue as loose gathering of individuals, dialoging on Facebook. The tech/innovation community speaks through many organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce, High Tech Development Corp., Hawaii Venture Capital Association, Hawaii Business Roundtable and Enterprise Honolulu. Having one more formal organization may not be the most productive. What is productive is building an informed community well versed in the issues. HIA may not 100% of the time agree on which bills to support, but its individual participants can still submit testimony and that voice according to Sen Wakai is still a very valuable one.
While visiting the Capitol on Opening Day, I saw Rep. Angus McKelvey with his GoPro strapped to his head recording his conversations with visitors. It was cool, but that GoPro was quite noticeable on his forehead. I wondered what local company FlyWire Cameras had as an alternative.
One thing lead to another and we had a opportunity to showcase FlyWire on our Geek Beat segment on Hawaii News Now’s Sunrise. In setting up the segment I thought it would be fun to initially wear the FlyWire and then hand it off to Dan Cooke to wear. In the handoff, the cameraman zoomed into the camera, eyewear and the DVR unit giving us a chance to talk about it. Dan then puts it on to conduct the interview. Here is the FPV of the segment.
You can watch the Hawaii News Now segment here and compare. It’s interesting to watch from the point of view of the interviewer. You get the behind the scenes view from inside the scene itself.
If you want to find out more about FlyWire Cameras please visit their website and their Youtube channel. Ryan also did an excellent piece about FlyWire and the experience on his blog. The company just completed their demo day pitch at 500 Startups today, Friday, Jan 30, 2015 in the Bay Area. We wish them the best of luck. I would not be surprised if investors start throwing money their way.
Oh and finally, I got an email from Rep. McKelvey today saying he bought himself a FlyWire!
I went ahead and bought a Flywire camera to use because better picture and sound (and because you recommended it).
Peter Hirai, Deputy Director of the Dept. of Emergency Management
The City & County of Honolulu, Dept of Emergency Management (DEM) has been offering Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training for more than a decade but this is the first time they brought everyone together to discuss community organizing. Previously if you completed CERT training you would not be able to find out who in your neighborhood also completed training due to privacy concerns. This policy made it difficult for anyone to contact other CERT members thereby slowing down efforts to organize community groups.
Several communities like Manoa, Ewa Beach and Waimanalo, through shear force of will and motivation created teams of CERT graduates that meet regularly to discuss disaster preparedness. Areas like Manoa and Ewa Beach have even conducted preparedness fairs to grow community awareness.
The format for today’s Meet and Greet was to provide a quick overview of the CERT program and then give people a chance to meet others in their area. If you were from an area with an established group, then you were welcomed into the group. If you were from an area without a group, like Pearl City, Aiea or Kalihi then you are starting from scratch. Taking it to the next level requires a lot of time and sustained commitment.
To DEM’s credit, they will support the efforts of new CERT communities by attending meetings to aid organizers. Another new offering by DEM is to provide refresher CERT classes, focussing on perishable skills. A third area they are considering is exercising the CERT teams through community exercises or incorporating CERT in statewide Makani Pahili exercises.
These are some of the ideas being considered and it appears DEM is making a concerted effort to further nurture CERT community building. They will even provide custom training based on your needs and schedule. In my opinion, whether you are part of an organized community or an individual interested in being disaster prepared, you can not go wrong with going through the CERT program. Oh, and I failed to mention, it is all free.
More pixels, faster pixels and better pixels were the key message points from NHK’s demonstration of their 8K broadcast system in Japan. The Japanese public broadcaster announced their plans to skip 4K and go straight to 8K. At a resolution of 7680×4320, screens pack in an ultra high definition image of 33 megapixels per frame, at a frame rate of 120Hz. The details in the demo reel were amazingly clear, but you would expect nothing less.
