In 2015 I entered into my 3rd and final OneSpark competition. OneSpark was typically held once a year in April and spanned as much as a week from Monday till Sunday. In the years prior I didn’t feel like I had performed as well as I’d liked in part because of the venues I had gotten matched up with. The first year I was lucky enough to get secluded on a barren seventh floor of the Suntrust building downtown. The second year the best venue I could get was main street park (where all the homeless people go to sleep) which is conveniently located on the opposite side of the library from hemming park (the epicenter) so naturally there was little foot traffic. So for my 3rd try at OneSpark there was an option to have a mobile venue instead of a specific location which I suppose was more intended for performing acts however I took it as an open license to setup where I wanted.

I found someone on craigslist selling some really nice metal and wood rolling retail carts so I bought two of them, and specially designed some banners to fit them. You’re allowed to sell at OneSpark so I ordered tons of little things to fill my cart to sell for fund raising. I told my parents, and my dad planned to visit and help out from Palm Beach. I contracted a friend I went to high school with to come be my PR person for the event.

Before OneSpark even started an investor had already heard of me through my friend in Palm Beach. In one of the bars my friend frequented she casually mentioned to someone that she was going to be out of town in Jacksonville for OneSpark to help out my solar panel project, seemingly intrigued in the event and the project, the man at the bar offered to fly my friend and himself to Jacksonville to meet me.

On the first day of the event I was able to find a spot in front of the church near hemming park in a high traffic, high visibility area. So I snuck in, and secured my spot. I don’t think anyone knew I probably wasn’t supposed to be there. I set up my displays and rolled out my solar panels and it became clear that I was much better prepared this year than in years past. My friend texts me that she’s flying into town unexpectedly with an investor who wants to meet me that night. She sends me his resume and information for me to study about him before he arrives. We planned to meet that night after OneSpark in the Volstead. I’m there in the lobby waiting and still reading his resume on my phone when he walks in, an older balding man who resembled Benjamin Franklin. We awkwardly greet each other and get a drink and immediately we begin talking about the event, and the solar panels. I show him one of the prototypes I produced and he becomes moderately impressed with its construction.

It’s getting late so we start looking for places to get dinner, I tried taking them to Chomp Chomp but they were closed so we settled on Burrito Gallery instead and found a table on the patio out back. There’s a dark sky with light grey clouds lit from the light pollution with some moonlight and the Jacksonville skyline in the background as we sit down to talk. At this point the entire meeting has gone really well, he genuinely seems interested in my project and what I’m working on seems to fit what his interests are. My friend warned me that this guy normally had a tactic of asking something as a “gotcha question” so he started asking me about this supposed computer that archeologists found in a ship wreck that was called the “Anti-kythera” he asked me something like if I understood how it could work, or if we were just reinventing the “Anti-kythera” with modern computers, which I argued that we weren’t. We walk to the Hyatt for him to retire for the night since he planned on getting a flight out to New York the next day. On the way while stopped at a crosswalk he points to a bush and says “I could just sleep right there for the night.” And we laugh.

I return home late around 1-2AM and have a talk to my mom for a while about, “what should I ask for” and we ended up coming to the conclusion that for my business manufacturing solar panels I’d need close to $1 Million.

The next morning we planned on meeting early before OneSpark started and before he left for his flight so we could talk some more about my project and his projects. I show up to the Hyatt lobby, I call and get no response so I sit in the dining room and get started on breakfast. They show up a bit late and we start talking about his projects, and his companies, and he starts asking me if I want to be a part of these projects. I was interested, I could’ve helped on his projects but that was different than investing my company. We agreed to meet up after the event in New York. He left for the airport and he left my friend with his really nice Nissan model Z rental for the rest of the week.

She came back from dropping him off at the airport and we were both really excited. It felt like something was happening, like there was some real potential. We spent the rest of the day hustling, getting votes for our project at OneSpark. We packed up for the night and got ready to head home when my friend realized the parking garage she parked in closed early and she wouldn’t be able to get the car out until tomorrow.

The next day we got out to OneSpark and started setting up when my friend decides to move the rental car to another garage that closes later. Only that she put the keys for the car in with the rest of the stuff for our project for the night that we locked up in the church. She couldn’t find the keys for the rental car. She had to spend the rest of the week looking for the keys, and then after accepting she lost them, she had to file a police report, try to get replacement keys, etc.

