Teen Startup Weekend

Albuquerque has had several startup weekends over the last couple of year. A startup weekend gives groups of people 72 hours to propose ideas, create teams, refine their idea with prototypes and market research, and then do a 5 minute judge pitch for a chance to win prizes.

Teen Startup Weekend is the same idea, but targeted towards teenagers (13 – 18) and with reduced hours. Albuquerque hosted the first Teen Startup Weekend ever three years ago, thanks to the passion of a young woman Taylor Chavez.

Check out this video from last year for more information about it.

This year Teen Startup Weekend was at the Epicenter downtown and had 44 attendees that formed 8 teams, here were the ideas:

  • iLive – Interfacing vital monitors with a Fit Bit and software services to monitor the health of our elderly populations.
  • Creative App – A platform for connecting creatives of different types so they can collaborate and publish their work.
  • ebie – A open hardware bike mod to generate electricity while riding.
  • The Perfect Pair – A food website dedicated to finding great food pairings.
  • Magic Melody – A user generated content platform for teaching and learning how to play an instrument.
  • SugarTec – Dissolvable K-Cups to eliminate waste.
  • SnoRock – Ski/Snowboarding boots built out of a brand new high-tech gel.
  • EDGEtheater – Using modern technology to bring back drive in theaters to rural communities.

These young men and women were amazing. They stood in front of about hundred people and pitch their creative ideas. They were drilled by the judges for 3 minutes. The judges didn’t hold back, the timing was ruthless, and the crowd was awesome and supportive. These kids just had some really great ideas, I am so proud of them.

Ebie presenting at Teen Startup Weekend
ebie presenting at Teen Startup Weekend

From all the great ideas, they culled the list to these four winners:

  1. ebie
  2. Magic Melody
  3. EDGEtheater
  4. SnoRock

I was truly amazed at what these teenagers were able to put together and the ideas they had.  I am really excited to see if they can take any of these further. The winning teams got time with different judges/coaches to help them with their company (among other prizes).

A lot of the startup events and entrepreneurial activities feels rushed, quick, important. We are going to build something now! And that is a lot of fun of it. This event want no different in that aspect, but the long game is empowering our youth. We can send them into the world knowing that they can be their own boss, start their own companies, and turn their ideas into products. I hope this and similar events continue and I picture great things eventually coming out of these events.

CoderDojo ABQ – 2015 Summary

CoderDojo ABQ has been one of the most fun and rewarding experiences I have ever had. I have to thank the community of Quelab and all of their encouragement, support and volunteers. Without such an amazing community this would not have been possible.

I have put together a list of numbers people might find interesting. These are rough numbers and I know there are several issues:

  • I don’t have the age for every youth that attended,
  • There were people that attended and did not register, I always got them the first time,  but if they continued to come without registering I didn’t always get them
  • If people came late I didn’t always remember to mark them as having attended
  • Kids get older, but I am using their age from the time they first attended.

So with that in mind the absolute numbers are probably under reported in quantity and age, but the metrics will be close.

The Numbers

There were 17 sessions of CoderDojo ABQ.

56 different youth came at least once, 37 boys and 19 girls (66%/34%).

30 youth came more than once (56%)

I counted 163 total youth attendance (326 hours of youth coding)!

This is an average attendance of 9.6 youth, however, this is heavily weighted by the massive attendance when it first started. Typically 6 – 10 come now (median is 8).

50% of the youth were under 11.

35% of the youth were between 11 and 13.

15% of the youth were older than 13.

The average age was 10.7, median 10.5, mode 12.

The Rewards

This has been an extremely rewarding experience. The best part is when the just ‘get it’. Either they start understanding it or just feel comfortable enough with programming to start experiments and breaking the system. For example, when they start putting things into infinite loops, knowing it will break, but wanting to see how or in Unity when they start messing with gravity or collisions or speeds knowing it will mess up, but wanting to see how.

