Science Hack Day

It has been said many times before and deserves to be said again – Science Hack Day, Belgaum was the best technical event I have attended. A hack day is supposed to bring hackers, scientists together to create amazing things. It all happened and more. As participants and mentors, we returned inspired with new friends and more ideas.

I heard about the event from Anwesha, as she was planning the September PyLadies meetup in August. She, along with Kushal and Py, was going to the event with Hong, who had flown into India especially for it, as an organiser from FOSSASIA. I had discussed an idea with Sid, a project that I could take up for one of the PyLadiesPune hack days. So I planned to hack on it, if I managed to go. It became a family affair after Sid returned and showed interest in taking a road trip πŸ™‚

We almost cancelled and then we didn’t. What a mistake it would have been had we cancelled. The drive was great, Ira was good – we were happy. We took a detour at Kolhapur because we had to pick some stuff for the event. We left home after lunch so by the time we reached Belgaum it was late evening. Warned by Kushal about the maps, we waited for Praveen to lead us to the location. All 3 of us fell in love with the resort instantly, it was starting to feel like a vacation.

Day 1 started with an informal inauguration ceremony where all mentors introduced themselves and their ideas. I described my idea too – “Smart”ifying Cookie which is based on Grant Gibson’s Chatter Smartphone. Cookie is my two-year old’s battery operated toy. On click of the soft buttons on its palms and feet, the toy sings different rhymes. My idea was to replace the existing controller with a raspberry pi (because of my then limited knowledge of smaller development boards and of course availability) and make the toy do smarter things -1. depending on theΒ  time of the day tell my kid her task – something like – “it is 2 pm, time for you to sleep” , 2. play her favorite rhymes from the internet 3. read my twitter notification and ring an alarm to indicate something at home.

So the tables were set and I was all geared up to set shop next to Kushal’s so I could learn while I did my own thing. Hong came by and suggested it was a better idea to sit on different tables so that people who wanted to contribute to either ideas would be able to. I wasn’t really expecting anyone other than Ira to have any interest in what I was up to, not even Sid and Ira only because her toy was at stake. So as we unpacked, I realized I had forgotten the password to the pi and did not have a microsd adapter (foolishly, left it on the study table at home). Hitesh guided Sid to the electronic store and they got the stuff. While I was awaiting their return, a bunch of girls approached me at my table as they were interested in my idea and wanted to know if I could help them for their own project(robotic arm I think it was). Since I wasn’t ready, I redirected them towards Kushal as they were also very keen on learning Python. Rupa came up to me and expressed interest but had to redirect her to Kushal too. A shy, young boy -Shreyas- approached my table and asked me what my project was. After I explained, he told me about his projects (http://xerfia.com/).

I went around exploring the venue with Ira. We went to the main hall where curious students were working on building solar lanterns. There was a glade in the resort where another set of students were making science toys. The kids were curious, sharp, well-behaved and wonderful. We could only wait around till Ira’s attention span allowed us, which is 5 minutes. Ira spent most of time looking and asking for Ovi didi πŸ™‚ when not watching the peacock and peahen. We spoke to Poornima from the wonderful mapbox team, who were working on making an organic map of the resort.

Sid and Hitesh got the microsd and things started rolling for me. Jithin lent his monitor and was non-intrusively helping out in whatever way he could. Sid reset the password for me. To my surprise, Shreyas, was still lurking around and he joined me as I sat down to make Cookie smarter. I had requested Pooja to help me out as I had no experience soldering, but she got employed at the workshop while I was twiddling thumbs waiting for the microsd adapter. Praveen was at our table too, trying to win Ira over and failing. All of us had our bit of fame when the reporter from Tarun Bharat was impressed with the idea πŸ™‚

Sid and Ira left for a nap and we – me, Shreyas and Praveen- were at the table and we connected the wires to the pi’s GPIO pins and built the code. So we got stuck at a point where we wanted one click to execute the block of code just once, however it was going on in an infinite loop. We broke our head over it, over-analyzing the entire problem. Praveen debugged the code to death and back. Many others came over to understand the problem and help. Sid returned from his sleep and added a line time.sleep(1) and it got the expected result. All that was missing was, clearing the cache of the excess click inputs. We then broke down the tasks-to-do among ourselves and the work-day ended.

