All posts by Josh Erdman

Softec is Raising Funds to Provide Immediate Relief to SLOHS Computer Lab that Suffered Major Fire Damage

Softec has been supporting local high school robotics for over 11 years and has given over $37,000 – so when the computer lab that contains all the robots used by SLO High VEX Team 920 burns down, we react quickly.

For those of you who have not heard yet, San Luis Obispo High School’s Computer Lab that burned early Thursday morning. The alleged perpetrators have been caught but the damage is total and severe. Softec has long been a supporter of the computer lab in Room 307. We hope to help get the computer lab and its students back on track as quickly as possible.

Our Softec VP, Stewart Morse, is a former SLOHS parent and Robotics sponsor – he explained that “Room 307 has been a safe environment during lunch for kids to go advance their technology skills and create lifelong friendships.”

This must be an agonizing loss for Mrs. Fetcho and the students. Casualites include the robotics equipment that the students have been developing and building for several months for a competition this weekend and a statewide competition in January.

 We have worked with the SLO Community foundation to setup a tax deductible account. Please support SLO High School.

UPDATE: Over $15,000 has been raised so far!

Tax Deductible Donations can be sent to the Community Foundation
Or by Check:
TO:
Softec, a fund with the Community Foundation SLO

ADDRESS:
The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County
550 Dana Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

We also have a GoFundMe Campaign at:
https://www.gofundme.com/friends-of-slo-high-robotics

Donations will go towards helping with the immediate replacement of computers, robotics equipment, desks, chairs, tools, etc. and equipment to support the clubs that met in that room.

Students make Robotics Great (Again)!

Last month over 700 people chose to invest in students instead of watching the presidential debates. Adults and kids alike enjoyed robotic creations and learned how to solve real world problems with technology – there was no accusations about 33,000 lost emails, missing tax returns, or negative jabs. Just passionate debates over battery technologies and construction materials.

SLO MakerSpace

From school robots to commercial drones, this event is designed to inspire creative technologies and encourage kids who have a talent for engineering. Grants are given to existing robotics teams and key connections and seed money provided to form new high school teams. Softec gave $7,500 in grants this year and $40,000 over the last 11 years.

RMD Robotics and Drones

Softec gave $7,500 in grants this year and $40,000 over the last 11 years.

Instead of going toe-to-toe on higher wages and better education, robotics clubs come face-to-face with real-world experience for our future engineers, business leaders and managers. Many teams have a marketing officer, treasurer, and HR director to account for the thousands of hours, ten of thousands of dollars, and relationships with sponsors. More than STEM – club robotics create opportunity for students of all talents teaching lessons more valuable than a typical child’s ‘first job’.

VEX Arena

Instead of a debate on higher wages and better education, robotics clubs create a real-world experience for our future engineers, business leaders and managers.

Softec and our sponsors take direct action to invest in our local economy. As a local non-profit software and technology trade association, we work to build and promote local events for our sponsors, and we focus this annual event as an investment in our students – where we create a multi-generational experience for all ages. And that is the truth – no fact checkers needed!  😉

Softec Robotics Expo – a unique intersection of learning and fun!

Softec’s 8th Annual Student Robotics Expo is this Monday, Sept. 26th at 5:50pm. This free event has packed the house each year – full of learning opportunities and plenty of fun.

What is unique about this robotics expo is the student exposure to more advanced robotics leagues and applications in the commercial industry to provide a taste of what their future in robotics can look like. Truly a multi-generational experience, with LEGO robots, full-sized and underwater High School robots – and commercial bots from the SLO County Bomb Sqad and drones used in the Wine Industry, there is certain to be something for everyone.

This event has grown in every way; in order to bring in new activities this year, we have moved to the Alex Madonna Expo Center! Last year we offered a Drone Obstacle course for the first time. This year we have a drone arena, bigger than last year’s course and located in the Expo Building to make piloting easier. So bring your drone or quadcopter – and compete for the best time in your assigned class.

