Category Archives: technology

Some Of You Will Love This Video. Others Will Splutter With Rage.

A video — with the innocuous title “Welcome to Westport” — has been rocketing around the interwebs. At least, that portion of cyberspace that is interested in all things our town-related.

It certainly does not make our town look like Our Town.

Created by Nick Ribolla — a very smart, multi-talented (Players, choir) and energetic Staples High School junior — it offers a teenager’s cynical eye on his hometown. As of last night, it had been viewed nearly 10,000 times.

With jangly music, clever cinematography and near-professional editing, Nick takes on (and down) much of Westport life: our values, our diversity, our drivers, our downtown.

Nick Ribolla, introducing his video.

Nick Ribolla, introducing his video.

More than a dozen “06880” readers have emailed me the link. Some think it’s hilarious. Others have called it “offensive,” “childish” and “anti-Semitic.”

I think Nick has treated everyone equally cynically. (For the record: He’s Brazilian, and a good friend in the video is Indian.)

There are hits and misses. (Though everyone will agree the scene outside Toquet Hall is spot on.)

Driving laws, Nick notes, are

Westport driving laws, Nick notes, are “completely unnecessary.”

It’s something I probably would have made when I was at Staples if I were as talented as Nick, and had all kinds of modern technology at my disposal.

And if I had made it then, I’d probably look back on it now and say, “Wow — that was pretty good. But I can’t believe I actually said…”

Judge for yourself. Here’s the video. Then click “Comments,” to let everyone know how much you do or don’t welcome “Welcome to Westport.” (If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.)

Towering Over Greens Farms Road

Remember that 120-foot cell tower proposed for a private residence on Greens Farms Road?

It’s on hold — but drivers in the area have recently noticed a smaller tower, near — but not on — the property in question.

Emergency response tower - Greens Farms Road

Hold your texts and emails (if you can get a signal). This is not that cell tower.

It’s Westport’s Emergency Response System — and it’s been there since the mid-1980s. It was installed to warn residents of impending disasters (I’m just guessing, but say, a truck accident involving toxic chemicals on nearby I-95).

The proposed cell tower will be 75 to 100 feet taller than this structure.

So why are people just now noticing it?

A widening project on Greens Farms Road (including a new turning lane onto Hillspoint, visible in the photo above), and resulting deforestation of the area, has made the Emergency Response System more prominent.

As for the cell tower: neighbors, local officials and state legislators are still working to prevent its construction on private property, in a residential zone. The town continues to seek an alternative site on state DOT property.

 

The Entire Memorial Day Parade — In Less Than A Minute

Maybe you watched the entire Memorial Day parade this year. Or you marched in it, so you saw only the Y’s Men or Suzuki violinists in front of you.

Perhaps you slept in. Or you’re 3,000 miles from Westport.

Whatever happened this morning, here’s a chance to relive the entire parade — in 59 seconds.

Nick Pisarro — a Westport resident (off and on) since 1951 — created this fantastic time-lapse video.

It’s got everyone, and everything. You just have to look close — and keep your finger on the pause button.

Bedford Middle Schoolers Head To Olympics

In just their 2nd year of existence, Bedford Middle School’s Science Olympiad team won the state championship.

There’s no telling how far they’ll go now.

Well, actually there is. They’re headed to University of Nebraska, for the national tournament next month.

The 21 middle schoolers compete in a grueling “academic track meet.” They are judged in 23 events, covering topics like earth science, epidemiology, ecology, topography, chemistry, anatomy, entomology, forensics, physics, geology, environmental science, robotics, and mechanical/engineering construction.

The youngsters designed a wooden glider launched by rubber bands, as well as a robot that can pick up small objects and move them around. They’ve also studied a crime scene (including chromatography, fingerprints and soil patterns), then written an essay about who did what (and how).

The Bedford Middle School Science Olympiad team. (Photo/Casey Donahue)

The Bedford Middle School Science Olympiad team. (Photo/Casey Donahue)

The Science Olympiad program was introduced at Bedford by principal Adam Rosen — a former participant himself.

Teachers Art Ellis and Rebecca Kaplan run it as a club. Students put hundreds of hours into preparation — after school nearly every day, and some Saturdays too.

They’ve accomplished a lot. But they can’t do everything alone.

Now — as they prepare for their trip to the nationals — they’re trying to raise $30,000, to cover airfare, buses, accommodations, meals and supplies for the Olympians and chaperones. A GoFundMe webpage has started them on their way.