The long day turned night ended with lightning sessions.Β Arun got his broken microscope an LED. A memorable demo by Prof. Prabhu on biomass burner completely blew everyone away. Prof. Praveen‘s laser show made everyone wish for a professor like him.

The staff at the resort was very courteous and the food was great too. Dinner went well, kids had a great time.

Next morning we set about our tasks. It was heartening to see Shreyas still interested. We got working and managed to get Cookie to guffaw on a button click. Pooja and Shreyas worked on the soldering the circuit.

We were asked to assemble at 2PM at the main hall for a demo of our work. Many kids came even while we were working and found it amusing, most returned with a glint in their eyes at the possibilities.

The mentors, volunteers, participants were all such amazing, helpful people. It felt like a huge group of friends are working together πŸ™‚

At 2 we packed everything up and went to the main hall. Demo was arranged and the end result of the 2 days were open for the assembled crowd to see. Day 2 saw many parents accompany their children, so there was more crowd but everything was very well managed. The prize distribution and thanksgiving was the only formal bit in all of the 2 days πŸ™‚

The awards were given out to well-deserving teams.

  • Most Socially Useful Hack- Sun Tracking
  • Best Education Hack-Β Β Chrome Extension to convert Text to Speech
  • Best Science Hack- Organic Map
  • Audience Favorite Hack-Β Β Motion Detector
I must mention, Cookie was cheered quite a bit by the children πŸ™‚

At night, Rahul Khanolkar gave us a peek into his life as a researcher in bat conservation. He demoed the device they use to detect bat motion and told us some mind-boggling facts about bats. That entire episode will always be firmly etched in my memory. Wonderful experience.

I was so glad Ira could be a part of this event and hopefully we all will be in the future as well. A million thanks to the organizers and volunteers. I returned refreshed and focused. A germ of an idea (in the form of reserved-bit) is takingΒ  shape in my mind πŸ™‚

PyCon India – 2016, Delhi

The delay in writing about PyCon was not just procrastination ,but also getting myself involved with too many things at the same time.

I am happy to have attended this memorable event and hope to spread some cheer with this report.

Beware, looooong post alert. Get your popcorn!

Scroll down to Day 1 if you want to skip my personal peeve stories.

Backstory – My way to PyLadies

For me the first meetup of PyLadies was about learning basics of Python, I had no idea about the global community that is motivated to make a safe environment for women contributors. Despite being a beginner in Python, I seemed to have suggestions aplenty and it seemed to me that I could get/attract more members for the next sessions. I gave a small communication guideline talk during the second meetup and it was pretty much a sealed deal that I was happy to be a part of this community. What was most inspiring for me was the fact that Anwesha was so motivated to pull the group together, despite no clear path ahead for the group. It was disappointing that there were very few who attended regularly, nevertheless the few who did became good friends and I guess at this point we all fire each others imagination.

Tickets and more

I found out about PyCon from dgplug. The goodman was out for work and I could not imagine leaving Ira without either of us. It was not possible to attend the conference, clearly. I knew of all that was happening behind the scenes – how PyLadies did not get a table, how Rupali had, as always, returned as our knight (dame, maybe?) in shining armor. Red Hat had magnanimously opened its booth for the community and welcomed all contributors to showcase their stuff. Wow!

Almost all of dgplug was attending the PyCon and there were questions about who is joining when almost all the time. One visit from Kushal and Anwesha was all it took for us to consider the experiment of leaving Ira with her grandparents for a night. Tickets were jhatapati booked and plans made for stay. Thanks to Kushal and Anwesha for letting me be the haddi in their kebab during conference days. Truth be told, my mind was constantly occupied with what would happen with Ira ever since my tickets were booked. The husband is talented which enables him to do some nice things like printing few python print t-shirts for PyLadies.

I and the husband had made an LED lit jellyfish costume for Ira which was actually an umbrella based on this tutorial. Me and Anwesha planned to use it as a photo prop at the booth. My original plan was to carry Cookie(who is an annoying battery operated toy) which was to be controlled by a raspberry-pi and a simple python program. However, I wasted a lot of time and it was not ready on time and Ira was appropriately mortified to see her toy all opened up and confiscated it from me. I designed the 2 posters for the PyLadies table.

