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.


Original Microsoft Press Release:

Microsoft’s Project Natick:

Ars Technica Article:

Startup Weekend 2016

   Friday-NightTucked away in a building next to the library on Cal Poly’s campus, 107 brilliant minds came together to pitch ideas, build teams, and launch ideas to change the world. This is the essence of a startup weekend and it is an experience that I recommend you put on your bucket list.


To kick off the evening was a local success story of a business that formed out of Cal Poly by Jesse Dundon, the CEO of Hathway .  He told his story of transformation that began with carpet cleaning and evolved into a local 50+ person mobile web design firm.  One point that he made is that the pivot greatly improved his dating outlook as girls thought web development was cooler than rug cleaner 😉 It was a great talk and really helped set the stage for the transformations that most teams would go through over the weekend. Granted, nobody pivoted their concept this far over the weekend, but to be fair Jesse had a few years to do that pivot.  What was clear from the story is that not everything happens in a clean and orderly fashion. The story was great and the presentation was excellent.

Chaos to Calm

The Startup Weekend process is a cycle from chaos to calm. The chaos begins within the first hour thanks to a crowd mixer game of Rock, Paper, Scissors (but with a twist); Every time a person wins they accumulate their losing competitor and also whatever followers they had accumulated. In the end we are left with two competitors and their cheer team of accumulated followers. In other words, the room is divided into two teams rooting for their victor! This gets not only the energy up but also the volume.


Within 20 minutes the noise level is down as one speaker at a time gives a 60 second pitch on the product or application they want to launch this weekend. Of course, some people are more animated than others but somehow calmness takes over the room. This does not last long as it results in about 60 ideas up on the walls for the chaos of the vote. Chaos is actually too mild of a term for what happens next as people are pulled between voting for different ideas or representing their own.

The crowd swirls and flows through the room as vote stickers are placed on pitch idea posters and people ask qualifying questions of the pitch presenters. Once the voting is closed, calmness returns and everybody sits in anxious silence as the event leaders take all the idea posters and count the votes. When done, the top 12 ideas get an additional 30 seconds before the pure chaos of team formation begin.

Team Formation

In the business world team formations for startups take years to evolve yet so do businesses. In this event businesses are created over a weekend and 107 people divide into 12 business teams in only 10 MINUTES!

When the event leadership asked if anyone was without a team after the formation process, only one person was left. Once this individual stated that they were a developer a bidding war erupted in the room as groups warmly invited the orphan to their team. Afterwards, each team went out into the wilderness to stake their claim in one of the two buildings designated for this event. Our team picked a spot on the second floor of the Bonderson Engineering Projects Laboratory while others remained in the Advanced Technologies Laboratory. Now things started to happen as computing devices of every form emerged from backpacks and power cords reached out to walls full of plugs.

Team Evolution  


Our team quickly evolved as did the two other groups in our area as the challenges were discussed and people were assigned to take on each of these tasks. Leadership evolved in our group based on the role of each person. Milad, a 3rd year finance major, became the business lead in partnership with Charles Hu. Grant Terris and Kevin Vincent were the technical horsepower. Grant took the backend work with the server side development and the portal and Kevin did the iOS app development. With specs still in flux they started putting the framework together so that the rest of the team would have things to react to.

Pivot & Repeat

Startup weekends are nothing if not flexible and fluid and this time was no different than the prior five teams I have been on. As people talked and ideas changed the concept evolved over most of Saturday. Our team went through three major pivots as the idea evolved and unlike in a business world where every change is debated on its merits this team just took the changes in stride and kept moving forward. After all you only have 54 hours so there is no time for people to become vested in the idea so the pros and cons are less personal. Other teams went through the same process in different ways but every idea evolved radically over the weekend. Names were changed, missions evolved, concepts crashed, and the process went on.

Fueling Innovation

TeaThroughout the event  meals are provided and if you look at the $50 event cost and the meals provided it is the best deal in town. While the meals were varied and great quality the one vendor that really deserves a huge shout out is Guayaki. Jose from Guayaki was at the event providing Yerba Mate for all three days. I had the opportunity to talk to him and was surprised to learn that a local company from a Cal Poly senior project in the local business community for 20 years is not an authorized vendor on campus. Even more surprising was to discover this is at least partially because of a vendor contract restriction from Coke . I think we can all agree that Coke, with $10 billion in sales, does not need contract protection from Guayaki in SLO. It is also distressing that a contract is stopping Cal Poly from doing business with a local business. So much for the fair shake for the little guy.  

