Awesome news – FIRST Robotics Team #4488 “Shockwave” is Silver medalist at World Championship

Awesome news – Today, Glencoe High School’s “Shockwave” FIRST Robotics Team #4488 was a Silver medalist in the Galileo division at the World Championship FIRST Robotics competition in St Louis, MS. This is an amazing achievement considering this is only the team’s 2nd year in robotics!

I was one of 15 volunteer engineering mentors to the team. The most amazing group of smart, passionate, eager and driven students I have been so lucky to have worked with in FIRST Robotics. Glencoe HS is located in Hillsboro, Oregon, USA.

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Oregon to abandon its failed health exchange online marketplace

The system, developed by Oracle, never worked. Having spent $248 million, the State will dump the entire project and spend an estimated $4 to $6 million to use the Federal HealthCare.gov web site. The rest of the Cover Oregon operation is also running out of money and does not yet know how they will be funded for 2015.

While the Governor likes to call this a “technology failure”, his own personally selected outside consultant’s review of the project found the project failed due to leadership, management and organizational incompetence. Their report barely mentions technology.

This goes down as the largest information systems project failure in the State’s history. Other notable technology failures in Oregon include the completely failed Oregon Wireless Interoperability Network (OWIN) project and the Portland Water Bureau’s billing system disaster. In the case of OWIN, the State’s own project manager’s repeatedly lied to the Legislature, the Governor and the people. In the end, though, the only person who lost his job was the whistleblower.

In the case of the Cover Oregon disaster, the executive director of the Oregon Health Authority, Bruce Goldberg, was fired. The OHA’s CIO Carolyn Lawson was fired. The Director of Cover Oregon, Rocky King resigned for “medical reasons”. Since then, the CIO, CFO and COO of Cover Oregon have been fired. The wreckage left behind is substantial. The Governor will hopefully by fired by the voters in November.

I suspect this will become a classic case study in software engineering courses for the next one to two decades.

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Scratch – Imagine, Program, Share

Historically, programming could be described as labor intensive, time consuming, error prone – and delivering projects late with defects and incomplete features. The failed Cover Oregon health exchange project suggests this is still a mostly accurate description 🙂

I have long been interested in software development improvement strategies. Back in MBA school, we were taught process improvement strategies used in manufacturing, and I saw the possibilities for software. Simultaneously, others saw this too and they invented the agile methodology.

New methods like Test Driven Development came along.  Tools like JUnit and NUnit made TDD practical.

New programming systems like Scratch (Scratch – Imagine, Program, Share) and App Inventor provide quick-to-learn, quick-to-build and generally easy systems for defining user interfaces and program behavior. But these are oriented towards teaching children to program, using graphical programming systems. Lego Mindstorms is another example, for constructing educational robots programmed in ROBOLAB. (ROBOLAB is built in LabView. LabView is a graphical data flow programming language used for professional applications, especially those involving control systems, such as running lab equipment or manufacturing systems.)

Some, like App Inventor, are reaching the point where they are quite usable for creating real-world apps – not just games and toy apps for educational examples.  We are seeing good progress towards better tools for different types of developers, ranging from children through adult learners to professional developers.

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