Team members include Mark Ballesteros, Ethan Chin, Genevieve Domenico, Tyler Edwards, Chet Ellis, Tommy Fabian, Anna Hill, Angela Ji, Vignesh Kareddy, Zach Katz, Charlie Kleeger, Augustin Liu, Maria Maisonet, Aniruddha Murali, Nishika Navrange, Swami Parimal, Sirnia Prasad, Jory Teltser, Alex Tsang and Derek Ye.

Maker Faire: Westport’s Greatest Collection Of Nerds, Geeks, And Way Cool People

Westport’s 4th annual Mini Maker Faire is in full swing today. Up to 6,000 creative, inventive folks of all ages are expected to flood Jesup Green and the library. They’ll spend the day building, designing, creating, hacking, learning, connecting, eating, drinking, listening and playing.

And that’s just at one of the hundreds of interactive, interdisciplinary, interesting exhibits.

The Maker Faire runs till 4 p.m. today (Saturday, April 25). The inspiration will last forever.

“The Great Fredini” is constructing an entire scale model of Coney Island, with a 3D printer. Faire-goers could have their own body scanned — and printed — to be included.

Anyone can play regular foosball. It takes a certain type of person to be part of a human foosball game.

Anyone can play regular foosball. It takes a certain type of person to be part of a human foosball game.

Getting set for the Nerdy Derby: a Pinewood Derby with no rules.

Getting set for the Nerdy Derby: a Pinewood Derby with no rules.

A scavenger hunt includes -- naturally -- QR codes. As noted, this event was developed by the Kids' Committee.

A scavenger hunt includes — naturally — QR codes. As noted, this event was developed by kids. Participants earned a free download of digital goodies; the randomly selected 1st prize was a gift certificate to robotics camp.

Where can you find a real live violin-maker? At the Maker Faire, of course.

Where can you find a real live cello-maker? At the Maker Faire, of course.

But sometimes it was fun just to play with a low-tech toy: the sculpture outside the library.

Sometimes it was fun just to play with a low-tech toy: the sculpture outside the library.

Come One, Come All To The Maker Faire!

It’s crunch week, as organizers get ready for Saturday’s 4th annual Mini Maker Faire.

6,000 attendees are expected at Connecticut’s largest event focused on creativity and innovation.

Naturally, you can expect the unexpected. Like a Human Foosball table, a Nerdy Derby (Pinewood Derby with no rules), and Marshamllow Shooters.

It takes human beings to design and make a Human  Foosball Table. Hard at work last weekend were (from left) Cecilia Fung, Kerstin Rao, Michael Miller, Vijay  Rao and Jeff Boak.

It takes human beings to design and make a Human Foosball Table. Hard at work last weekend were (from left) Cecilia Fung, Kerstin Rao, Michael Miller, Vijay Rao and Jeff Boak.

The event has quickly become a highlight on Westport’s annual calendar. Over 100 “Maker” exhibitors — specializing in arts and crafts, science and engineering, robots and rockets, electric cars, boats, sustainable living, even puppets — will open their arms to anyone who likes to tinker (or hang out with those who do).

It’s a family friendly day — meaning (of course) there’s food and music too.

The poster says: “Make. Build. Design. Hack. Eat. Drink. Listen. Learn. Connect. Create. Play.”

Need another reason to go? If you register for free tickets online (to help make sure there’s enough “stuff” for everyone) — and bring your printed-out ticket to the Maker Faire — you’ll be entered in a contest to win a 3D printer.

You were expecting maybe a gift certificate? How un-Faire.

The Mini Maker Faire is this Saturday (April 25, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.) at Jesup Green and the Westport Library. Click here for more information.

Maker Faire poster

Robot World

Westport robots may soon take over the world.

Or at least the Robot World Championships.

A local team — i²robotics — has qualified for that prestigious event. The 25-team event will be held April 22-26 in St. Louis. i² — comprised of 9 Staples High School students — is the only Connecticut high school-aged team there. (It is not, however, an official Staples organization.)

But they won’t even be the only Westport robotics squad in St. Louis. Team SNAP — Coleytown Middle School 8th graders Theo Davis, Nick Durkin, John McNab and Daniel Westphal — will be there too. They’re part of the FIRST Lego League World Festival for younger students, held at the same time.

Team members include co-captains Alex Davis and Peter Sauer, plus Ken Asada, Ben Davis, Julian Garrison, Kiran Nandagopal, Luke Sauer, Julia Schorr and Alex Somlo. The coach is Terry Sauer.

Team members include co-captains Alex Davis and Peter Sauer, plus Ken Asada, Ben Davis, Julian Garrison, Kiran Nandagopal, Luke Sauer, Julia Schorr and Alex Somlo. The coach is Terry Sauer.

The tournaments are sponsored by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a non-profit that uses a sports model to inspire students about STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math).