Read More about this

Other local firms that provided food to the event include:

A Day of Focus

While Saturday was a day of pivots and debate Sunday is about focus. There is nothing like staring down at a deadline to make a team focus on the delivery. On Sunday, we started in the  morning at the Library across street discussing the big idea that we had settled on and the business model that would get our team to the innovation finish line. As you walk around the event you can feel the change in the force (think Star Wars) as groups move closer to the immovable presentation at 5pm. The afternoon is refining and practicing the pitch and getting the technical types to shift from creating to fixing so the presentation works. Our team was pretty good about this with software changes down to just fixes by about 2pm. That is followed by a tech check, a deep breath and the final presentation.

Reflecting on the results

On our team (CheckMate) we got the mobile app working for iOS and the backend partner portal running. As a full disclosure not everything was perfect but it worked. I think the technical team can be rightfully proud of the result because in a normal business setting this would have taken several weeks to get done. The prototype demo went without any problems other than the projector in the room that jammed up several teams.

As I watched the other teams I was impressed by all of them. They had gone from a wild concept on Friday night to a presentation in just 54 hours. There were some stumbles but not a single on-stage failure – I have to wonder what the odds of that are! One thing I will probably never forget is Katie White on the Lettuce Team who lost her voice during the event. During the Q&A Katie wanted to answer the question so badly that she ran up up to the judges and whispered the answer and everyone listened. It was an amazing example of turning a liability into an asset. It demonstrates just how dedicated to these teams are and that it is not how loud you talk but what you have to say.   

Team Summary – In presentation order

  1. Unlimited – Financial Training for Kids
  2. Extra Lettuce – Saving app for students – saving plan with auto deduction
  3. Project Take out – Home chefs to home delivery app
  4. Hitch – Long Distance Ride Sharing
  5. Spottr – Fitness Matching App
  6. Moola – Employee Recruiting Expense reimbursement and finance
  7. Head Count – School Field Trip Management
  8. Quinch – Smart Water Bottle
  9. PC Kit – Build your PC for Gamers – specs based on Game & Performance
  10. The APIARY – Bee Hive Monitor
  11. Virtual Realty – 3D Real Estate Marketing
  12. CheckMate – Consumer Driven Coupon Delivery App

Team Photos for those that provided them to me – as the ace reporter on the scene I should have gotten photos from all 12 teams but in the end these are all the photos that I could get my paws on.

HeadCount-TeamTeam: Head Count

From left to right: Kevin Mckinnis, Rebecca Krieger, Kaitlyn Henry, Kristen Henry, Mike Hurdelbrink, and Daniel Williams.

HeadCount is a mobile application that simplifies field trips for teachers, chaperones, and students. It empowers field trip leaders to work collaboratively and stay organized, so they can focus more on learning and less on the little things.

Spottr-TeamTeam: Spottr

Front Row left to right: Michael Hbib, Danica Liang,  Emily Cai, Nikki Duffy, Tiffany Lam

Back Row left to right: Neda Sales, Matthew Eng, Shain Lafazan, Anthony Fontes, Tyler Chen

The Tinder for Fitness buddies! Swipe right if you find a buddy that matches your fitness interests, level, and availability.

CheckMate-TeamTeam: CheckMate

Left to right: Charles Hu, Kevin Vincent, Milad Hassibi, Bob Dumouchel, Grant Terris

CheckMate is a mobile app that delivers coupons to consumers based on their preferences rather than the advertisers distribution plan. System pulls from available coupon inventory based on personal settings rather than having them pushed by the advertisers.

Team:MoolaTeam: Moola

Employee Recruiting Expense reimbursement and finance

We apologize, we were unable to get the team member names!

If you are one of the other 8 teams and would like to be included, just send to a photo, your team members names and a description of your app and we will be sure to add it to the article!


The judging panel included:  

Aaron Steed, CEO and founder of Meathead Movers.

Charmaine Ann Farber, who worked as a ux/ui designer, illustrator, graphic designer, animator and educator, both nationally and internationally, for CIVCO International, MacArthur Foundation, Congressman Loebsack of Iowa, Stamats, Lipman Hearne, SMC Marketing Hong Kong, and Benson & Hepkar Design Group, and have spoke at events everywhere from Yale University to Chiba, Japan of Directors of AIGA and also served on the Pittsburgh board of Directors of AIGA.

Greg Gibson, Entrepreneur in Residence at CIE. Entrepreneur and senior executive with experience on the founding teams of companies in consumer internet, SMB ecommerce, online advertising, and social media spaces.


Each group got 5 minutes to present and 3 minutes for QA from the judges. Because presentations are so unpredictable and nerve wrecking It truly is amazing that all 12 groups did so well. 

And the WINNERS are:  

  1. Project Takeout
  2. The Apiary
  3. Virtual Reality

Honorable Mention from the Judges:

  • Quinch
  • PC Kit
  • Moola

Judging something like this is difficult and as I watched I ranked each of the groups on how they did on the presentation and the questions and answers. I came up with some of the same names but my top list was very different from the judges with Project Takeout being the only common name. This is not to take anything away from anyone but it does show that reasonable people can disagree, especially when you have so many really great teams. What is amazing is that all the teams could be a viable business if they can keep the team alive. I would bet that locally we will soundly beat the 12% continues after the event average of the Startup Weekend Program.  

