Category Archives: technology

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)

 

Happy Anniversary To Me. Now Pony Up!

This week, “06880” turns 6 years old. My blog has already lasted longer than “The Twilight Zone” (5 years). And it will soon surpass “I Love Lucy” (6).

Both of which — as alert readers know — have very strong Westport ties.

That’s the thing about “06880”: You never know what you’re going to get. But whatever it is, there will be some connection to this town.

When I hurled my 1st post into cyberspace in 2009 — click here for that baby — I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

If spring ever comes, you'll read about it first on "06880."

If spring ever comes, you’ll read about it first on “06880.”

I thought I’d offer some moderately interesting stories about the people, places, events and history that make this town our home. My goal was 1 post a day.

I had no idea — even though my tagline was “Where Westport meets the world” — that I would find connections everywhere: from Broadway to the Boston Marathon bombings, from Saugatuck to Syria.

I had no idea either that so many talented, accomplished people could suck so bad at parking. I did not realize that — right here at home — so many amazing people are doing such amazing things. Children, teenagers, busy businesspeople, retirees, merchants, volunteers — this town rocks the universe.

That 1 post a day is now, sometimes, 4 or 5. In 6 years, I’ve posted more than 4,200 stories. You’ve read this far, so I’m guessing you like at least some of them.

For me, “06880” is a labor of love.

But like any love, it takes work.

As “06880” has grown, so have the hours I spend on it.

Will work for food.

Will work for food.

There’s writing, sure. But also interviewing, researching, responding to comments (public and private), moderating comments (removing those from people who do not use full, real names), taking and sizing and framing photos, and scouring the web for appropriate (and occasionally inappropriate) graphics.

I spend a few bucks too. I pay to keep “06880” ad-free. I pay for domain mapping. I pay for photo-editing software.

So, once a year — on my anniversary — I put out my tin cup.

If you like what you read, please consider supporting “06880.”

Am I worth $1 a month? $1 a week? Perhaps (my choice!) $1 a day.

If my 4,200 stories are worth a penny each, that’s $42. If half of them are worth a dime each, that’s $210. I’ll leave other calculations to you.

I hope that if “06880” has ever

  • made you laugh, cry, think or wonder
  • spurred you to go to an event, read a book, try a restaurant or patronize a store
  • kept you up to date in a blizzard, hurricane, windstorm or power outage
  • alerted you to a new housing or zoning development in town
  • delivered news about a favorite person or store
  • galvanized you to support a cause
  • helped publicize your event, book, appearance or concert
  • published your photo
  • paid tribute to someone you loved or admired
  • connected you to your hometown from many miles away
  • opened a window on Westport’s history, helped you think about its future, introduced you to someone in town you never knew, or helped you look at someone or someplace in a new way
  • given you a voice in the “Comments” section
  • inspired you
  • made you sit up and say “Wow!” (or “holy f—!”)

— you will consider tossing something my way.

Only a suggestion.

Only a suggestion.

Thanks for 6 great years. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, whether anyone sends an anniversary gift or not.

We’ll still have our now-annual summer “06880” party at the beach. Plus the weekly photo challenge.

But hey. You tip a taxi driver you don’t even know for a 5-minute ride, right?

You can donate by PayPalclick here. It’s easy (and safe)! You don’t even need a PayPal account. If you get an error message, try www.paypal.comthen log in, create an account, or send money from the drop-down menu by entering this email address: dwoog@optonline.net. Or click the “Donate” button on the home page of “06880.”

Checks may be mailed to:  Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880.  Put “06880″ on the memo line.  It won’t do anything for the IRS, but it may help you remember at tax time why you sent me something.

Is this a great town, or what? (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Is this a great town, or what? (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Library’s Latest Shout-Out: Forbes.com

Forbes may be “the capitalist tool.” But it’s got a soft spot for a certain everyone’s-equal space: the Westport Library.

Forbes-logoForbes.com carries a story — “Remarkable Lessons in Innovation From a Public Library” — by Westporter Bruce Kasanoff.

He begins: “There are two ways to run a public library in a small town: the traditional way, or the Maxine Bleiweis way.”

After praising the director for being “a vibrant tool for bringing out the best in others,” he cites her for not knowing the definition of “can’t.” Her library, he says, can be “noisy, boisterous, provocative, outrageous (and) entertaining.”

Kasanoff adds that Bleiweis’ best talent may be bringing out talents in other people. He cites these traits that we all should emulate:

Boldness: If it will benefit the library, Maxine will ask anyone to do anything. She enlists CTOs of Fortune 50 companies, top journalists, famous authors, and a huge corps of enthusiastic volunteers. Just as importantly, she always has a bold idea and a few “asks” ready; if she spots you in the library, the odds are 100 to 1 that she’ll tell you about her latest projects and how you can help.

Westport Library director Maxine Bleiweis has often enlisted the help of David Pogue. The Westport-based tech writer-video star-guru happily obliges.

Westport Library director Maxine Bleiweis has often enlisted the help of David Pogue. The Westport-based tech guru-writer-video star happily obliges.

Warmth: The Westport Library is partially funded by the town, and also depends on donations from its supporters. There’s never enough money, especially now that the library is embarking on a capital campaign to reshape the building to be much more of a gathering, social and performance space. Leaders in such an environment don’t get to bark orders. Maxine leads with warmth, charm and enthusiasm. She understands that her role is to be uplifting and aspirational.

Imagination: What if we turned the middle of the library into a Makerspace? Could we teach kids to program computers by buying two Aldebaran robots for them to program? Maxine discovered the answers to both these questions was “yes.”

The Westport Library's Makerspace has a prominent position in the midst of the Great Hall.

The Westport Library’s Makerspace has a prominent position in the Great Hall.

Kasanoff concludes:

Maxine taught an entire town not to be limited by outdated conceptions of what you or your organization is supposed to be doing. She showed an entire generation that you are limited only by your own imagination, creativity and willingness to whatever it takes to bring your dream to life.

Most importantly, she showed us what happens when people with diverse talents, abilities and interests work together to uplift a community. The answer, of course, is that magic happens.