I have come to believe that basic programming is going to become a new literacy and I am excited to give these kids a head start on it. I have to constantly balance the desire to get every kid in here, with the fact that packing Quelab is with kids is stressful. I do prefer the smaller sizes now than the larger sessions from when it first started. I don’t get to learn about each youth as an individual and spend most of my time trying to organize things and stressing out. I do want more kids to have a chance to program and hope schools, libraries, etc will offer more chances to code. Even more I hope other enterprising individuals will start more CoderDojos in Albuquerque at different times and locations or other opportunities for kids to program.



Here are the three biggest challenges I have faced.

  • Beyond Scratch – Scratch has been great for getting kids started no matter their skill or age, but it has been hard for me to get the younger kids past it. As the stats, half the kids that attend are 10 or younger, with many 7 and 8 year olds. Scratch works great for them, but there is a pretty big jump to typing out a language. Beyond learning the programming language they often have to fight against their typing skills, math skills and their ability to be precise and patient.
  • Build Your Own Project – After going through the tutorials and learning the basics I have them try to make their own project. Some start on their own thing before this, others need the prompt or some help coming up with an idea. This seems to be the best way for the concepts to really stick and for them to figure out what they don’t know how to do. However, some can’t/won’t come up with an idea and then I am often at a loss with what to do. As much as I want them to come up with their own idea, I suppose I need to come up with 2 or 3 possibilities that they can start on and just give them the project.
  • Presentations – When we first started we ended the meetings with presentations. As the kids starts getting into more complex projects we stopped and never really restarted. The ones that had something to show, never really seemed ready at the same time so they haven’t had as many chances to show off their work as I would like. I think I just to start a habit of setting up the projector and giving them the opportunity to present at the end of each meeting, even if no one is ready or decides to do it. That way they know if they are ready at the end they will have the opportunity to every week.


For 2016 CoderDojo ABQ is going to switch to the 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month, still at Quelab and still 10 – Noon.

The first session for the year is January 16th and registration is on the CoderDojo Zen.

I look forward to an even better and more exciting year of coding with kids.



Wireless Simon

I really wanted to make Simon wireless. The breadboard and cord was a hassle and I didn’t want it to be permanent, so it constantly fell out. As a quick fix I tried using a Bluetooth Shield, however, the pin used to reset the Bluetooth was shared by one of the NXT motors. Depending on the position of the wheel the shield could either communicate or not.

With the quick route unsuccessful, I decided to go ahead and build the wireless Esplora controller describe by Mike Barela on his blog. It look a lot of pieces but has worked great. I set it up with series 1 xBees which were surprisingly easy to get working. My daughter also upgraded his paneling to cardboard because the paper was too flimsy and coming off (he needs a new hat).


Simon now has the Uno, the NXT shield and wireless shield with an xBee on it. The breadboard and Gameport connection is gone. So is the buzzer for now.


The only deviation from the Esplora Controller on the blog is how it is mounted. I had a partial 3D printed case for the Esplora so I mounted the Esplora inside of it. I then put some balsa wood on the back mounted with double sided mounting tape and screwed all the components to that.


The programming part is simple. It just sends the character ‘u’, ‘d’, ‘l’, or ‘r’ depending on how the joystick is pressed and moves in that direction as well as displays it on the screen.


I have a lot planned for the controller now. Besides sending the joystick position there are 4 buttons (and the joystick button) that can be sent. I want to use the linear potentiometer to move a servo attached to the range sensor. There is also the mic which I think my daughter might like yelling at to make things happen.

With the TFT panel I want to be able to display all the sensors coming off of Simon. So the range sensor, color, mics, switches, whatever we put on her. I would also like to get some LEDs on Simon.

The Esplora is a fun product for learning, but fairly useless to for connecting things. Using it as a wireless controller with a TFT panel turns it into an extremely interesting product. It is a discontinued product, but you can still get the Arduino Esplora Board on Amazon.


