Friday, February 6, 2009

Marathon Weeks, Post 1

This picture was taken by another NCLUG member, I forget who at the moment. You can see me tweaking the code for guitar-playing robot, though. You can also click on that picture to go to flickr, where there are more photos from LEGOPalooza. Mike Walsh has rounded up some photos and videos from LEGOPalooza over at the NCLUG site. Normally I'd be doing that sort of thing, but I've been very busy these past few weeks - the three days of LEGOPalooza have been surrounded by coursework, homework, a FOSS Fair, a two-day career fair, and a variety of smaller events and BrickLink orders.

I had a pretty interesting set-up at Palooza for my robot band (one of several displays I was "running" essentially by myself, and the only one I was able to actually keep an eye on) - a dual monitor set-up much like I got used to working on iTrust last semester (Oops, haven't blogged that yet either). I had originally planned on doing some things with LEGO Vision Command, as the previous post suggests, but I ultimately wound up putting the camera away (after a kid said "he's recording us" I realized that it's actually quite creepy to leave a camera out if you're not doing something with it) and showing off IDE's and code on the monitor facing outward.

This lead to an interesting situation - during LEGOPalooza, I spent much of my weekend talking about code, open-source, LEJOS, Bricx CC, NXC, various pbricks, etc, and not much time focusing on LEGO. During Monday (which I had written off as booked due to the FOSS Fair I attended), I wound up going to an amateur robotics meeting and talking LEGO. Not that I mind, but it's certainly unusual.

That's not even the worst of the whiplash of the past two weeks. On Saturday at LEGOPalooza, I had kids coming up to me that recognized my robotic band from my most recent appearance on the LAML Radio podcast and was asked some questions by numerous newspaper reporters (only article I've successfully dug up featuring me so far is in the Daily Tar Heel, UNC's student paper). People I'd never met before were acting like I was someone famous, and I guess in the online LEGO community, I sort of am (in spite of how few of my own models I've actually posted). On Thursday, I was at a career fair being asked if anything sets me apart from my classmates (the list of things I can actually put on a resume is surprisingly short). On the bright side, at least I had something to say when people asked if I had any embedded C experience (everybody forgets that NXT programming is technically a form of cross-compiling for an embedded device)...

I intend to post a bit more recapping this past week (LEGOPalooza in particular, since I know most people who read this are LEGO people and not software people or graduating Computer Science majors) soon, but that's probably about it for today.

One last thing, though: My family has moved suddenly twice now because of work shortly before a LEGO store has opened in our area (we lived in southern New Hampshire shortly before the first store in northern Massachusetts opened, and we moved out of Sammamish, WA, just as the Bellevue store opened minutes away from where I was attending college at the time). I've been joking for a while that Raleigh, NC will get a LEGO store as soon as I have to move away. Although I don't have any serious job offers yet, it's hard not to take the news that we're getting a LEGO store in mid-May as a sign that I'll be working elsewhere shortly after graduation (in early May). We'll see, I guess, and if I don't get something lined up by May, perhaps I'll just apply there - I certainly don't have any issue proving credentials as a LEGO nut. I'm not making any long-term plans, though, just in case I do end up moving out of the Triangle area.


James said...

Very cool stuff Dan.

A quick question, did you say that kids came up to you that had heard you on LAML? Not sure if I read that right...

Dan said...

Yes! I actually had a few LAML-related experiences there. One person actually joined NCLUG and showed off some awesome microscale versions of 1970's sets - all after hearing me mention the show on the podcast. I forget where Thomas Main is from, but I got the impression that he decided to make the trip out for our big show based on hearing about it on LAML (even though he's too far away to make it out for our regular meetings).

I think the combination of knowing that this was our big event for the year and hearing about it on LAML brought quite a few people out of the woodwork who normally don't bother with NCLUG things. Even though we're the North Carolina LEGO Users Group, it's really just the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area that has people active in the LEGO scene.

I was still pretty surprised, though, to see a kid come up to me and say "I heard you on LAML!" - I'm not used to being "famous" like that. I forget just how many people mentioned having heard of my robot band project on LAML - to be honest, they seemed to be less interested in watching it in person (probably because they'd already heard what it can do and didn't want to fight the enormous crowds to stay in front of my display)