Tag: Roman

Girls Learning Code – Roman’s perspective.


Instead of going to the field trip to New York, several people, me included, stayed in Toronto and volunteered at the Girls Learning Code camp. This is a special independent organization that helps children and adults to get familiar with various technological concepts, such as programming and web design. This particular camp was all about helping girls, from eight to thirteen years old, learn basics of web design in form of learning HTML and CSS.

Girls Learning Code

For me the camp started on Sunday before the first day, when I was going to the briefing and tutorial for volunteering mentors. I arrived about one and a half our earlier due to early departure because of unfamiliarity with the area and absence of traffic on Gardiner which is the scourge of my existence during rush hours. Therefore I was able to help with the setup of the camp which took about an hour.  There I met the camp coordinator Laura Plant, camp lead Kathryn Barrett and Lindsay Fry also one of the leaders. Then I and other three mentors, received rules and regulations forms explaining everything on how not to accidently sexually harass anyone, as well as some directions on actions during stressful situations. Particular point that attracted my attention was “Mentors are prohibited from… <other points> eliminating snacks.” I was quite curious what meaning did elimination mean in this context, total annihilation by eating or willful extermination using flamethrower – I did not know, but hesitated to ask Laura. Then Laura answered some general questions and we departed, anticipating the following first day.

On the first day I arrived half an hour early, at 8:00 AM to be there on time and meet everyone first. To do so I had to wake up at 5:00AM and take one of the earliest trains. On the spot I met few other mentors who were five to seven years older than me and long time working at different companies. Then the rest of the mentors arrived, the 80% of mentors who were FreshBooks employees and conveniently volunteered for half day while also being near work place. By 9:00AM first girls started arriving with their parents and one of the exceptionally extraverted mentors, whose name was Tyn, took them for a tour of the study area. After everyone was there Kathryn explained to girls the purpose of mentors such as myself, and a bit on corporate ethics – the trend was called “Warm Fuzzies” a bag where people could donate notes with positive feedback about the owner of the bag. As well as discussed several other formalities, such as general directions of the camp and learning outcomes. Then was the time to learn. I was assigned to a group called JavaScript, which I was proud of because some of the others were Python and Basic. The team started with generating the idea for the website. Due to my lack of educational knowledge I tried to not interfere with the process and only help with general directions, such as writing points out while brainstorming and voting for the best idea. Even though the cancer cell of “Endangered animals” was present in our group, all girls voted for the original idea of free WiFi. I call the topic above the cancer cell because 5 out of 8 groups were doing that topic, which does not mean it was bad, but rather rapidly growing in the closed society. As soon as the topic was selected, which took half day we went to have lunch. After lunch girls designed the logo for the team in Pixlr, looked at some basic ways to modify a website and studied some general structure of web pages. I was quite exhausted so I left as soon as my shift ended at 4:30PM.

The next day I volunteered was also the last one. Friday, was the presentation day, when girls showed their websites they made throughout the week to their parents and it seemed, the entire personnel of FreshBooks. I was very curious as to how my team managed throughout the week and what is the final version of what they planned looked like. This day Chris was also there so it was better and more cheerful than Monday. When I finally got to my group I discovered that they still were halfway through the task from last day. They inquired as to where have I been during the week, which surprised me, because I didn’t think they would remember me. So we had to rush through the Thursday assignment of making video using Mozilla Popcorn – web based video editor and to make things worse, also implementing it into the Mozilla Thimble – web development app. Since girls were relatively new to the software even with my help they were not doing that fast. Thankfully Kathryn came to rescue and helped the team. After lunch was final polishing round then girls went through the website practicing the presentation. And then the presentations happened… and it was over. Not much to say about presentations since parents were the target audience. Then everybody grabbed their Fuzzy Bags and left, while me and Chris stayed a little longer to help with the takedown of the camp. We helped to pack everything up and deliver it to the van, which took it to the mysterious place called – “The Lab”. Then me and Chris parted ways on the crossroads in front of FreshBooks building, I went north while he went south. Thus our bizarre adventure has ended.