Global Entrepreneurship Week in Review

This last week was Global Entrepreneurship Week in Albuquerque and, like last year, there was a huge number of events to participate in.

Some of the big news from the week:

  • The launch of SINC, Social Impact through the Nonprofit Community, (@SINC_NM), Albuquerque’s first incubator for non-profits.
  • Expansion of ABQid (@goABQid) into Santa Fe with the SFid.
  • Village Capital: This is Albuquerque – YouTube Video promoting Albuquerque. I had no idea we are credited with the creation of the Sopapilla’s in North America! Really we are done here, not sure why we are trying to invent more things we can never top that…
  • 2015 State of the City Address – Transcript, lots of talking points and great information here.

There were a bunch of competitions throughout the week, here are all the winners I could dig up:

InnovateHER (11/13/15)

The SBA and Microsoft offer a prize competition for products and and services that impact and empower the lives of women and families.

  1. As Girls Grow ($2000)
  2. Teeniors ($1000)
  3. Etkie ($500)

STC.UNM Elevator Pitch Competition (11/13/15)

UNM Students pitch their technology and business ideas in 90 seconds to a live audience. There were five winners each getting $2500.

  1. Gregory Allen and Danielle Fox – Trade Square
  2. Jacob Collison – evaporation technology
  3. Rebekah Hartenberger – Personal Attack Warning System
  4. Zeke Chavez – Crowd Tank
  5. Alexandra Luna – FoodEze

Startup Weekend Albuquerque (11/13/15 – 11/15/15)

54 hour event to form a team, share an idea, and create a pitch for a new company.

  1. Fix Medical Debt
  2. Dovetail Workshop
  3. edAbility Farm

Albuquerque Mayor’s Prize (11/17/15)

A prize for groups helping to support the creation and growth of new companies in the city. $200,000 worth of prizes.

  1. Global Ties ABQ
  2. WESST
  3. Technology Ventures Corporation

Scrappy Startup Challenge (11/17/15)

A 3 minute pitch contest in Santa Fe. Winners can get badges to SWSX, legal consulting, marketing consulting, free rent at Fat Pipe and mentoring.

  1. Pressure Analysis Company
  2. Buckle Down Systems
  3. Wyrdos

Village Capital Water 2015 (11/18/15)

A Washington DC based business accelerator that did a 4 month program here in Albuquerque to help bring ideas and products to market to solve water issues. Two $50K prizes were awarded.

  1. Emrgy (Georgia)
  2. Aquees (Maryland)

I probably missed some, but an exciting week. Check out Eric Renz-Whitmore’s recorded periscope interviews from GEW ABQ.


Meet Simon

I have been spending a lot of time working with microcontrollers and circuits. One of my majors goals is to build an awesome, complex robot with my daughter. She has all kinds of ideas for how it should act (and so do I). We have been talking about it since watching Battle Bots, which was renewed for a second season! Here is our first prototype, Simon.


Simon is built with an Arduino Uno and the Lego Mindstorm NXT kit. Her chassis is based on this build. The Arduino connects to the NXT sensors and motors using a Bricktronics Shield. The first version had the GamePad connected through a breadboard and a button sensor on the front that prevented Simon from moving if she was touching something.


I attached a maker board to the top to wire in the Game Pad better. Only the X/Y analog controls are wired up. We also removed the button and connected the ultra sonic sensor instead. On the maker board we also put a buzzer. Now if something is too close to the front of Simon, Simon complains through the buzzer. My daughter like to bug and instead of driving Simon she prefers to get into Simon’s face and make her yell.


Finally, Simon also got dressed up. We placed panels on her, a hat, there are earrings (colored paperclips) and a necklace my daughter made.

The next step for Simon is to attach her to a wireless control using an Esplora.

If you want to meet Simon, we will be the Barnes & Noble Mini Maker Faire at Coronado, for the Sunday night Meet the Maker event.