I had my doubts about using the prop until the last day. I remember giving Anwesha a panic call-

me: Lets not take the umbrella, it will look like a gimmick and no one would be interested. What if we are not taken seriously?!? *panic* *panic*

Anwesha(calmly, uncharacteristically): Ok..dont worry. You get the prop. We will see what to do. By the way, can you prepare a lightning talk?

me: WHAT? WHEN? “ME”??Β  *more panic*

Err, at this point I think I should do two posts. This is taking too long πŸ™‚ Never mind.

Day 0

So on Day 0, I was still in Pune and I got the posters printed, it was raining incessantly. I PyLady-fied the umbrella by printing the geek lady and sticking it on the umbrella. I had an exchange of images with uber-talented Trishna who was supposed to print the badges.

Day 1

I was supposed to leave at 3:00AM in the morning, in preparing for the lightning talk and catching up with the good-man, I was awake till midnight. Ira, as if on cue, woke up sharp at 2:30AM and bawled to see me leave, making it unbearably difficult to leave. However, I had to go AND I was out with a huge suitcase – for my umbrella prop and posters. I reached the venue at 8:00AM.

The registration desk was well organized. The volunteers were extremely helpful. I spotted a few people who looked like professionals at breakfast, almost 75% of the crowd were students. This is my first PyCon, I have always attended business conferences from my proprietary bubble days πŸ™‚

I finished my breakfast and went to the booth. Pravin and Pooja joined me soon. Pooja is like the backbone of the group – quiet, calm and extremely resourceful. I was so glad they were there. We started with setting the booth. Trishna, Janki, Kushal and Anwesha joined us and the posters were up in no time. The Red Hat guys were busy with setting up their booth too. It was a very bustling, colorful booth. I had goofed with the controller for the LED which the cute-couple (Pravin & Pooja) quickly fixed and our umbrella was glowing πŸ™‚ The photo prop was a huge hit.

PSSI announced Dr.Ajith Kumar B.P, a scientist at Inter University Accelerator Centre, as the winner of “Kenneth Gonsalves Award 2016”. What inspiring work! What was most inspiring is the enthusiasm the achievers have in doing more, contributing more.

Keynote by Baishampayan Ghose was a very interesting start to the conference.

I was introduced to Devi, the veteran contributor and mom. It was lovely meeting her, personally for me because I aspire to be working like her. I also found out about anandology.com, which I am referring nowadays to practice some python exercises.

Vijay Bung had an interactive Request for Volunteers and suggestions session at the open spaces. Me and Pooja attended it. This was in continuation with the Python month as organized by PSSI. Some valuable suggestions were noted and we made way to lunch. Rupali ended up being alone at the booth managing Red Hat and PyLadies single-handedly for some time.

Rest of the day was spent mostly at the booth talking about the how, when, what and why of PyLadies, Pune chapter. It was heartening to see so many women contributors come up and share their stories, encouraging for us as a team to keep up what we are doing.

For those interested in starting their own PyLadies interest groups-

  • http://kit.pyladies.com/en/latest/prospective/checklist.html
  • http://kit.pyladies.com/en/latest/overview.html#how-to-use-this-kit

I attended Anwesha’s talk and the delightful keynote by Van L. I will never forget his 3 tips for any conference –

  1. Come to contribute,
  2. Meet someone new &
  3. Say thanks

We were all treated to a great dinner hosted for PyCon speakers and volunteers. Another great avenue to network and also good food. I was attempting (and failing) to keep up with my Keto diet. Of course with the desserts, the diet flew out of the window πŸ˜€

I went on to complete the lightning talk and submitted a proposal for the upcoming FudCon in Phnom Penh and crashed to a dreamless sleep.

 

Day 2

Kushal left early because I was taking too much time *giggles*. Me and Anwesha barely made it for breakfast thanks to our (not) wonderful driver #sarcasmalert who took ages to reach us. The previous day Anwesha had spoken to Paul and Van about organizing a session by PyLadies about how to grow the community. So we were all set to organize the same at the open spaces. Since this was my first conference, I made the blunder of presuming and not checking with the volunteers about availability of the open spaces; went by the literal meaning – the space ought to be “open” for anyone. The very enterprising Janki got into her element and got us one slot at 11AM by successfully negotiating with the speaker who had the slot. We are grateful to Udayan for the slot. I missed thanking him personally at the venue.

The session went very well, we actually ran out of time.