Reflection: The experience received from this activity was probably incomparable to the New York one yet it was valuable. Girls were especially bright and picked up everything right away. As Kathryn wisely noticed – she learned all that in university, while kids can already get a hand of such advanced technology at such a young age. But personally the most important experience for me was to see the insides of a company such as FreshBooks which does financial advising for startup businesses and some promo-advertising. While mentoring on the first day I had a chat with a guy called Jeremy who is doing promotional video for FreshBooks and it was quite interesting to see how people use familiar to me technology to achieve such distant goals. Therefore as the conclusion every experience in life is valuable, yet some are more valuable than others and this one was definitely one of the important ones.

Hack Lab (Hakka Lab)

Q:How does the community inside Hack Lab work and are there any corporate ethics involved?

Q:Have you considered any other ways to keep the Lab running, beside monthly subscription?

Q:How does the degree of creativity in people change as they work and experiment in Hack Lab?


Sumaranai: Hack Lab is a studio made specifically to assist people, with ambition in programming, wearable technology and any kind of technological innovation, in reaching their goals. The studio itself is an apartment-like set of rooms, each with different purpose. Firstly there is the room with the entrance where presumably most of the coding is done. Programmers also share this room with several 3d printers and a laser cutter. During our visit we were greeted by Eric Boyd, one of the creators of Hacklab and we had a little tour around the space. Firstly my sub-group has seen the kitchen, where nice Asian lady told us all about the secrets of testing new recipes on unsuspecting co-workers. Then we visited the workshop, where Eric shared with us how much hacking has been done to ensure than not a single Ampere passes through the power cords unnoticed, and of course the pride of the Hack Lab – the air filtration system to ensure that human casualties after laser cutting are minimal. After that we visited the resting area with a small sniper nest and Breaking Bad level chemical setup with unidentified substances, which as have been described by Eric – “Are used by other two people for unknown to him purposes”, most assuring. At the end of the day the kind Asian lady offered us some food and everybody got some, except me – I read a lot of Grimm brothers’ tales in my childhood and know better.




Reflection: The experience in Hack Lab could hardly be called distinctive, a nice giant workshop made for any imaginable work with hardware and software. The sense of community purchased for fifty dollars does not sound so appealing, but rather cheesy. The needs of Lab to maintain itself are clear, yet the membership in this fine establishment does not sound as tempting and non-membership and fifty dollars in the pocket. I presume it is only because I have yet to run into a project where my life would depend on air filtration system after some heavy laser cutting. The Lab looks like a “done and gone” type of place where you abandon the ship as soon as your month runs out. Personally I found it pretty hard to identify the target audience for a place like that, since I always assumed that new entrepreneurs are looking for a way to earn and not spend money, yet this lab seems full of people willing to pay fifty dollars per month for the access card on the front door.


Q:As a startup company what would you recommend, in terms of strategy, to attract sponsors?

Q:How does the company deal with malfunctioning circuits and is there a return policy?

Q:What would be the best way to organize a hierarchy inside the company?


20150324_151255Upverter is a company that specializes in creating CAD software for creating a digital blueprints for chips and circuit boards .It started off from the idea of creating a custom CAD program because all existing ones were not satisfying the founders Michael Woodworth and Zak Homuth so they decided to make a new one that would be more professional and have better and more intuitive interface. Therefore the idea developed into a full product and the company was built around it. As of late the company provides their software for several major companies in addition to directly building circuits for some customers.  We were greeted by Mike, who showed us the office space and took us to the basement where the “conference room” was located. There demonstrating prototypes of the circuit boards on the screen he showed the kind of business the company was doing. He passed around a few prototypes a circuit board and a robot, which were made using Upverter app. He talked about the company, the development trends, startup problems and overall tendencies in the field, as well as mentioning competitors such as Eagle. After we finished with the presentation we received Upverter badges and visit cards.