We finally get near the end of the week and my solar project has done really well, lots of good feedback from people, and great feedback from the judges. My friend is now desperate to resolve the whole issue with this rental car, but it turns out that the only way to get a replacement key is from the rental car company, and they won’t replace it unless the person on the rental agreement signs off on it. The only person on the agreement is our investor friend. On one of the last days of OneSpark 2015 I remember us pulling over to a CVS parking lot and hearing her awkwardly calling the investor’s assistant to break the news to him, and to get him to sign off on getting a new key for the car. They didn’t have a key so they had to tow the car away.

Sunday was the final day for One Spark and I got chosen by the Judges to be one of the top 3 projects for the technology category which I was very proud of considering the 500+ creators and projects that participated in OneSpark. You had to do a final pitch as one of the nominees in front of a large audience. The final pitches were supposed to be on the hemming park stage but it started raining so everyone moved to the stage inside the museum of contemporary art. Competing against me for the technology category are two other companies, one is an app that the creator’s described as “hotwire for restaurants”  which tried to make deals with restaurants during their normal downtimes between lunch and dinner, and the other company had designed patent pending, quicker to replace trash bags. I walked into this feeling like my company, my project, my solar panels would be a shoe-in for the technology category, I was wrong. When we attended the awards ceremony the judges announced that the company making slightly improved trash bags would win the $20,000 award, beating out the company that designed more efficient and versatile solar panels. There were no runner-up awards for the other two spots in the technology category. I was visibly disappointed and stormed out of the awards ceremony. In all, I sunk more money into OneSpark than I got out of it. I got about $200 from the popular vote, which I wasn’t counting on, and $0 from the OneSpark investment group, and $0 from the technology category. This sucked, but it felt like it didn’t matter because I still had a connection with the investor I met.

After about a month had passed we arranged for me to fly up after work on Friday one weekend to New York.

 

 

Triple-D-Reviews, a new website for investigating and reviewing 3D printers

Triple-D-Reviews

After trying to build two 3D printers, I got frustrated. You have to realize, with as much potential 3D printers may have, they’re still being built and designed by amateurs. Others at Jaxhax have tried building 3D printers as well but have come up short with similar problems. I built a Reprap huxley that had a couple critical design flaws with the extruder, I ultimately gave up on it, and bought what appeared to be one of the higher end 3D printers out there, a Makerbot Thing-O-Matic, which after building it I realized had some feeding issues with it’s extruder as well, I ultimately gave up on it, and sold it for 40% of the $2,000 I paid for it in parts…

Makerbot’s support was also terrible, I will likely never buy anything from them again. Which isn’t a problem since there’s about a thousand new 3D printer companies that have sprung up in the last year.

So now I’ve started a website for 3D printer reviews so that there can be some better accountability for 3D printer manufacturers, and their parts.

I’m calling this site Triple-D-Reviews as in 3D Reviews. You can check it out here: www.tripledreviews.com

A Fresh Look at Electric Cars and Hybrids

 

Electric Cars

The concept of the electric car has been around for quite a while, though the only real practical electric car as of late has been the downtown cable cars, though I guess those could technically qualify as trains instead. The largest issue for the longest time has been trying to pack the energy density necessary into battery packs for be able to go anywhere practical. Lead batteries have existed for some time, though they don’t pack nearly the same energy density as lithium batteries do. Which is partially why electric cars have only recently reimerged onto the cutting edge of the car market. As we’ve invested more research into lithium battery packs for laptops, car makers have realized the potential in new electric cars.

I have an interest now in getting either an electric car, or a hybrid. I have an aging Ford Mustang ’98 which has seen some better days. With the transmission now slipping, and the check engine light flashing every week or two it’s time to find a new car. With as few miles as I’m putting on it I still pay close to $200 a month on it in gas. I figured in looking for a new car, if I could buy or lease a new car for roughly the same cost in gas then I wouldn’t mind leasing. The trade off ultimately would be whether I could save as much in efficiency with better mileage to makeup the cost for a lease. With an electric car, you don’t even have to pay for gas, though unfortunately with the money down, and the cost to install charger in your home, the cost is comparable to a prius. Aside from other drawbacks with electric cars like maintenance, and traveling range, and recharge time. Electric cars are really appealing, they can have good performance as noted with the Tesla Roadster, or they can be ultra efficient as with the Aptera 2e which was claiming a whopping 300MPGe (it’s now unfortunately discontinued until further notice)
 

Insite Renewables, bringing new Insight to Clean Energy.

Insite Renewable Energy, LLC.