Another Demo Day…

…another date with my lovely wife. Wednesday, was Creative Startups demo day for their 2015 accelerator class. It was held at the Factory on 5th, an appropriate place for creative company demos and my wife’s home away from home at the Albuquerque Aerialist Collective.

As an aside my wife started a blog about returning to aerial acrobatics after pregnancy, check it out.

Albuquerque Business First has a nice write up of the introduction by Roxanne Blair and Gary Oppedahl.

The most impressive part was likely the report on the first Creative Startups class:

There were nine companies who gave quick 2 minute pitches about their company and they all had demos setup just past the free beer by Santa Fe Brewing!

The nine companies:

  • 12 FPS – A marketing company around more subtle advertising. I love the inspiration for their company name and logo.
  • Beyond Buckskin – A company selling curated fashion and jewelry designed by Native Americans.
  • FAR Botanicals – Natural body care products promoting truth in advertising.
  • Inmerssion – Virtual worlds and artificial intelligent art displays and games.
  • Mezel Mods – A Rio Rancho company making custom pinball accessories for the $100 million and growing pinball industry.
  • The Art of Revolution – Creating more engaging and meaningful campaigns for non-profit advertising.
  • The Right Margin – A unique web app designed for writers, by writers to make the book creation process better.
  • Ver Con Las Manos – Creating beautiful 3D works of art from famous pictures to help provide art for the visual impaired.
  • Walls Of Benin – African inspired PJs and clothing that provides benefits back to the African continent.

Eric Renz-Whitmore did several Periscope interviews with the companies you can view here:

Inmerssion – The Right Margin  FAR Botanicals


October Link Roundup

Here is just a bunch of links to great things in Albuquerque I thought I would share.

A lot of exciting things happening in Albuquerque, things just never calm down here come fall.


A Week of Tech and Startup Pitches

On Tuesday I had the opportunity to take my lovely wife on our first date since the birth of our son. We went to the Tech Cocktail pitch contest by Tech.co. This was the first of two pitch events as part of the Umbrella Week/Tech Fiesta ABQ. There were 11 local startups who were setup around Stereo Bar talking about their company. They then each had 1 minute to pitch their business.

The pitches came from SunPortSociabile, Punctuality, Peptineo, sheSpire, innoBright, Pi-Fi, Wyrdos, ExploreMedia, SWSD Global, and Time Trader’s Club.

You can watch all the pitches at Newscastic. It was a great event and a lot of fun to be able to actually talk with the people pitching before hand and meet them personally. The winner for the best pitch was SunPort and the reader’s choice winner (which I believe was an online poll before the event) went to Punctuality. They both get to go to Las Vegas and compete for big prizes in a startup competition at the Tech.co Celebrate 2015 conference. The competition is October 5th so keep an eye out for the winner then.

On Thursday there was the sold out Pitch Fiesta 4.0 at the Standard Diner. I was unable to attend (it sold out quick), but many of the same companies presented. EquiSeq placed 1st, Punctuality got 2nd, Buckle Down Systems got 3rd and U-Trade won both the Judge’s Choice and People’s Choice award. Other presenters were: Tour De Rue by Games of Heart, Quizus by Hermes Development, Wyrdos, Time Trader’s Club, sheSpire, Custom Cult Snowboards, and Aquaponic Solutions.

PC ProPad 4 Arduino Code and Connections

This is a followup to my previous post about the PC ProPad 4. I finally got a chance to figure out the full functionality. I wired it up only using the active connections and created a simple sketch to get more specific output from the connections.  I tried to design it so it would work for any GamePort connection.