During our visit at the office of Upverter it was surprising to see it located at one of the living houses, especially offsetting was the office layout inside the house and the work space where all the developers sat. The overall experience was interesting, it was interesting to see how a successful startup began, what problems it had in the beginning and how these problems were resolved, this kind of experience would definitely help should I decide to start my own company. As for the actual software that Upverter releases, I have barely touched any circuit design therefore it is hard for me to judge whether it is better or worse than Eagle.

Studio Y – (“Why?”)

Q: What is the maximum amount of people to ever be in the studio simultaneously?

Q: How high is the success rate of studio members getting a full time employment in a company?

Q: How dos the studio maintain itself? Is it a government organization?

Summary:Studio Y is an interesting place located in MaRS building for people aspiring for opportunities, rich with ideas and innovations. The place itself is a comfy studio with pillow-seats and chairs forming a circle, where all the studio members gather and discuss projects and ideas, share thoughts and experiences and collaborate. Studio has interesting group division procedures where certain members pitch their idea and the remaining members disperse themselves into groups based on how members resonate with certain ideas. During our visit to Studio Y we were treated as members. We were taught the basic procedures of interacting within this environment, like clicking when our views resona+ed with the view of the speaker, and separated into groups based on people’s interests.  In teams we discussed various ideas that were important to us and then on return to the room we talked about our ideas with the entire community. Studio Y provides many opportunities for students to cooperate with larger companies and opens a window for inexperienced students fresh from universities to get a job at one of the companies.

Reflection: The overall experience of visiting Studio Y was pretty interesting. I was slightly disoriented at first at how friendly everyone was and how the conversations got picked up pretty quickly, however the overall experience was amazing. I joined a group which was discussing education in video games and it was quite the experience, sharing thoughts and with people interested in the same topic. I brought up the example of physics in video games such as in Half Life and Portal, where the knowledge of physics required to solve puzzles could potentially be a applied to real life. In general it was a good experience and I would definitely remember Studio Y.

Push – to wear or not to wear.


Q:Have you considered developing more devices on the same topic – fitness?

Q:How was the Push initially received by the public?

Q:Are there any government standards that product has to match to be in the health category?

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Summary: Push is a startup company organized and specializing around one single product – Push, it is a wearable device that lets professional athletes train with better understanding of each exercise and control the performance of each turn. The device itself presents a small black box with colored LEDs and two sensors: gyro-sensor and accelerometer which track the motion of the person wearing it and store the information on a specific internet storage, where the user and his/her has access to and can track progress and make modifications. At MaRS building we were greeted by Mike Lovas, Chief Designer at Push and one of the co-founders of the company. At first Mike took us for a tour around the Jolt – an incubator for new businesses and later he showed us office space where Push resides until this day. The office area was somewhat tiny so we only got a brief glimpse at the actual offices, but nevertheless Mike took us outside and answered our questions.

Reflection: The visit at Push strength was interesting in terms of seeing MaRS building from the inside, seeing Jolt – quite an important place for innovators with lots of ideas and little money, a place where every aspiring designer could find himself at a certain point of his life.  The visit to Push offices was as anticipated just a showcase of company’s performance, even though according to Mike it’s not its brightest times. The Push product itself in my opinion is targeted at a very specific audience which left me with a controversial question of why would professional athletes who have trained for most of their life suddenly need a sensor to maximize some of the physical outputs. Mike’s answer: that in the professional level every little bit matters did not fully answer the question. Therefore my conclusion was that the correct advertisement and proper delivery brought Push to the point where it stands now.

Hot Pop Factory

Q:What is the most practical use of 3d print you encountered?

Q:Have you ever considered any means to make 3d printing more efficient?

Q:What are some possible applications of 3d printing in day to day life? Something used often and practically?