(DBA: Insite Renewables) is a new company that I’ve started in response to the difficulty I became aware of in participating in clean energy alternatives. The companies main goal is to create new products that will make it more convenient for consumers to install their own clean energy power sources in buildings without having to go through the hassle of hiring a contractor and being held up by the permitting process.
To start, we plan on manufacturing a spectrum of solar energy devices to take advantage of the solar energy available in windows with some new devices called Solar Shutters, that take on a familiar design of plantation shutters with a renewable twist. Embedded solar cells allow them to collect sunlight for use in other applications within a home to help reduce an electric bill while going green.

More information about this exciting clean energy venture can be found at the Insite Renewables website here: www.insiterenewables.com

Jaxhax Makerspace

While I was enrolled at UNF, I think I got bored of the monotonous work of creating uncreative things. When I got my first apartment on Southside (a one bedroom apartment, I rented out the sunroom of) I tried building a 3D printer, and realized that it wasn’t working out nearly the way it was supposed to. 3D printers almost go hand in hand Makerspaces, and I think somewhere down the line 3D printers were first conceived in a makerspace. But regardless we didn’t have a makerspace in Jacksonville, so there was really no help for my non-working 3D printer aside from what I could read on the internet. So ultimately I’d tried getting people together who were also interested in makerspaces in Jacksonville. I formed a group on facebook, with really only my roommate at the time and myself. He wasn’t much help with anything, but he was a redditor, and he invited me to an annual reddit meetup in Jax, where I met a very cool guy named Ronnie. There were now three of us in the facebook group. I started a weekly newsletter, and we started drumming interest for a makerspace in Jacksonville with some weekly meetings at my apartment. We finally got up to about 20 people who were interested in actually getting a space, Ronnie started scouting out some warehouse space until we found a place we could finally agree on. All we needed at this point to open the doors was some money for rent, but even with what we could all afford at the moment we didn’t have enough to open the space. One member, Ziggy, was nice enough to be an angel investor and throw down half of what we needed to get going. We opened the 7,000 sq. ft. warehouse space in downtown Jax the next month and started moving in.

It was completely empty, except for some big white pillars. No walls, no air-conditioning.

Fast forward a year or so, we’ve built out the space with specialized rooms for electronics, art, metal and wood working. We’ve also got a huge collection of donations, and more stuff really than we know what to do with. We have a computer lab, lots of computer, a couple 3D printers some members have been working on. We’ve got a classroom, about 8 board members, and we’ve incorporated the space as Jaxhax, Inc. with the possibility in the future of forming a non-profit organization for donation of some bigger equipment. Also in an odd twist, we’ve come out as one of the larger makerspaces in existence. A bit surprised we haven’t been contacted yet by DARPA or anyone else. Anyways! Here’s to the future of hacking things!

www.jaxhax.org

HGTV’s Not-So-Smart Home

I guess the term smart home does not necessarily mean green home. After arranging a visit of HGTV’s overpriced $20 tour we left feeling disappointed. The home valued at nearly $1 million was neither green nor smart. Painted with a couple good pastels, the home had a great beach feel to it, but it seemed to lack much of any feature I’d attribute to a smart home. ADT had cleverly placed cameras around the house to showcase their monitoring solutions, so technically it was a secure home. Overpriced toilets in each of the bathrooms offer new buttons to press rather than the traditional flushing lever.  Pseudo-high-tech fans circulate in the bed and living rooms. Keypad doorlocks control all the doors.  Garage door openers have built in batteries for when the power goes out. Shades on the back windows open and close by an ipad app, though you’re going to have to switch out the battery every couple months. A $5,000 induction based stove insures you can only use specially made cookware. Unlike regular infrared or convection based stoves, an induction based stove essentially works with magnet wire to transfer energy to pots and pans which is then converted locally to heat, which I guess is cool because your stove never actually heats up, and that’s nice if you want a stove that can double as a seat or as a desk, but this is a stove, it’s meant to get hot.

By far the most intelligent features of the ‘smart’ home were the rain barrel they had in front, and the metal roof on top. I say that because the metal roof, unlike normal asphalt and tile roofs reflects a lot of sunlight keeping the house cooler, it can also be more durable in the event of a storm or hurricane.

