Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Executive Briefing Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2016, Tony celebrates his 30th year anniversary with IBM Storage. He is
author of the Inside System Storage series of books. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
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This week was the IBM Pulse 2011 converence in Las Vegas, Nevada, with over 7,000 attendees. I wasn't there, and my on-the-scene correspondent was too busy running the hands-on lab to get out and attend sessions. Fortunately, I was able to watch some of the [IBM Software live stream], and here are my thoughts and observations.
Fellow inventor [Dean Kamen] was the keynote speaker. His inventions help people, making the world a better place. Here are three examples I found interesting during his talk:
Helping third world countries
Dean started out with his favorite quote:
"A problem well defined is a problem half-solved." - John Dewey
Dean mentioned that we are fortunate, having both potable drinking water and a reliable supply of electricity, but 2 to 4 billion people on the planet do not. Sponsored by Coca-Cola, Dean and his team of innovators were able to come up with small units that can be placed in a village or town. One unit takes in wet liquid and produces potable drinking water. The other unit takes combustible materials, like cow dung, and products electricity. Each unit is roughly the size of half a standard server rack. What does Coca-Cola get out of this? New "vending machines"! By combining drinking water with flavored syrups, they can create soft drinks on demand.
Dean's opinion was that if you want something done, you need to work with large corporations, as governments are mired in beauracracy and rules. I agree. When I first joined IBM, I was introduced to [TRIZ] which was a systematic method for solving problems. IBM's best and brightest are working to solve some of the toughest computer science challenges. For more on TRIZ, see this blog post about [TRIZ in BusinessWeek].
Helping injured veterans
Dean Kamen is well known for inventing the two-wheeled [Segway Personal Transporter], but his company, [DEKA], makes all kinds of things, mostly medical equipment. To help wounded soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan without one or both arms, Dean and his team developed a robotic arm that has enough motor dexterity to pick up a raisin or grape off the table without dropping or squashing it. Dean has appeared several times on the Colbert Report, and here is a video of the robotic arm:
I have myself enjoyed riding a Segway. A local place in Tucson uses them to lead tourists through downtown Tucson and the University of Arizona campus.
Helping young students to learn science and technology
Dean wrapped up his talking by talking about his passion about "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology" or [FIRST]. Modeled after sports competitions, FIRST encourages teams of kids to build robots that perform specific tasks. Every year, companies and universities sponsor teams by purchasing robot kits from FIRST. Teams compete in regional competitions, and then the best of those go on to compete in a stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, hosting 76,000 people cheering for their teams.
Unlike other school sports (Football, Basketball, Baseball, etc.) where a student is more likely to win the lottery than get a successful career as a professional athlete, every student involved in FIRST competitions can "go pro". A study of FIRST success tracked students who participated in competitions, and found a substantial improvement in percentage of those students attending college and working as science and engineering professionals.
I am a big fan of encouraging kids of all ages to learn more about science, technology, engineering and math [STEM]. Back in 2009, I blogged about my involvement with [One Laptop Per Child] and [Junior FIRST Lego League]. I've gotten a great reaction to my latest challenge, to build a Watson Jr. in your own basement, based on my [step-by-step] instructions.
If you attended IBM Pulse this week, please comment on your thoughts and observations!
Friday - We landed in Paris, France. I have been to Paris many times, but this was a first for Mo. A croissant cost only 2 Euro, but the young woman behind the counter gave me a look of disgust when I asked for a knife and butter to put on the croissant. If you ever get the chance to have a real French croissant, you will realize you don't need any more butter. If you do attempt to put anything on the croissant, it will disintegrate into a million tiny pieces!
2. Visit Ronda
Saturday - We rented a car and drove to the mountain village of [Ronda, Spain], which is in the heart of the region of Spain called Andalucia. Why Ronda? This was where Mo's uncle was stationed during the war. The town is built on two mountains, connected by a set of bridges. The tallest is "Puente Nuevo", built in the 1700s, which is nearly 400 feet tall. Ronda is also home of Spain's oldest Bull Fighting ring. Bars and restaurants built along the cliff offer some spectacular views. Mo and I shared a "Paella Mixta" for lunch, consisting of yellow rice with bits of chicken and seafood.
3. Soak in European Mineral Waters
Sunday - Most things in Europe are closed on Sunday, so we decided to have a "Spa Day" at the [Gran Hotel Benahavis], in Benahavis, Spain. This lovely hotel is built over a natural mineral waters hot spring, and an underground spa allowed us to relax in the warmth. The spa also had a dry sauna, steam sauna, and ice cold water bath to complete the experience.
4. Climb to the Top of the Rock of Gibraltar
Monday - Technically, Gibraltar is a separate country, but they use British money (Pound Sterling). To get to the top of the rock, we drove across their airport runway, saw the mosque at Point Europa, parked in large parking lot and took the cable car to the top. From there, we climbed a few more steps to see the grand views of Spain and North Africa, while keeping our distance from the infamous monkeys. These [Barbary Macaque] are cute, but can bite or scratch you if you get too close. Afterwards, we had lunch in a pub called the Angry Friar.
5. See Snake Charmers in Morocco
Tuesday - We took a guided tour over to the Kingdom of Morocco. This included a ferry boat ride from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco. A bus then took us to the "Kasbah" (the fort), where we got to see snake charmers perform their act. We had an interesting lunch, followed by obligatory "shopping opportunities" for rugs and spices. Back on the bus, we went to a place to go ride camels, see the King's palace, and visit the the Grotto of Hercules. The last stop was to sit back and relax for a nice cup of hot Menthol Tea at Cap Spartel, the northernmost point of Morocco.
6. Hang Out at a Mediterranean Beach
Wednesday - Our last full day in Spain, we decided to have lunch on the beach. This region is referred to as Costa Del Sol. We opted for "Playa de la Rada" in Estepona, Spain. The beach was a bit rocky, the sand was hot and uncomfortable to walk on, and the heat and humidity was just slightly less than the steam sauna at the Gran Hotel Benahavis. We stayed in the shade of our beach-side restaurant and had a lunch of grilled sardines and the local Cruzcampo beer.
7. Visit the World of Coca-Cola
Thursday - we drove to Malaga, Spain, and flew back to the United States. Malaga is famous for celebrities like Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picaso. We could not get all the way back to Tucson, so we stayed overnight in Atlanta.
Friday - This gave us an opportunity to visit the [World of Coca-Cola], where Mo's cousin had done some recent marketing work in celebration of their 125 year anniversary. This is a museum with a live bottling operation on display, a 4D movie, viewing areas to see commercials from around the world, and free tasting, sampling some of the 105 different soft drink flavors manufactured. I recommend the Tawney Ginger from Tanzania, and the Simba Guarana from Brazil. I did not care for the Apple-and-Carrot soda from Japan.
8. See a Manta Ray Up Close
Our discount combo tickets included a visit to the [Georgia Aquarium] next door. Mo can't scuba-dive, but she got stung by a ray when she was a kid, and wanted to show me a big Manta Ray up close. The aquarium was quite good, divided up into separate exhibits, including interactive touch-the-fish areas for the kids, Beluga whales, Jellyfish, Seahorses, and a moving sidewalk that takes you underneath the sea life.
I would like to thank Delta Air Lines for letting Mo and I take this trip using frequent flyer miles, Hertz Rental Cars for offering a sweet deal on a tiny Hyundai i20 car, the Gran Hotel Benahavis for their hospitality, and the incredibly warm and helpful people of Atlanta. I am glad that my language skills in French, Spanish and Arabic came in quite handy!