Summary: Hot Pot Pop factory is a company/ studio that makes 3d prints using 3d printers and laser cutters. During a tour given by Bi-Ying and Mathew we got an idea how the 3d printing business is organized. The idea for the company originated in Rome, the concept of creating a company that would combine various 3d design equipment and use it to assist other companies, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs with access to otherwise expensive 3d print technology. The company has been involved in many interesting projects such as Module Composed Architecture  and customized plastic Jewelry when users can write their own custom designs in processing and then print this unique piece on a 3d printer. Hot Pop factory have successfully developed the ways of marketing including the user interaction listed above, sharing experiences with people and following popular trends such as a pipe in shape of Rob Ford’s head, which resembles the recent scandal with him abusing drugs. Overall, the flexibility of demand in the field and manufacturing on demand has brought Hot Pop factory to a solid place in the creative society, where it still resides.


Reflection: My personal experience while visiting Hot Pop factory was rather educating, prior to the visit I only had a vague interpretation as to where to find an accessible 3d printer. Hot Pop factory was the first in this matter, and as of now I know where to find a 3d printer in Toronto. However the offsetting part was the price for 3d prints, where in my opinion the cost does not justify the results. Therefore it is not viable for me to incorporate the 3d prints in any of my works. The experience shared by Bi-Ying and Mathew was very valuable in terms of starting a business in a field with other players around, even if the business could seem rather unique at first glance. As well as the experience of idea development for a particular type of items was rather interesting and showed how one should adapt to the society around him to succeed in business.

IndieGogo and Kickstarter. (Crowdfunding)

Q1: What trends in crowd funding have you noticed developing over the 21st century? How has the crowd funding changed from the point of its origin?

Q2: What has been the most outrageous campaign you have encountered, and how the situation has been resolved?

Q3: Does other financing platforms such as Patreon, somehow interfere with the funding coming through Indiegogo? And has Indiegogo considered other systems of funding in addition to the current one.


Summary: On the Tuesday of March 10th we were visited by Steve Tam from IndieGoGo, who has given us a lecture about trends and modern tendencies in crowd funding. During his talk about his experience he mentioned working at Kickstarter, a crowd funding platform that opposes IndieGoGo in the field. Following up on that he drew a connection between IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, compared their financial capabilities and funding strategies, from which he concluded that while Kickstarter has a much larger base of people and larger amount of money flowing through, IndieGoGo is more flexible due to customizable project funding periods and lack of requirement for the finalized product before launch of the campaign. Then he talked about product development and “How the customer should not be defined in the board room” since it is almost impossible to precisely identify the target audience, since people from different ages and other categories have shown to have interest in many various things. Then was a topic about branding and the difference between a brand and a logo. Particularly how the brand sticks with the company and crosses the boundaries of physical products attracting more attention due to the people’s interest in popular items. And finally the lecture was finished with an insightful conversation. One of the questions was about the possibility of crowd funding replacing the material (regular) ways of funding, to which Steve responded with an open-ended answer: That it will most likely stay as it is crowd funding for the internet, while traditional ways remain as they are.

Reflection: Prior to this lecture, the only funding platform I had experience with was Patreon which lets people support the creators of their favorite content with a sort of monthly salary, Therefore a closer look at IndieGoGo proved to be quite resourceful. As I have noticed many similarities between these platforms: Such as perks, given for a certain amount of funding, milestones set by the authors and such. Particularly interesting in Steve’s lecture was the idea of exclusiveness, which the backer (financial supporter) gets when he funds a certain product or project. I have experienced that myself and able to relate to this trend. As for the other trends discussed by Steve that I found interesting was the idea of urgency, set by the campaigns due date, people really are willing to spend money when they see the other people investing and the timer running out. Looking at the trend of crowd funding there is this marvelous campaign on Kickstarter, a space simulator PC game called Star Citizen. The project rocketed beyond imaginable collecting $2,500,000 instead of prompted $500,000. This is a perfect example of a successful campaign and a productive relationship between the consumers and the creators, since the game has been continuously in development receiving all kinds of positive feedback from people.



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