It also teaches marketing, collaboration, public speaking, writing, videography, public relations and business skills (like budgeting, fundraising and pitching sponsors).

For this year’s tournament, the high school i² team had to build a robot that could fill “goals” with Wiffle- and golf-sized balls, ascend a ramp, and perform other tasks. At times the robot is autonomous; at other times it is driver-controlled.

At one point this season, i²’s robot held the world record for the most amount of points in a match.

i² has reached out to the local community for funds — and given back too. They raised $2,000 for FIRST in Haiti. They also developed a Mars Rover simulator for Bridgeport’s Discovery Museum, which will be brought to local schools.

Now they’re seeking more funds, to pay for World Championship registration fees, travel and robot parts. Their Indiegogo page is here. It’s run by humans.

It Was 20 Years Ago Today: Coleytown Consoled Oklahoma City Kids

In April 1995, online providers like CompuServe and Delphi charged by the hour, and by modem speed.

So it took a tragedy like the Oklahoma City bombing — on April 19, 1995 — for Westport realtor Mary Palmieri Gai to spend time on the fledgling internet. She felt compelled to see what other people were thinking, and find emotional support.

Many in the Oklahoma City area flocked online too. Students in particular were very afraid.

Suddenly, Mary had an idea: bring together local youngsters, and those 1500 miles away. Her daughter Melissa helped facilitate an important, human connection, through the computers at Coleytown Middle School.

To see what happened, click the YouTube video below:

(If your browser does not bring you directly to YouTube, click here.)

Fancy Meeting You Here!

The tagline of “06880” is “Where Westport meets the world.”

One part of that world: South By Southwest.

David Pogue and Mark Mathias at SXSW

Westport Board of Education member/Maker Faire founder/tech enthusiast Mark Mathias and Westport resident/tech writer/video star/guru David Pogue met each other by chance earlier today, at the annual kick-ass tech/interactive conference in Austin.

No word on whether they discussed the next big thing in technology, or how SoNo Baking Company will compare to Java.

Tom Sachs: Boombox Master

Tom Sachs is a noted contemporary artist. He’s interested, Wikipedia says, in “the phenomena of consumerism, branding, and the cultural fetishization of products.”

Tom Sachs (Photo/Ben Sklar for the NY Times)

Tom Sachs (Photo/Ben Sklar for the NY Times)

He’s featured — fittingly? ironically? — in a 3-page spread in today’s ad-filled New York Times Style Magazine. The hook is Sachs’ current show: “Boombox Retrospective: 1999-2015,” at the Contemporary Austin museum.

It’s a tribute, the Times says, to “the portable music players that occupied center stage in popular culture from the mid-’70s to the late ’80s, from the golden age of disco to hip-hop.”

Sachs was growing up in the middle of that — glorious? horrible? time — right here in our town.

It was in Westport, the Times reports, that the budding artist first “improvised a tape deck by attaching his Sony Walkman to a pair of mini-speakers using scraps of plywood and Velcro.”

Since then, the story continues, “all of his art has been an elaboration on that little contraption. Sachs is a tinkerer, a man for whom tinkering doubles as a virtuoso craft and a spiritual pursuit.”

"Presidential Vampire," one of Tom Sachs' boombox creations. (Photo/TomSachs.org)

“Presidential Vampire,” one of Tom Sachs’ boombox creations. (Photo/TomSachs.org)

All of the boomboxes in Sachs’ Austin show actually function. Each has a different –appropriate? thought-provoking? — playlist, created by the artist, his friends and exhibit visitors.

“The boomboxes flaunt their usual Sachsian scars, the rough-hewn edges and glops of silicone and epoxy,” the Times says. “They are witty; some of the pieces make you laugh out loud.”

Author Jody Rosen adds:

The boombox was a symbol of protest, defiance and youth; it symbolized the aggressive swagger of rap, which began its conquest of the cultural mainstream in the early 1980s. It was a flashpoint of racial politics: The derisive term “ghetto blaster” was coined by critics who associated boomboxes with lawlessness and urban decay.

But more than rebellion, the boombox represented community and communication. It was a talisman linking the black and Latino creators of hip-hop, and a beacon calling to outsiders like Sachs, who were seduced by the new music and the vibrant culture surrounding it.

And it all started for Tom Sachs back in the Gerald Ford years, on the mean, boombox-filled streets of Westport.

(To read the entire story — “Grandmaster Sachs” — click here.)

Tom Sachs' "Toyan's" was inspired by Jamaican street parties. (Photo/Ben Sklar for NY Times)

Tom Sachs’ “Toyan’s” was inspired by Jamaican street parties. (Photo/Ben Sklar for NY Times)