Tectorian of the Week – Christina Seargeant, MediaCore

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The Tectorian of the Week for May 2 is MediaCore’s Christina Seargeant.

Like that old Molson commercial, Christina Seargeant IS Tectoria. We see her everywhere, and we mean anywhere there is a tech-related event in Victoria, or a Victoria-related event somewhere else.

Other tech companies in Victoria have an open house, Christina is there. Rifflandia? Christina hung out at the Tectoria tent a while. It was the same with Rock the Shores, VIATeC networking events… she’s there.

But what really blew us away: VIATeC rents a house in Austin, Texas for our fellow Tectorians to enjoy SXSW:

Christina is there, representing Tectoria!

In short, Christina is an engaged, friendly member of the evolving Tectorian community.

And she also demonstrates some of the awesome, latent creativity that is turning Victoria into a cultural hub.

After she punches out each evening as operations manager at MediaCore, Christina turns her attention to her other project, csnaps photography, specializing in portraits and events. Her Instagram feed is really fun, especially if you like dogs.

Christina also works hard to organize the annual TC10K road race in Victoria, BC, and she has managed Guitar Hero championship for the extremely cool Video Games Live.

So Christina IS Tectoria.

If you see her around town, make sure to say hi, and then join in whatever fun thing she is doing to help grow our community.

Innovation Elsewhere: Car Paint That Cleans Itself

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Through a very creative use of nanotechnology, engineers at Nissan have created a paint that itself creates a thin air shield above the surface of the car that makes rain, road spray, frost, sleet and standing water roll off the car without touching the paint surface at all – kind of like a force field.

The ‘super-hydrophobic’ and ‘oleophobic’ paint finish called is called, quite pragmatically, “Ultra-Ever Dry.” Nissan says it gets some of its ideas for paint from bird dropppings.

According to the engineers, ‘by creating a protective layer of air between the paint and environment, it effectively stops standing water and road spray from creating dirty marks on the car’s surface.’

Nissan says it has no plans of making the special paint job a standard on factory models but it will consider offering the self-cleaning paint as an aftermarket option.

Nissan is now attempting to determine if the material is durable for long-term use on vehicles – and if it will hold up in different weather conditions around the world.

Broke Your Smartphone Screen? Just Swap It Out!

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Google’s Advanced Technologies and Products Group (ATAP) is on a mission: build a modular smartphone.

Google and design company New Deal have floated a concept for a modular Android phone ecosystem called Project Ara that lets smartphone users swap modules (batteries, radios, cameras, screens, etc) around between “exoskeletons.”

The most obvious and immediate practical application of a modular phone is that if you drop the phone and shatter the screen, you can quickly and easily (and, hopefully, cheaply) swap in a new one. Or if your battery runs out and you’re away from a charger, just switch to a new one.

The two breakthroughs that make this design possible are a piece of hardware dubbed the endoskeleton and a concept New Deal refers to as “parceling.”

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For ATAP and Google, the goal is to build a device that will make the smartphone accessible to the billions of people who can’t afford iPhones and Galaxy S5s.

They plan to release the first phone in less than a year, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, besides some great Project Ara eye candy, the Verge has a good breakdown of all the crazy phones you can make with Google’s Project Ara.

 

Tectorian of the Week – Warren Brown

Our Tectorian of the Week for April 25 is Warren Brown, chairman of Procura.

Why Warren, and why now?

warren-brown-630-500Warren Brown and the team at Procura together represent all of the potential of Victoria’s tech community, and show where we’ve been and where we’re going.

Founded in Victoria twenty years ago (that’s basically before email and internet were a thing, and before there was much in the way of a tech industry here), Procura now provides software to 12,600 users and 600 agencies throughout Canada, the US and Australia.

This company (conveniently headquartered near the future home of Fort Tectoria) also has offices in Chicago, Florida, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Like the majority of Victoria’s tech companies, Procura sells internationally, meaning the company often gets little recognition here in its own backyard.

So Warren knows a thing or two about launching a successful startup and building a sustainable business.

He’s been through just about every trial and tribulation a technology company can experience – Warren has not only survived but has thrived.

And here’s the real reason why Warren Brown is the Tectorian of the Week: he gives back to the community by providing his knowledge and hard-earned insights to help his peers build their own tech businesses, right here in Victoria.

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And let’s not forget that Procura sponsors the excellent live band that makes the annual VIATeC Technology Awards such a fun time.

So Warren Brown and the team at Procura are part of Tectoria’s DNA. They’re part of our success, past and future.

Tectorian of the Week: Jake West

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Our Tectorian of the Week for April 17 is Jake West, a teacher (among many other cool things) at the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII).

As an educator at PSII, a local school devoted to helping young people “know the world in deep, connected and authentic ways,” Jake West is fostering the next generation of disruptors.

“Jake and his team approached us with a small project focusing on repairing a device to its old working order,” says VIATeC’s Dan Gunn. “Once we got a sense of the team’s enthusiasm we saw the opportunity to level up and do something far more unique that will capture the interest and imagination of Victoria’s tech community.”

In collaboration with VIATeC and Victoria’s Limbic Media, Jake and his students at PSII are working on a project for VIATeC that when finished, will tour to hundreds of conferences and events.