Rupali gave an unforgettable introduction – outlining how PyLadies, Pune started as a student initiative but didn’t quite grow as anticipated, pointing out how Red Hat had opened its booth for the community when all else had failed and giving a primer on how we can move forward. She introduced the speakers – Paul Everitt, Dmitry Filippov, Van Lindberg and Jeff Rush – who had insisted on the session being an informal, interactive one. It was a wonderful idea. Jeff bought his vast knowledge to the fore and gave the entire room a big box full of ideas. They were encouraging, full of stories, insightful, charming, approachable and everything that leaders usually are. Why MEN for a panel at a Py”Ladies” event you ask? Firstly, we are notΒ  opposed to men participating [As we create a space for growth, we may end up excluding ourselves: driving home the stereotype even further] and secondly, when we are learning the ropes it is better to take tips from the ace (unfortunately, we had planned the open spaces session at the last minute and couldn’t get women speakers. Better planning next time, promise)

Unfortunately, all slots for lightning talks were taken for day 2, in fact they had some talks spilling over from the previous day. So my lightning talk will make its way to the next meetup πŸ˜€ I personally loved the idea of a 5-minute platform to strut your stuff very helpful and interesting.

We also had a #dgplug stairway meeting. I was elated to be part of such a vibrant and promising group. We met again for a photo later towards the end of day.

Some more time was spent at the booth. I attended the IoT talk by Jaimon Jose and picked a few ideas. I was really tired at the end of day 2, on day 1 I was probably running on some reserve-energy store, read caffeine πŸ™‚

Farewell was expressed to everyone and I was out – back to my baby – with a promise in my head to do more and get better πŸ™‚

PJP dropped me to the airport, while I regaled him with a report on my life. Whether he wanted to know or not was never a question πŸ˜€ I also finished reading Scion of Ikshvaku since I had 4 hours to spend at the airport. Yayy!

Follow up – To do

My poster design has been suggested to be the official logo for PyLadiesPune. Yoohooo! Also we need to work extensively on the PyLadies website

We had noted contact details of the women who visited us at the PyLadies booth. The idea is to get in touch with them and have sessions with them via Hangouts for our future meetups to keep in touch with what is happening in various fields w.r.t Python – exchange of information forging a multi-culture community.

 

Python workshop at Pune Institute of Computer Technology

The month of September was destined to be busy with the goodman out for his share of conferences. Nevertheless, my family rallied and the grandparents took complete charge of the monster-in-making. I actually managed to find time to attend more workshops, meetups and conferences than usual πŸ™‚

So while casually chatting with Anwesha I found out about the second workshop at PICT(Pune Institute of Computer Technology) to be conducted by Kushal. I checked if I could join him for the workshop, primarily to learn and secondly to understand how a workshop is to be conducted.

The first workshop was Introduction to Python by Kushal and was a huge success with 40 girls attending it. This workshop was an extension, as requested by the students. Anwesha had introduced PyLadies, Pune chapter in the previous workshop and had met with a very enthusiastic response.

On our way, instead of discussing the talk, me and Kushal spoke about the world in general πŸ™‚ So the topic was as new to me as for the participants of the workshop. We had a small felicitation event with the very knowledgeable HOD and the professors extending a very warm welcome to us. The students were trying their best to ensure we had everything we needed.

So the workshop began and I found out (well belatedly!) that the topic was the argparse (command-line parsing module in the Python standard library) module.

Kushal’s love to teach was apparent in the way he conducted the workshop. It is a pity he cannot do this fulltime πŸ™‚ He seemed much more approachable than the sessions @dgplug. He was stern, nevertheless went through the workshop with a lot of patience. Almost the entire class of 50 was able to grasp the concept and work on the tasks. I would work on the problems myself, once done I would walk around helping the students if anyone needed any assistance – a teaching assistant, if I may say so. At the end of the workshop we had made a command line using positional, optional arguments. Both me and Kushal were delighted to see some students try a lot of new things on their own

We ended the session with some gyaan about work ethics, the open source way of life, contributing to open source projects, importance of hard work, even disclosed pay packages of some contributors (gasp!), how to get on IRC, PyLadies, PythonPune and so much more.