The community’s support to put on this event has been amazing! CalFire will be providing a pool for the underwater robotics teams and we already mentioned the Bomb bot from SLO Sheriff’s Dept. Cal Poly’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and staff from Experts Exchange have offered to volunteer to help with setup and running the Drone Course. We also have several food vendors lined up: The Pairing Knife, RibLine, What the Truck, Paradise Shaved Ice, and Coastal Peaks Coffee

Several Robotics Leagues will be Represented:

  • FIRST – High School Robotics
  • MATE – Marine Advanced Technology Education
  • VEX – High school and Middle School Robotics
  • VEXiq – Elementary School Robotics
  • FIRST LEGO League – Elementary School Robotics

Agenda:

  • 5:30PM – Food vendors start serving
  • 6:00pm – The Robotics Expo Begins! Attendance is Free!

20-years of Softec

Throughout the last 20-years, we have worked hard throughout the community to bring technology and businesses together, hosting awesome events and creating what we call ‘Softec Moments’.

Let’s look at some of the highlights of Softec’s history and while we do – let’s not forget the amazing (and sometime hilarious) technology and cultural headlines at the time.

To get our bearings, let’s start out in the mid-80’s – before the birth of Softec.

The first cell phone was available to the public in 1984 weighing in at 2.4 pounds and was the size of a shoebox, New Coke was introduced in 1985 and CD-ROMs were released in 1989.

In 1994 56k modems were considered screaming fast, Netscape was the latest thing, and 4MB of RAM was a huge.  It was also at this time that the original idea of Softec came to be, not as a non-profit but as a local Technology VC fund.

And in 1995 while beanie babies became the current Internet sensation being sold all over the newly launched auction site, eBay – Softec transformed into a technology networking group.

The following year Softec officially launched as a 501(c)(6) and held their first Technology symposium with local celebrity Eric Schwefler giving the Keynote.

In 1997, local startup Xing Technologies sold to Real Networks for $75 million – creating an influx of cash and talent in the local tech community.  And 12x speed CD-ROMs were the norm.

Who remembers what happened in April 1998?  – I’m sure you have seen it on YouTube and if you haven’t don’t you dare google it now – At COMDEX Bill Gates was demonstrating Windows 98 and the computer crashed during his presentation

In 1999 shelves were emptied as IT departments worldwide stocked up on supplies of caffeine and frozen pizza in preparation for Y2K.  But we survived and mankind has learned learned so much leaving me confident that we are prepared for Y3K, even if beanie babies make a comeback.

By the year 2000 – Softec held 5 annual Technology Symposiums and the IT departments all across the country were quickly burning through their caffeine stockpile as they busily worked the clean all those computers infected from the ‘I LOVE YOU’ email virus.

Not to be outdone, the following year Dutch programmer, Jan de Wit, released and email virus purportedly claiming to contain pictures of Anna Kournikova.  Soon after, obviously frustrated by the lack of Anna Kournikova pictures in those fake emails, programmer Bram Cohen releases bitTorrent – one of several distributed file sharing programs available at the time.

Also in 2001 Softec had the first TechBrew meeting and the ‘Softec Moment’ was born when Ed Stevens and Sean Collier met at a Softec open house which blossomed into shopatron.

Concerned for the environment and our landfills filling up too quickly – No More AOL CDs.com launched trying to stop AOL’s CD Marketing campaign flood.  Obviously AOL’s efforts paid off – because by 2002 they reached their peak of 27 million subscribers.  People were so busy checking their aol.com email, they didn’t have time to vacuum and iRobot capitalized on this releasing the Roomba.

Also in 2002 local business CustomFlix was launched and the first local high school robotics team was started at Atascadero high School by John Mirron

We saw wireless get faster in 2003 with 802.11g quadrupling wireless speeds to 54 megabits per second – this extra speed was perfect timing to allow everyone faster access to news of the dotCOM bubble bursting.  Gone were my dreams of early retirement and a personal chef.

In 2004 the Spirit land rover explored Mars with wheels and other key components made by San Luis Obispo’s own NextIntent.

Softec Launched the IMPACT awards program in 2005 recognizing Andrea Seastrand for her contributions to the community and Mark Wright for his work in the technology industry.

Twitter launched in 2006 and by July of that same year it is estimated that AOL shipped 1 billion CDs, but at that time I was too busy anticipating the release of Nintendo’s Wii to notice!  As a matter of fact, I was so distracted, I also missed Softec’s first Women in Tech dinner and the launch of CEO Roundtables – thank you Bob Dumouchel.