PSII: Taking Ideas to the Next Level

“The project is taking an old stationary binocular stand the had originally been used by Tourism Victoria to look out into the Inner Harbour, then had been gutted from the inside to install a ViewMaster,” says Adam Foeller. “The PSII team is now retrofitting the binocular stand to house an arduino board, a power source, and an LCD screen which will show videos that have to do with the Technology Community in Victoria.”

Adam Foeller is VIATeC’s facilities manager. Adam is passionate about things that function properly, and was, like Dan, impressed by Jake and his PSII team.

“Jake brought a few of the kids by, I explained to them our problem, and they took our idea to a higher level and dove into the project head first,” says Adam. “Jake’s students researched and sourced the necessary equipment, and got down to work.”

Currently, Adam says, the PSII students are in the process of running into roadblocks, attempting new iterations, and teaching themselves how to solve problems.

“This project is showing Jake’s students what real-world projects and problem-solving looks like,” says Adam. “Also, by working with Limbic Media, they are being exposed to an incredibly talented and creative group of tech professionals who are showing them that you can make a living by ‘playing’ at what you love.”

Jake West: Facilitating the Best Education at the Right Time

What is Jake West’s role in all of this?

“I facilitate learning experiences for our students,” says Jake. “At PSII, we think in terms of competencies rather than subjects, and this approach mirrors the tech industry. Technology companies don’t always care what courses someone has taken in university, but care more about skills to get the project done.”

In the tech sector, Jake says, credentials are not important. Students can lead and push limits right away.

“While they work on this project with VIATeC and Limbic, the students feel as though they are working for their own technology startup… which they truly are,” says Jake.  “Working on a project like this in collaboration with organizations like VIATeC and Limbic is the best education at the right time.”

Stay tuned for project updates from VIATeC, Limbic, and Jake’s team at PSII.

Jake and PSII are looking for bright, inspired students to study with them starting in September. Contact us for more information about this innovative school.

Stand Desk: Automatic and Affordable

If sitting is the new smoking, we all have one foot in the grave. While many of us toiling away in the knowledge economy have to sit to get any work done, sitting for any length of time during the day may reduce our life expectancy.

So why not stand and work at your computer?

Stand Desk, a San Francisco-based startup, has an answer to that.

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Billed as the “most affordable automatic standing desk so far,” Stand Desk launched a Kickstarter campaign and reached its goal of $50,000 in 38 minutes. Indeed, still with over a month to go, 886 backers have already pledged a whopping $339,435, blowing the original goal out of the water.

What makes Stand Desk so popular?

First of all, the benefits of standing desks in general are pretty clear: increased productivity, energy, and reduced lower back pain.

Standing desks can also prevent or reverse carpal tunnel syndrome, and standing for part of the work day can also prevent metabolic syndrome.

However, standing desks typically sell for thousands of dollars. They’re expensive.

Stand Desk’s price?  $399, just a fraction of what other standing desks cost.

Stand Desk is pretty cool. Simple motors automatically adjust the height of Stand Desk, meaning the desk can be used at sitting or standing height and adjusts at the press of a button.

Stand Desk is also smaller than other standing desks, which means it is easier to introduce into established office layouts.

Stand Desk made its product affordable by simplifying the mechanics that go into raising and lowering the height, with a range of 28 to 45 inches, which should accommodate people as tall as 6’3″. The desk top is made of bamboo or particle board.

Stand Desk founder Steven Yu and his Kickstarter campaign even made Hacker News, where there is a great thread with helpful hints about how to ease into using a standing desk full time.

Can You Help With Cool Aid’s Housing Development Plan?

Can Tectorians rise to the challenge?

Innovative Victoria community agency Cool Aid needs an additional 360 apartments to be there when people need us, and we plan to build them in the next 5 years. Look at CoolAid.org/endhomelessness for details on how.

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In 1968 people said a bunch of college kids would never end homelessness in Victoria.

They hadn’t met Steve Jobs yet either.

For 46 years the Victoria Cool Aid Society has provided innovative solutions to help people experiencing homelessness, addictions, and mental health issues. Not bad for a charity started by students in the basement of an abandoned church.

That abandoned church is now the Belfry Theatre, and Cool Aid now operates 14 facilities across Greater Victoria, including a full-service health centre, dental clinic, three shelters, a community centre, and nine supportive housing buildings. Cool Aid provides over 90% of our city’s emergency shelter beds, and helps over 9,000 individuals each year to overcome or completely avoid homelessness.

You can understand why “avoid” is everyone’s first choice.

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Cool Aid is committed not just to helping folks struggling with homelessness, but putting an end to it by providing enough supported homes to have one ready when somebody loses theirs. When we talk about innovation, imagine a city without people sleeping on the streets, without families living in cars and tents in parks; isn’t that cool? It’s what Cool Aid is all about.

More homes are what our city needs right now. Cool Aid has 374 apartments supported by trained staff 24/7, but there’s a waiting list 9 months long to get in. That’s far too long.

Cool Aid can’t do it alone. Strong partnerships with the Coalition to End Homelessness and local government agencies will help, but the key to making it happen is individual backers. Once Cool Aid raises $5 million in community donations our partners will kick in the rest. Care to join us?