Some queries we face at every meetup, every workshop-

  • PyLadies is ONLY for ladies? We are focused on providing a support network for everyone, primarily ladies.
  • What is IRC? A great way to get in touch with open source developers around the globe. Go to http://webchat.freenode.net –> Create your account –> Download xchat –>Β In “Networks”, find and select “FreeNode” and join any or all of the following channels – #pyladies, #python, #dgplug
  • Do we need to need to know all about data structures and algorithms to become programmers? I will never forget the boys face who asked this and we told him he doesn’t need to πŸ™‚

Our return journey was a lot of talk about how talented the students were and we hoped that at least a couple of students would be inspired as we were at some point in our lives πŸ™‚

 

 

PyLadies: Getting together(again), Web API in Python3

The Reboot that happened for the Pune chapter started small. It is therefore, heartening to see new faces for our regular meetups as much as it is energizing to meet the regular ones. I try and drag my husband to the meetups whenever possible. Frankly, it doesn’t take much effort as he gets to meet his friend too.

Anwesha graciously introduced everyone to everyone πŸ™‚

This meetup was supposed to start with a small demo by me on real-life applications of Python. My current project is my daughters battery-operated toy. I am trying to make it, well, smarter by replacing its existing controller with a raspberry pi. However, my daughter was mortified when she saw her “Cookie” all opened up and took it away from me. So I need to come up with better tricks to lay my hands on her toy without her knowing it and changing it for the better (better for me, of course!) I ended up giving a description of what I am trying to do. Also, discussed a few other automation ideas I have and where to get the components from.

Next was going to be Trishna‘s workshop on “Using Web API in Python3”. I had already heard so much about her from everyone that I was really excited and looking forward to attend her workshop. She didn’t disappoint one bit. Not only had she come prepared with a great problem statement, she also brushed up on Python basics for us beginners. She introduced the requests module before we took a break for lunch.

The problem she wanted us to work on was to use the ZOMATO API and come up with a list of Chinese food joints around our location. Now who would not like that – food that too chinese food πŸ˜€ She coded along with us as we worked on the problem. It was a great workshop, where we understood each term that we typed. We were all set to explore the API on our own.

All in all, it was a great day πŸ™‚

Anwesha has put out a request for blogs from all participants and we need to come up with our next meetup date.

 

 

#dgplug summer training

I have married a geek and that is how I got to know about the #dgplug summer training, to put it simply.

The Back story to my story

My husband has arm-twisted everyone in the family to use only Fedora on their computers and is dismissive of any other way of being. So I was aware of the open source way, used it, admired it but never got to doing much about it.

I was extremely happy with my cushy SAP consultant job which did not require me to tax my brain too much and allowed me to earn a decent, consistent pay package to take care of the luxuries of life. I wore the fire-fighting hat once in a while which also gave me the thrill to have problem-solved and been useful πŸ™‚

The monotony

Eventually, the job became less and less about the work and more and more about the people doing the work. I started itching to do something on my own. Also large multinationals rarely gives you opportunities to do something new and doing something on your own is unthinkable. I was done with being a stooge for the company, however, lacked the courage to foray out on my own and after having taken the plunge to quit, I rejoined meekly (yes I did. Yes I am ashamed. Now can we move on?) in less than 3 months.

The game changer

The game changer for me was my forced-break during my pregnancy. My daughter, while still inside my womb, forced me to be on bed-rest for a good 2 months before she decided she had enough fun at my expense and wanted to make her appearance for everybody else. Takes after her dad, my little girl. This time I utilized to read and read I did about a lot of things including technology, discussed a myriad things with my ever-enthusiastic-husband. My thoughts aligned with the freedom granted by the open source culture and I decided to equip myself with some knowledge and contribute to the community from whom I have only gained so far. Jobless and opinionated, I was all geared up to learn till I realised parenting meant a lot of hard work and was time consuming. I learnt to count. I had only two hands and decided to take it slow.

#dgplug

I tried my hand at learning php, worked on a friend’s website. My husband casually mentioned that his friend (mine too!), Kushal, conducts a 3-months long summer training for students and I should take a look at their previous work. I did and even before they had updated their pages to reflect the calendar for 2016 I had registered for the summer training πŸ™‚

My key take-aways from the sessions conducted so far(Mailing etiquettes, FHS, VIM, reST, Sphinx) –

* We are into the sixteenth year of the twenty-first century, knowing how-to solve a problem is not the major debate. Listing problems that can be solved and prioritizing them, in my opinion, is what will make us tick.

* Collaboration is another key factor and having the world open to learn from is as-good-as-it-can-get

* Mentorship is all about being effective, approachable and not spoon-feeding

I am looking forward to the remaining sessions over the next 3 months and take my journey of over a thousand steps forward.