Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spelman College Gadgets Competition

A week after my Spring Break trip to Costa Rica, I flew down to Atlanta to help judge a college Gadgets contest. I crawled out of bed (before actually starting to sleep) for a 5am flight to Atlanta on the Friday, and arrived "12 hours" later at 5pm, just in time for the classic college pizza dinner. I chatted with Marcus Mitchell, who apparently is a rather high-up engineering director in NY, and then met Kevin Rabsatt, who used to work on Maps and is therefore cool with me. :)

Later that night, I held office hours for teams working on their Gadgets to meet with me to work out technical problems and get advice. Every consultation was different - some people were trying to figure out how to go from Dreamweaver to the Gadget editor (change relative URLs to absolute!), some were trying to figure out how to get around the cross-domain request (_IG_FetchContent!), and some were just looking for suggestions (e.g. add a tab with a Google code search, for the C++ cheat sheet gadget).

After that, the Googlers and I headed off to Sutra Lounge, where we started off with some drinks and then danced the rest of the night. The music was good (80s/hiphop/techno), and we even met some Atlanta Googlers there.

The next day, we woke up bright and early to judge the Gadgets competition. Each team presented their Gadget to us, explained the purpose, and showed off the functionality. I was really impressed with their presentation skills - that's something that usually CS students usually lack, honestly. The technical difficulty varied - but considering that the Gadgets contest was just one segment of the whole competition (and that they're full-time students) - I don't blame them for not having all the time in the world to spend on their gadgets. The breadth of the Gadgets was impressive - there were games, utilities, portals, and more. It was great when I could see the other students were sincerely interested in using another team's gadget for themselves. That, to me, is a definition of a successful Gadget. Check out pics from the competition below:

The rest of the day, Kevin and I tried to get work done in a lab while occasionally wandering out in the hall to watch the Lego Mindstorms robot competition. There's something fascinating about watching a robot - seeing it try to make its way around an obstacle course- wondering what it's "thinking" (or if it's simply been hard-coded).

At night, we checked out another club called Halo. It started off chill and I had my doubts as to its "club-ness", but the music and crowd picked up soon and we danced until the close @ 3am. We then went to a diner and wandered back into the hotel at 5am. I woke back up again at 8am, not feeling *terribly* amazing. Somehow I convinced myself to suck it up and go to the airport on time, but of course, the flight was delayed - delayed so much that I missed my connection in Dallas, TX. So, it took more than "12 hours" to get back to Palo Alto, but all in all, it was worth it. Atlanta was a fun city, and I need to go back to visit its Aquarium - I hear it's the biggest in the world now (better than Boston's??).

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