NHK 8K Demonstration
As a broadcaster, NHK aims to test in 2016 and in 2018 provide commercial broadcasting with a goal in 2020 to cover the Tokyo Olympics. The demonstration is less about the television monitors to display the content – there are a lot of manufacturers optimizing displays. Instead NHK is working out the transmission requirements. They estimate 100Mbps circuits for streaming content.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg as far as infrastructure goes. Between the content creation and the receivers there are satellites, cable, wired and wireless systems, data centers and content delivery networks to consider. All of this infrastructure still needs to be built in order for widespread 8K delivery to succeed. In the U.S. we are still asking ourselves where the 4K content is, let alone ubiqutious high speed broadband. As lofty a goal as NHK has set, at least Japan is pushing the limit of this technology, 2018 will come sooner than you think and if successful will leap frog systems in the U.S.
Someone new to the islands came up to me at the recent Startup Paradise Demo Day and said there are a lot of people in the tech community. Compared to 15 years ago, I think that is true. When you take snapshot views like this it becomes clear the tech community has grown considerably. The main difference in my mind is the number of young people (to me everyone looks young) that have joined the ranks. Programs like Blue Startups, XLR8UH and Energy Excelerator have done wonders to nurture the up and coming young entrepreneurs, something we did not have 15 years ago.
To close out the program Energy Excelerator brought on stage three interns from Hawaii Pacific University and the RISE program who worked within the three energy companies. It’s rare to see interns featured in a program but it worked well for this demo day. They were billed as the next generation of entrepreneur and the organizers did a good job of demonstrating the potential pathway from college into to startup. Although intuitively obvious, but not often well executed, having a continual pipeline of graduates looking to start new companies is key to a healthy ecosystem. It appears the concerted effort demonstrated at Startup Paradise shows the focus on nurturing this pipeline.
It will be interesting to follow not only the companies graduating from the accelerator programs but also the accelerators themselves. Karl Fooks from the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation told me that he is not seeking any funding from the 2015 Legislative session. Previous sessions helped fund LAVA and the Hi Growth Initiative. Chenoa Farnsworth, Managing Director of Blue Startups, said they have enough money to go another year. They received funding from LAVA and from founder Henk Rogers. To reach sustainability and to eliminate the need for public money, Blue Startups will need to cash in on their equity stakes in successful startups. So if this model is successful, we should see some of the graduating companies reaching a point of acquisition to trigger a liquidity event. To see this in the fourth year would be awesome but if they do seek public money to continue for a couple more years, I think it is well worth it. The momentum created with #StartupParadise needs to continue to grow and thrive.
We all know Internet access in Hawaii can really test your patience. I have a cable modem from Oceanic Time Warner and DSL from Hawaiian Telcom. Both are in two different locations and are at the basic service level. Over the years Oceanic has increased their service offering. I now get about 16M down and 1.2M up. My Hawaiian Telcom DSL has pretty much stayed the same at 1M down an 1M up. I can barely stream any video on my DSL without stalls for buffering.
There was an effort initiated by DCCA a few years back to map your broadband access by running speed tests and reporting the results. This effort seemed to have had marginal impact as a data gathering tool for assessing broadband infrastructure. DCCA is now launching another project to measure your broadband speeds but in a more automated fashion. Volunteers are being recruited to install a “whitebox” onto their network to measure broadband speeds when the network is idle. If you are interested in being part of this project you can sign up for the program here.
Much of Hawaii’s broadband agenda originates from the Broadband Assistance Advisory Council. Their last meeting of 2014 was on Nov 12, 2014. You can find the agenda here. With all the attention on broadband being one of the key enablers for a thriving tech industry, this is the group to watch. Attend their meetings, they are open to the public, and you be the judge whether they are meeting the goals set in the Hawaii Broadband Strategic Plan.
Please join us for the screening of ‘The Internet’s Own Boy’ on Friday, Sept. 5th at 6:30 p.m. at Kaka’ako Agora. Sign up here.
Then come back to join us for a discussion of the film and a workshop on open knowledge on Saturday, Sept. 6th from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. We will brainstorm action plans and prototype tactics to liberate more open government data. Bring your creativity and appetite. RSVP required for lunch count. Lunch only applies to workshop attendees. Thanks!
The Internet’s Own Boy follows the story of programming prodigy and information activistAaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron’s story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.