PC ProPad4 wiring
PC ProPad4 Wiring.
Blue is wired from the X & Y to the analog pins
Green is wired from the buttons to the digital pins
Red is 5v
White is ground

Next a wrote a much more complex sketch specifically for the PC ProPad 4. It allows me to configure interrupts, buttons, speeds, etc. I also wrote it with the intention of controlling a mouse. The Uno only has two interrupts and can’t connect as a mouse, so that part is untested. This sketch and the PC ProPad 4 should ideally be hooked up to a Leonardo or Due. This will allow you to use interrupts for all the buttons and connect it as a keyboard/mouse to the computer.

I will try it on the Netduino, which I believe supports interrupts on all the pins. It seems sending 3v should be fine, I just have to make sure I actually change it to the 3v line so keep the Netduino safe.

The first question I had what was the semi-auto, auto and speed buttons do? When a button is set to semi-auto then holding down the button will continue to fire the bottom (change from high to low). When the button is set to auto, it will fire the button constantly without it being pressed. Once I figured that out I remembered all the Doom 2 games I played with direct modem connections and setting my fire button to auto and having lots of fun.

The second question was what do the speed buttons do? I thought the speed button was some how associated with the analog direction pad, but this is not the case. The two speed settings set how fast the button is pressed when using auto and semi-auto settings. On Speed 1 the button is pressed about every ~30ms. On speed 2 it is pressed as fast as it can. The buttons need to be debounced and you can’t tell the difference between a bounce and the button firing automatically on speed 2, so it really just runs as fast as you are willing to debounce the button.

The next step is to see how this runs on the Netduino, then I’m going to try and create my own PCB board for a GamePort shield.

ABQid Demo Day

Last Friday was the ABQid Demo Day and it was a packed house at the Epicenter. I rarely get to see these type of activities, but my wife let me use some of my paternity leave to check it out.

The energy and excitement of these events blows me away every time. The presenters, sponsors and audience create an atmosphere that makes it real easy to believe a lot of great things are happening and going to be happening in Albuquerque.

This event allowed the 10 companies from the second ABQid accelerator class to pitch their company in 6 minutes. They all did a great job on their pitches and I feel lucky to have gotten to watch this.

The Pitches

Equiseq (Paul Szauter) – I can’t remember where I first heard about Paul Szauter, but I have been interested in his technology since he first introduced it as ElectroSeq with the goal of $100 full DNA sequencing. I love biotech and DNA research, so I was particularly interested in his company. As much as I want to see $100 DNA sequencing, I think he made a great pivot into Equiseq to put his technology into a completely new field with horse breeding.

He did a great pitch to start off the demo day and if I had remembered to vote, I would have voted his the best. It may be my bias towards biotech, but I think he has the most potential of making a big impact with his company.

Equiseq, @Equisec1

Bounce Chat (Gordon Schaeffer) – Like biotech I am also a big fan of location based apps and augmented reality apps. Bounce Chat is a location based app where you can send out a message only to people who are within a set physical distance from you. I love the potential for this and one can easily picture it being a staple marketing item for events, conferences, parties, etc. My only problem with it is I can’t play with it. Like the similar startup Glif, it is IOS only so I can’t review it or promote it until it is on Android, but if you have an iPhone you can check out the app. They won the community vote.

BounceChat, @BounceChat

Close Threads, Trisha Terhar – Close Threads brings the boutique clothing market online. The goal is to allow small shop, custom atmosphere and allow them to compete online. You can sign up for early access at their website.

Close Threads, @CloseThreads

As Girls Grow, Akamee Baca – As Girls Grow is creating a subscription product that combines STEM lessons, with physical toys that demonstrate the lesson, and online stories and community to support it. It seems like a great model to get girls interested in engineering or for home schooling parents to teach STEM concepts. This is getting to be a crowded field with more and more subscription based STEM ideas, I recently subscribed to Hacker Boxes for myself and kids. Maybe the focus on girls will be their niche.

It seems a bit over the top though. The stories and characters and digital component to it seems like a lot of work without a lot of value added unless it truly works as a hook to get girls interested and staying with the product.