A true story from the Event

From Nick Sinai Event Coordinator:

I was sitting with Joe from virtual realty when he sees someone walk by with his wife and kids and tells me, hey that’s Tim Cook! So of course I’m surprised and like no way, “Joe you wanna go talk to him??” And he says no because he’s already met him and I’m like well I haven’t! So I grab Tim Elkana the main organizer and tell him “Dude! Joe says Tim Cook just walked by!” So Tim is freaking out and like “Heck yeah I want to go talk to him! Let me grab my camera!” So we run down the campus to where Tim Cook is walking with his wife and kids, and as we get closer we say ” Hey! Are you Tim Cook?” This man laughs and say “Nope!” And walks off. Tim and I walk back disappointed to find Joe laughing hysterically and then we realize Tim Cook would never be walking around Cal Poly with his wife and kids because Tim Cook is gay.

Shout out to the Event Leaders

Startup Weekends cannot happen without the inspiration and perspiration of the event leaders and the team this year did a great job. Here is the team that made the magic possible:

  • Tim Elkana
  • Luke Bayard
  • Jim  
  • Nicholas Sinai
  • Katie White

Tech Brew Recap – Oct 2015

If you missed last night’s Tech Brew you missed a great networking event. With an estimated 70+ attending some of us heard about wireless technology but Softec has some logistics to get straight for the new location. In the back of the room it was impossible to hear the presentation but we will figure that out for future meetings.


The new location is great and the crowd was overflowing into the other parts of the restaurant. If you missed this one you missed a good one.


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.

Robotics as a Sport

For almost 20 years, Softec has been working to promote technology on the central coast.  From VC events like Tech Pitch and Startup Weekend to Dinner Panels, Open Houses, and TechBrew – these events have facilitated what we call ‘Softec Moments’.  Ideas are created, key people come together, businesses are formed, and connections are made.

This ongoing passion of technology, ideas, and networking have helped robotics programs sprout up in almost all our local high schools and is quickly trickling down to the middle and elementary schools.  This year will be our 7th annual Robotics Expo where over $6,000 will be donated to local high school robotics programs.

I can confidently say as president that we have accomplished what we originally set out thefutureto do, robotics is everywhere and GROWING.  But instead of moving on and looking for the next big thing, we want to double-down and propel school robotics to the next level.

Robotics programs have long-term benefits a students’ education and future career; by coupling the momentum of STEAM education and the teamwork and competition of Robotics organizations like: FIRST, MATE, and VEX – recognizing Robotics as a Sport is the next logical step.  Missouri and Texas have already taken this step and California needs to be next.

This growing movement is focused on robotics as a ‘Sport for the Mind‘ and fueled by universities (Bradley, UT Dallas, Minnesota State) and large organizations (FedEx, Qualcomm).  Now Softec is added to the list, we are casting our lot and hope to leverage the media attention at our Softec Robotics Expo to put a spotlight on this exciting movement.

Soon you can expect to see a formal Vison Statement from us on this topic.

2nd Annual Technology Expo on July 9, 2015 at the Radisson Hotel in Santa Maria, CA

QuintronQuintron Systems, Inc. will be hosting their 2nd Annual Technology Expo on July 9, 2015 at the Radisson Hotel in Santa Maria, CA from 5:00pm – 8:00pm.  See attached Flyer.  We will be featuring over twenty-five leading  technology based manufacturers covering Audio, Video, CCTV, Networking, Digital Signage and Control Systems to name a few.  Quintron Systems is inviting Central Coast Businesses, Governmental Agencies (both local and Federal), Education Facilities, and the general public to come experience an afternoon full of cutting edge technology, food and networking.

We will also be hosting several classes throughout the afternoon including:

  • Sound design and troubleshooting for live music venues, hosted by JBL
  • Analog vs IP based surveillance systems, hosted by Vivotek
  • Interactive Collaboration systems for huddle and classrooms, hosted by Kramer Electronics
  • Emerging technology for boardrooms and classrooms, hosted by Extron Electronics

This is your time to discuss what matters to you!

For more information and class times please contact Yolanda Clark at 805-361-8313 or please visit our website:

Yolanda Clark


Administrative Assistant- Integrated Systems Division

2105 South Blosser Road

Santa Maria, CA 93458-7311

Office: 805-928-4343 x 313

Quintron Tech Expo Flyer

Open House at PRP Companies


On Wednesday March 26, 2015 Softec got a back stage tour of the PRP Companies in SLO. Our tour lead was the CEO Todd Ventura and he clearly knows his industry and has the passion for their tech.