In 2007 people were leaving MySpace in droves to this new website called FaceBook, Netflix introduced streaming video, and everyone was talking to their friends and colleagues on their motorola flip phone about this amazing new product – the iPhone.

The sound of the bursting housing bubble made all the noise for the next two years until 2010 when Starbucks announced free wifi in all their stores.

By 2011 Android outsells the iPhone and Apple responds by introducing Siri.

2014 is remembered by the ice bucket challenge – any participants in the room?  Again, if not, please don’t do it now.

By 2015 – the big local news was the IPO of MindBody and the Shopatron merge to create Kibo

By then Softec has given over $30,000 in grants to local High School robotics

launched our fastest growing interest group ever – Women in Tech

So we are celebrating 20-years of Softec with still much to look forward to in the rest of 2016 and the years to come as we continue to live out Softec’s mission to help align local businesses, individuals and educational resources in our community to produce a thriving hub of innovation on the Central Coast.

Let’s keep the momentum – check out our upcoming events

And finally thank you to our sponsors – your financial support empowers us to give back directly to the community and your involvement with our events has created so many unique experiences for our members – from Open Houses at MindBody and Rosetta – to dinners with great networking and a never-ending variety of interesting topics at TechBrew – we thank you.

20-years! A Softec moment to remember

Words cannot express how great I feel about last night’s celebration.  It was an amazing gathering of some amazing people.

Over the past few years being involved with the Softec Board, I have heard the name, Greg Biggers, and last night I got the pleasure of meeting him.  We took some great pictures (to be posted soon) and heard of the growth and positive influence of Cal Poly’s Tech Park.

Of course, let’s not forget the food and prizes!  So many drawings and winners and so much fun.  It is a privilege and my pleasure to serve as president for such a fine group of people.

Thank you all for attending and thank you to several who worked hard to make this event possible:

  • Brittany McCrigler – hard work with handling the Catering
  • Robin Mitchel-Hee – event promotion and marketing
  • Fred Dyste – for the killer slideshow
  • Katie White – for providing the PA system
  • Stewart Morse – who is an amazing VP filling in the gaps and sending me reminders.
  • All the people who showed up early and stayed late!

Let’s keep the momentum!  I hope to see you all at the SLO Airport and ACI Jet Open House!

Microsoft completed underwater cooling research project off of Cal Poly Marine Sciences Pier

Microsoft sunk a 38,000-pound container off the Cal Poly Marine Science Research Pier in Avila Beach yesterday. The 3-month research project is dubbed Project Natick and contains within its 10’x7′ vessel a data center with the processing power of 300 desktops.

Why? Because as anyone with a server room knows, storing data is Microsoft Datacenter being prepared for Project Natickhot business. Really hot. And effective heat dissipation is incredibly expensive as well as being an energy suck, so, with Natick, Microsoft is testing the feasibility of sinking a powerful data center to the bottom of the ocean for cooling purposes.

However novel it may seem, this idea is not totally new. Google attempted something earlier in 2011 only with a twist. Instead of sinking the entire data center onto the ocean floor, Google designed, and patented, a way to float the data center on a platform and pump ocean water through its cooling system. With Natick, Microsoft decided to take it to another level – below sea level, in fact. 

This type of research and innovation is exciting on its own, and the collaboration with Cal Poly Marine Science right in our community makes it sweeter still.

References:

Original Microsoft Press Release:
http://news.microsoft.com/features/microsoft-research-project-puts-cloud-in-ocean-for-the-first-time/

Microsoft’s Project Natick:
http://news.microsoft.com/natick/

Ars Technica Article:
http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/02/microsofts-new-way-for-cooling-its-datacenters-throw-them-in-the-sea/

2015 Robotics Expo

The Robotics Expo is coming up and we are expecting an amazing year!

Last year we gave $6,000 in grants are are looking to you to give to High School Robotics programs.

As usual we will have areas dedicated to High School Robotics, Elementary School robotics, Commercial Robotics, and Clubs and Interest Groups.

New this year will be a Drone Obstacle Course in the back area bear the pool; so bring your drone and compete against your peers.

So come to the SLO Elks Lodge, Sept 28th at 6pm.

Please visit our page on the 2015 Softec Robotics Expo for more information.