HV Tech Meetup brings music and mayhem to Poughkeepsie

_6355_2500wSeptember’s event, held at Indotronix in Poughkeepsie, brought some exciting and unexpected new twists to the world of HV Tech.

Attendees entered the space to the sound of dance music in the air and Sparrow Hall, local creative and HV Tech member, in the DJ booth—or, more accurately, at the DJ podium. Sparrow’s mix got the energy in the right place for the first presentation: a tech demo like we’ve never seen before.

Tyler Walker, a composer/audio engineer living in the Hudson Valley, has been part of Improv Everywhere, a New York City-based performance group, for many years. He describes Improv Everywhere as “pranksters,” but the pranks they play are “victimless”—they intend just to cause a scene and spice up everyday life. Though many of their “pranks” are intended more to entertain bystanders, there’s one—the MP3 Experiment—that’s much more for the participants than for anyone who might be watching them. That’s the project we got to try at this month’s Meetup.

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Here’s the gist. Inspired by the vision of many people in NYC, all in the same place with headphones plugged into their devices, Tyler and Improv Everywhere founder Charlie Todd wondered: what if they were all listening to the same thing? And the MP3 Experiment was born. Composed (like most of the music used by Improv Everywhere) by Tyler, the synced audio instructs participants to walk, freeze, play Simon Says, and blow up balloons, all seemingly in silence to the outside world. Originally, participants had to manually push play on their devices at the right time, leaving room for possible user error. But Tyler worked with HV Tech member and mobile app developer Chris Garrett to create an iOS app that starts the audio at the exact same time, for every participant (or at least those using an iPhone). A tech demo, a silent dance party, and an HV Tech collab all rolled into one!

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Next, we heard from IBM designer Theresa Hans about her experience with the emerging “Design Thinking” program at IBM. When she first began at IBM, she was not a “tech person,” she says, having just graduated with a major in design and marketing. So she was excited for the three-month “crash course” that IBM provides for its new designers in Austin. Working in ever-changing groups, designers in IBM’s program learned how to speak the tech language and how to implement IBM’s design philosophy, which is centered around user empathy. I.e.: what does the user need, and how can we give it to them?

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But it wasn’t until she returned to Poughkeepsie, now a bonafide IBM-er, that the real challenge began. “How can I get people who have been doing the same thing for 30 years to think about their work differently?” she wondered. There have been clashes, she admits, as will always happen when someone is—as Theresa considers herself—a “disruptor,” or an “agent of change.” “I’m there to ask, ‘Why are we doing it this way?'” she says. But in the end, the Design Thinking philosophy—that good design must always serve the people and that the user should be brought in often and early—has guided them out of conflict. “Our user is our North Star,” she says.

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Lastly, we heard from a new HV Tech member who—though still in the midst of his undergraduate studies in design—has combined an entrepreneurial spirit and a lifelong love of Legos to create KO Custom Minifigures. Kyle Osterhoudt, the student behind the company, uses his design skills and Adobe Illustrator to create graphics and accessories for tiny Legos figures. Kyle is part of an “underground” industry—no, it’s not official Legos gear, but the company is cool with the customizations as long as that’s made clear. After the design process, Kyle sends out his creations to a mold-maker, who sends back an injection mold—which Kyle then uses to mold each piece with an injection machine in his garage, sometimes even using carefully snipped-up Lego bricks to ensure color matching. And yes, he can make a custom one for you—as long as you’re down to order 50 or 100 copies.

Our next HV Tech Meetup happens in Kingston on October 26. We’ll be welcoming back our house band Ads as well as Scott Heiferman, founder of Meetup! (How meta, huh?) And don’t forget Catskills Conf, coming to The Ashokan Center October 21–23!

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We’ve been at this for a few years now, and—drawing inspiration from Theresa Hans’ talk above—we want to check in with our participants often. We’ve heard that people want more nationally recognized professional speakers, we’ve heard they want more networking opportunities (like our “Meet Your Neighbor” moment, amplified) and we’ve heard they want to know more about what’s going on in their very own communities, from local makers and technologists. So we decided to bring the question to you: what do you want to see more of at future HV Tech Meetup events?

Tell us on Twitter!