PRP Companies are broadly described as a commercial printer but they are much more than just that. PRP Companies do print, apparel, creative, mail, and web. We got a backstage tour lead by Todd Ventura who walked us through the pre-press, large format, high-speed digital, color printing, bindery, mail.


The pre-press room consists of a several high-end macs with a printer that outputs metal film (plates) for the press. This replaces what used to be a larger staff setting up the film to finally create the plates.  Now the plates are optimized and rendered directly.

Large Format Printing

The large format department consists of several large printers including a latex printer that avoids lots of the environmental issues of ink printing. This department creates lots of large format items including Vehicle Wraps, Floor Graphics, Trade Show Graphics, and Banners. One interesting us of large format is the ability to create custom wallpaper and I can think of all sort of creative uses for that. The key to this department is that the print is big and so is the impact.

High Speed Digital Printing

This department consists of multiple high-speed digital printers and the range of projects varies greatly. In production during our tour was a book that was printed and spiral bound – a great way to have a lay-flat document. Todd talked to us about many of the improvements in this area being able to handle materials that were impossible a few years ago. As an example they can print a box in these printers and then fold them out to the final box form.

Color Printing Printing

To me this is the heart an soul of a commercial printers and in this department they were running a magazine and the technology is amazing. The print runs through 6 colors to a sealant and dryer resulting in a fully set print with wonderful resolution that can be process ready to bindery in just minutes. To demonstrate this Todd pulled a sheet right off the printer and rubs the page with no blurring of the ink images.

Bindery Department

Bindery Department handles the job after printing and includes trimming, collating, and binding. The first machine Todd showed us was the cutter and it goes through several inches of paper in a single cut and the edge is perfectly straight. This requires a very sharp knife and lots of pressure. Todd demonstrated the safety equipment on this machine that is there to insure he never has an employee nicknamed Stubby. Safety and environmental controls are no joke in this company and you can see they have spent time and resources making sure the business is a professional work environment.

PRP-Open-HouseThe second machine Todd and John demonstrated is the one in picture. This takes the print output from high speed digital or color printing departments and colates, staples, and trims on three sizes to create the final product.

Mail Processing & Inkjet Addressing

This department is the final stage for some projects where they prepare the item for delivery in the mail. This includes equipment for collating, folding, addressing, and sealing. There was no job in process during the tour but Todd did a good job explaining how this can save clients money by getting the best postal rates but doing the right prep before delivering to the USPS.

Overall the event was a great tour although I was disappointed in the turnout. Our mission of creating Softec moments are better served by large groups but the small turnout resulted in a more personalized tour of the business.

Thanks to our Host

Softec would like to thank PRP Companies for the backstage tour and the insight into how this business operates. If your business has an interesting story of interest to the technology community please contact to set up an event like this.

Startup Weekend at New Tech High

NTH Startup Weekend 2015

This last weekend New Tech High in Nipomo held its first Startup Weekend. We have had plenty of these but wait for it because there is a twist. This event was targeted at the high school level and I had the honor of touring the event on Saturday. Each team briefed me on the idea  they were working on and the challenges they were trying to overcome.  I can tell you that the participants were young but they were taking on and thinking about big problems.

While the groups were high school students the ideas were not kid stuff. All Startup Weekends have some degree of fun and silliness to them but these groups were really on their game. The ideas were on par with the other Startup Weekends and I would not be amazed to see a real business out of this event.  This was one of those situations where you get to see the future and I can tell you the future is bright and so are these young men and women.

More Pictures

As I visited the groups one thing that really struck me was percentage of women in the groups. This event drew 52 participants and I was told that 40% were women. I am a math geek so I can tell you that this data is wrong but the truth is there were lots of women on the teams and many in the leadership roles. This is in stark contrast to prior Startup Weekends and I must tell you it was great to see. Recently Softec has been talking about the problem of attracting women to our industry and it appears that New Tech High might have a secret the rest of us should come to understand.  Whatever they are doing in this program they may be laying the foundation to cure one of our industry’s greatest problem.

The other item that I have to mention is the teacher involvement. This event had support from a team of teachers not just one solo voice.  New Tech High appears to be a different type of school at its foundation and we need to support these types of experiments in our local schools. We recently saw many of these teachers at our dinner on Women in Technology and if this event is an example of their work we better listen real careful to this group of educators.

Having been to a participant at seven prior Startup Weekends I can tell you that this was a very well run event. I was told by one of the event leaders that an overwhelming and consistent comment from the kids this weekend was:

“This is what school should be like”


Softec and our friends stepped up and supported this event because like all Startup Weekends it is perfectly inline with our mission. I need to give shout outs to the Softec members that joined with Softec for the donation to the event.

Thanks for the Support!!!