Beyond these honorable mentions we saw in the house, there were the things we didn’t see that bothered us the most. There were no solar panels, there was no programmable thermostat (they just had a vanilla set-it-and-forget-it thermostat) there were no LED lights, or CFL’s they for whatever reason seemed to prefer using incandescent lights and more energy. Which isn’t very smart. I wasn’t really expecting to see incandescent lights in a ‘smart’ home I thought surely at a bare minimum they would have CFL’s, I didn’t even know they still sold incandescent lights in stores with which to replace your old burnt out ones. But somehow they still managed to special order some incandescent light bulbs to keep their meter spinning. It’s 2013, is this really the smart home of the future? Aren’t we supposed to be in space already with hover cars, parking in carports in our jetson’s-esque dome homes? Instead the house that’s being touted nationally on the home and garden channel as a ‘smart’ home is still using much of what was made for homes more than 100 years ago, while also being as energy efficient as an SUV. In a dire time when greenhouse gas emissions have surpassed the threshold warned about by global scientists, we need to ask ourselves, is this really the best we can do?
2013-05-12 14.12.32
When I think of a smart home

Again in retrospect we were referred to check out the smart home by JEA, who informed us it was a good example of solar energy in homes. There were no solar panels, and there were no solar water heaters.

International Music

When I was in highschool I started listening to a German metal band named Rammstein. I fell in love with their music, and I’m still a long time fan. Before I left for college I tried researching and finding other international bands and their music. Among them I found R&B Russian music, South Korean and French Electronic music, as well as others. I compiled a playlist on youtube for all to enjoy, check it out below.

A word about Tropical Smoothie’s Styrofoam cups

Tropical smoothie and Styrofoam cups
Tropical smoothie is a company that has a brand that is deeply invested into healthy lifestyles. Most of their sandwich sizes are small portions with healthy ingredients. They offer among all fruit smoothies a green kale smoothie and a bright orange carrot smoothie. The company has been very innovative to retrofit their outlets with tropical décor and color schemes, though the company isn’t entirely green. Along with some of its innovative features Tropical Smoothie exclusively sells each of it’s healthy smoothies in a tall Styrofoam cup. It’s likely that they chose a Styrofoam cup over a traditional wax and paper cup for it’s properties in insulating refreshing smoothies. However, Styrofoam though inexpensive can be costly on the environment. Styrofoam is recyclable like plastic and cardboard, but the problem with Styrofoam and the economics of recycling is it’s only profitable to recycle Styrofoam in ridiculously large quantities. How ridiculous? Well you’re probably aware of the light-as-air quality of Styrofoam, it’s not very dense. A brick of Styrofoam the size of a car may only weigh a few pounds. To recycle it you’d need a ton, so imagine needing to gather a cube of Styrofoam the size of a football field. Even then after recycling it, a plant may not get very much money for the recycled Styrofoam, so there’s not much incentive to do so. In effect, the impracticality of recycling Styrofoam makes it unrecyclable. What’s important to note here is that though Styrofoam can be recycled, the truth of the matter is it probably won’t. After using Styrofoam in cups and boxes, it’ll be tossed like other types of trash into a landfill where they will attempt to degrade it which will take more than a lifetime, or incinerate it which saves space in landfills but emits some pretty horrible toxins into the atmosphere. The best solution here is just to not use Styrofoam in the first place. Other companies like Starbucks and Tropical Smoothie’s competitor both use paper based cups. Starbucks has it’s own patented corrugated cardboard cup. Jamba juice has a wax and paper cup for it’s smoothies though it lacks the insulation of Tropical Smoothie’s Styrofoam cups. What’s really needed here is a redesign. Tropical Smoothie’s brand is rooted in healthy living, and green and sustainable living should be part of the mix too. It wouldn’t make much sense to make healthy smoothies while at the end of the day polluting the same air and planet we’re on. Making the switch from Styrofoam to some other alternative wouldn’t have to hurt Tropical Smoothie’s bottom line either. Using a corrugated cardboard cup like Starbuck’s would be easier to recycle, it wouldn’t cost much more than Styrofoam either. If I was designing it, I’d actually leave the outside of the cup with raw brown cardboard for the texture. Have it feel like the outer edge of a coconut, make it feel biotic, and almost living compared to the sterile look of a white Styrofoam cup. Fill them with the different Smoothies Tropical Smoothie has, and practically have their kiwi smoothie look like you’re drinking it straight from a kiwi. If the switch to a new cup style would enforce their brand image, as a healthy and responsible vendor while not cutting their bottom line, then it’s a no-brainer.
Trash Day
http://www.benefits-of-recycling.com/styrofoamrecycling/