As Girls Grow, @AsGirlsGrow

Explore Media, Elan Coehlo – Their pitch was primarily about ARVRUS a 3D video player website that can be branded by companies. It seems that this was and idea they made or refined at the accelerator and what they are looking for as the massive growth part. From the pitch (and their website) they are doing a lot of virtual reality stuff without a specific focus (until now?). I was left with more questions about the company than excitement for the company based on the pitch and unfortunately I wasn’t able to stick around to talk to them or see their VR headsets. There is a VR Cafe event as part of Tech Fiesta this year. It is September 14, at Stereo Bar and looks like a fun event.

Explore Media, @ExploreMedia360, ARVRUS

iTherapyDocs, Lisa Brow – They are looking to provide software to for companies billing to Medicaid that ensure the proper documentation and paperwork are submitted so companies get properly paid and not accused for fraud. Seems like a hard problem navigating the laws and requirements. It was a great pitch, even if it isn’t exactly an exciting problem to solve.

iTherapyDocs, @iTherapyDocs

OAC Gallery, Sarah Biondi – A simple concept: buy art online. There is a lot of potential with deals with interior decorators and designers. I wonder if production companies and home stagers would find it useful also. If they can get a reputation with the type of companies that need high quality, matching artwork quickly, then they could build strong reputation. It is already up and running, check it out.

OAC Gallery, @OACGallery

Pressure Analysis Company, Michelle Urban – This is an exciting company, basically they have a cap worn on the head to detect impact, record it, and produce analytics on athletes. I haven’t heard of them before, but they have quickly become one of my favorite startups and one I hope to watch. It is easy to picture a world in 5 or 10 years where football, from the NFL to high school, require independent monitoring of player head impacts. You could also picture a world where a college athlete could provide all their analytics for every impact they had to NFL scouts and those that don’t were considered riskier draft picks. There are lots of scenarios where there is a need for tens of thousands of cranium impact monitors and the accompanied data storage and analysis.

The thing I love the most how much of a product of UNM this is. The tech was created and licensed by UNM to a UNM alumni creating the company and testing being done with the UNM Lobos and Duke City Gladiators. This is just a great example of all the pieces, so far, coming together to build a company with a lot of potential.

Pressure Analysis Company, @ePACtech

sheSPIRE, Renay Moya – I was not terribly excited about this startup. It seemed like personal mentorship wasn’t something that could scale to be a large profitable company. However, Renay gave the most passionate and personal presentation of all the pitches. She did an amazing job and I can now see the growth potential where sheSPIRE is a combination of eHarmony + LinkedIn for connecting those in need of a mentor with a personalized mentorship. Explained that way it is easy to see how it can position itself for rapid growth.

sheSPIRE, @sheSpire

Teeniors, Trish Lopez – Teeniors was the second most personal speech and a great example of how this company creation process in Albuquerque can work. I mentioned earlier this year that Teeniors won the Startup Women’s Weekend. From there they kept the idea alive and were accepted into the ABQid program and now they have come out with it with a company that has clients and is growing. Teeniors connects teenage mentors with seniors that need personal help with technology or computers. I am not sure how this scales as a company, there does not seem to have any potential for high growth. That said, I think Teeniors could be one of the most important companies for changing Albuquerque for the better. It is certainly the one I want to see succeed the most.

Trish told the stories of the seniors and teenagers who had been paired together and it is amazing to picture how life changing and how meaningful to the teenagers and to the seniors something a company like this can be. It feels such an amazing emotional niche. Teens who want to be respected, helpful, useful, appreciated and valued. Seniors, who need help with technology and a personal connection or time with people. I am really excited to see if they can connect teens and seniors on a much larger scale.

Teeniors, @Teeniors

So far I haven’t found any videos of Demo Day, but there were lots of people filming so I am hoping to start to appear soon.

The next chance to watch pitches in Albuquerque is at Pitch Fiesta 4.0 on September 17th,