Thursday, September 15, 2016

#MIN90 Recap

Autodesk BUILD Space
Last night's Mass Innovation Night (#MIN90) was a great opportunity to see Autodesk's amazing new BUILD Space in the Seaport District in addition to checking out a whole lot of exciting new products. I talked to quite a few people who came to MIN90 specifically because they wanted to see the Autodesk BUILD Space. Autodesk was once again a great host, providing pizza and other refreshments and a congenial setting for networking. Fittingly for a space devoted to the building industry, a number of the products were building themed.

The absolute hit of the night (and winner of the grand prize) was Building Conversation with their augmented reality architectural visualization.  Imagine being able to walk into your plan right on site. That's right, you can walk through your project, look around, and see what it's going to look like with far more location-specificity than those artist's renderings we're always looking at during planning board hearings. It's like a hologram of your planned building right in the location. (Must remember to mention this to planning board sibling.)
Demoing Building Conversation
One product that caught my attention was Smartick, a new method for developing kids' math skills in a concentrated and adaptable way. Yeah,  math has to do with building -- math has to do with everything.  As someone whose favorite subject was math back in ancient times, I am pleased to see Smartick taking on the challenge of building up the math skills of kids from ages 4 thru 14. We need more creativity and flexibility in math education. 
Another product that was both interesting to me and popular with the crowd was Concrete Sensors. Did you know that moisture is the leading cause of failure in concrete flooring? How do you know when concrete is dry and ready for the next phase of a construction project? Concrete Sensors' wireless sensors monitor and report the curing and drying of concrete in real time and the app that goes with them lets you know what's going on so you can make better decisions, save time, save money, and improve quality control. (Must remember to mention this to construction sibling.)

Concrete Sensors
Speaking of concrete, I was really impressed with VariMold,  one of the two student start-ups from Wentworth Accelerate. VariMold offers a system for molding complex curved shapes in concrete. Urban architecture could use more curves.
The StorkIt mobile app enables on-demand shopping and delivery of various merchandise between friends (and/or neighbors). Craving a pumpkin spice latte? Enter that in the app and have one of your friends pick it up when he or she goes to Starbucks. It sounds to me like an app to organize the kind of stuff friends and neighbors used to do for each other back in the late Jurassic when I was young -- like, hey Solomon, can you pick up Billy's skates from the skate sharpening shop on your way home from school?
Presenting StorkIt
Knead  partners with your company's HR folks enhance the corporate wellness program by bringing short duration massage right to the office.
TiroGage  monitors tire pressure for medium and heavy duty trucks and buses. Imagine properly inflated tires on those big trucks barreling down I-495 -- man, would that ever reduce blowouts caused by under-inflated tires. And yes, they've heard all the Tom Brady football jokes already.
Jade Robot is a teaching tool designed based on teaching experience. The robots and their accompanying classroom materials get kids interested in programming and bring out their math and science potential. The built in user interface lets kids try things --  programming and configuring the Jade Robot without the use of a computer.  For more advanced projects, students can program the Jade Robot in Scratch and C with a Bluetooth wireless interface. Best of all, it appeals to both boys and girls -- no need for special girly robots to get girls interested.
Jade Robot
Cognate  is a trademark registry that makes it simple and convenient to document, monitor, and protect your common law trademark rights. I enjoyed joking with Bennett about trademarking my name so the other 46 Janet Egans in Essex County couldn't use it :-)
Bennett from Cognate
I didn't get a chance to talk much with LeafCanoe  about how its platform enables travel "experts" to share and monetize their knowledge by publishing smart guides.  I remembered Daijie Huang from an EforAll (then known as Merrimack Valley Sandbox) pitch contest back a couple of years ago and wanted to catch up a little more on how her strategy has changed/grown, but I just simply ran out of time.
Finally, as is traditional, I'll end this with an Expert Looking Expert. This month's Expert is Bob from Heartland offering his expertise in payments and payroll management.
Expert Looking Expert

Thursday, September 1, 2016

six reasons you might want to come to Lawrence this weekend

Flag at Lawrence City Hall

Looking for things to do this Labor Day weekend?  Have you ever thought of visiting Lawrence, the city that played a huge role in US labor history?  You can celebrate Italian culture, Lebanese culture, and labor history from Friday evening through Monday. Assuming that Hurricane Hermine leaves us alone, this is a great time to make that visit. Here are a few reasons that you might want to visit Lawrence this weekend:

1. Bread and Roses Heritage Festival

The festival commemorates the Strike of 1912. Yeah, in Lawrence they actually celebrate labor on Labor Day. The day long festival features, among other things, a live history stage  where you can learn about Lawrence's history and its present from  historians, writers, union representatives, and community activists.  There's live music on multiple stages, kids' activities, trolley tours, historic walking tours, and tables with vendors and non-profit organizations.

Monument to the 1912 Strikers

2. Moody Street Sound

They will be at Bread and Roses. Yes, you get to hear this fantastic band from Lowell on the Robert Frost Stage in Lawrence, how much more "Merrimack Valley" can you get? Trust me, you need to hear Jessenia Moriera's vocals. She's amazing.
Crowd at the Main Stage (2013)

3. Giant Puppets

What could be more perfect for Labor Day than political theater performed by giant puppets? Bread and Puppet Theater will once again perform at the Bread and Roses Heritage Festival. They've been appearing regularly for years and they're always popular.
Bread & Puppet's Bus and Props before the Performance (2014)

4. Feast of the Three Saints

Friday evening thru Sunday afternoon Lawrence's Italian community celebrates their Italian heritage, honors Saints Alfio, Filadelfo, and Cirino, and raises money for many local non-profits . Even if you're not Italian, this celebration will wow you with great food, free music, old friends (if you're Italian and from Lawrence like my brother-in-law), a torchlight parade, fireworks, and people yelling Viva Sant Alfio!
One of Lawrence's Canals

5. Crispelli

What? You've never had crispelli? "Fried dough" doesn't even begin to cover it -- my favorite is stuffed with ricotta, but I'm told that the anchovy ones are really good too.  This Sicilian treat is so closely associated with Lawrence that legend has it you may not be able to find it anywhere else in the US. The famed Italian Kitchen on Common Street offers crispellli along with the more widely known  arancini (rice balls) as their main menu items all year round.  They'll be serving up crispelli during the Feast of the Three Saints all weekend. Lining up for crispelli is a Lawrence Labor Day Weekend tradition.
Immigrant City Mural

6. The Mahrajan at St. Anthony Church

Love Lebanese food? Lawrence has long been home to a large Lebanese community. Since the early 20th century when immigrants came from Lebanon to work in the woolen mills, Lebanese food and culture has been a big feature of Lawrence life. St. Anthony Maronite Church may well be the oldest Maronite parish in the United States. The Maronite patriarch even visited Lawrence this summer (back in June).  St. Anthony's will be celebrating the Mahrajan Festival, a celebration of all things Lebanese, especially food. Saturday and Sunday are the days to check out homemade Lebanese delicacies.
Immigrant City Archives