Team Member Profile: Michele Connors, Marketing Director

by Kim on December 2, 2014

michele

Michele recently joined InspiringApps as our Marketing Director. She comes with a wealth of experience in marketing, especially for the active and outdoor markets, due to her 15 plus years working for the GORE-TEX brand.

Michele grew up outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she spent her days running around the neighborhood, meeting friends at the pool, and playing kickball in the streets. Some of her favorite childhood memories stem from camping in the gorgeous hills of central Pennsylvania.

Although she attended a high school with a strong STEM emphasis, an interest in broadcast cable led Michele to begin her college years as a Communications student at Penn State University. She soon realized, though, that she missed being more technically focused.  She switched gears to engineering, and graduated with high honors in Mechanical Engineering in 1993, confident she’d still be able to use her communication skills along the way.

After college, Michele accepted a position at W.L. Gore & Associates, a company known for its unique corporate structure and innovative products. She worked in product and technology development for a number of years, then moved to product management, and finally landed in the marketing world. Michele jokes that joining the marketing group was likened to “going to the dark side” since she was no longer involved with product technology or development. But the dark side was kind to Michele. In a recent 3-year period, she achieved strong GORE-TEX® brand presence online and doubled the number of sites telling their brand story.

Michele has always loved the business side of things. She enjoys watching the lights go on as potential customers realize why a product is worth their money. At InspiringApps, she is excited for the opportunity to spread the word about what we do well, helping us to grow into new market areas. We are thankful for her dark-side experience!

Outside of work, Michele loves to help create community, often over a shared meal or a glass of wine!  She is grateful to live near world-class mountains, and getting to hike, camp and ski in them is a fabulous treat – especially if friends or family are involved too.  Michele and her husband are raising four kids, so many weekends involve sporting events, Girl Scout activities, or other kid-centric fun. “It’s a full life,” Michele states, “but I am very grateful for it.”

Luminescence

by Kim on November 17, 2014

Eric Miller, one of our talented software engineers at InspiringApps, has also been busy with an inspiring project outside of the office. He has been working with the Handweavers Guild of Boulder on an activation of the arches framing the entrance to the Dairy Center for the Arts at 26th and Walnut. The arches are woven with various metals and lined with 2280 addressable, programmable, RGB LEDs. Called “Luminescence”, the project is set to launch on the evening of November 19th. Volunteers from the Guild and community have contributed countless hours of labor and expertise so far.

Of his own role, Eric says, “Along with some modeling and design work, I’ve been building a WebGL-based 3D simulator for testing and speccing the project. The code is open source, and the hope is to release it as an authoring environment in which the community can develop their own programs both for this installation and other illuminated art projects.”

Other technical leads on the project are Dan Julio of Dan Julio Designs in Boulder and Mike Bissell from San Francisco. Dan designed the power system, LED drivers, and integrated the core hardware, while Mike has built a lightweight and powerful OpenPixelControl rendering engine in Java.

“Mike’s renderer is running on a networked Raspberry Pi, which is talking to Elizabeth Scott’s awesome little fadecandy boards over the OpenPixelControl protocol. Then Dan’s system carries data and power out to the 38 LED strips. A lot of the hardware has been sourced from our local DIY company SparkFun, which has been contributing as well.”

Meanwhile, Nederland High School teacher Mark Savignano has been working with his students on the the initial interactivity design, which is scheduled for unveiling in early December.

“It’s been a big open-source, community effort,” says Eric. “I’m really happy I could be a part of it.”

You can read more about the project on the Dairy’s announcement page.

Team Member Profile: Andrea Tringo, QA Specialist

by Kim on November 10, 2014

andrea

Andrea joined InspiringApps in the summer of 2014 as our QA Specialist. Her dedication to the job and her wit came through when she responded to the job opening. One of the requirements for the QA job was, “Confidence in your testing to approve a build before a release. You have the final say if an app is ready to ship.” To this requirement, Andrea replied, “Scary! Just kidding. Preventing defects from getting shipped is my job. I take the accountability for this very seriously.” Her dedication to finding and reporting bugs, as well as her sense of humor, make her a welcome addition to the InspiringApps team.

Andrea grew up in Virginia in the suburbs of Washington DC. She states that it was not very interesting, “but now, looking back, maybe some of my friends’ parents could have been spies.”

She moved to Colorado twenty years ago, after visiting a friend and deciding it would be a better place to live. She likes the weather and the lifestyle. As a former long-distance runner, she thrives in a running mecca. Andrea lived in Boulder until she bought a house in Lafayette. She moved to a new job at Sun Microsystems as a data analyst using SQL on databases. When the system moved to production, Andrea became part of the QA team. She continued her work with data analysis and QA over the next several years for various companies, and even ran her own technical services company.

At InspiringApps, Andrea reports that the QA position is “way different” than anything she’s done before. She says, “I tested Windows desktop applications for long enough! Being at InspiringApps, and looking at things from the app side is a whole new world and a new perspective and it keeps my brain sharp.”  And what about her co-workers? “I’m around some really sharp people: people with way more knowledge and different perspectives, people who are experienced with app development in a way that I have not been exposed to. And personally, I think they are all very interesting.”

Outside of work, Andrea loves that she can bike and walk almost anywhere. She just began riding her bike from home to the office, and enjoys biking with her husband and their 6-year-old son. Andrea also loves being in her vegetable garden or with the rescue horse and young pony she trains.

InspiringApps Hosts CIMCN

by Kim on October 15, 2014

Our Senior Project Manager, Stacy Griffin, hosted an event this week in our office for the Colorado International Media and Communication Network (CIMCN). Stacy spoke about the NFORS project that InspiringApps is working on (http://911perform.org/n-fors/) and provided details about our development process.

Stacy then welcomed Dr. Revi Sterling, Founding Director of the Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICTD) Graduate Studies Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The program is part of the Atlas Institute in the College of Engineering (http://atlas.colorado.edu).

Dr. Sterling spoke about the work she does with graduate students and her impressions of how the International Communication Technology (ICT) space is impacting international development work. She offered some ideas and insights for how companies, non-governmental organizations, and universities can work more closely together to engage in fruitful partnerships.

Specifically, Revi talked about:

  • The importance of understanding the culture where a project is taking place. As an example, she discussed a student who solved a communication problem between hill towns by using OCHA Symbols via SMS to communicate weather shifts rather than phone conversations. This solution skirted cultural biases that would not allow unmarried men and women to communicate and allowed the hill towns to better conserve water.
  • The focus on field work in her program. She noted other programs around the country that focus on policy and research. She discussed the process she goes through when assigning students to internship positions. It is vital that students work where they are passionate, but she also urges them to step out of their comfort zone.
  • The importance of technology in what her students deliver. She has a mix of students with strong technical backgrounds and not so strong. She likes the idea of her students understanding the problems first and then finding the best technology.

The meeting wrapped up with a discussion of the pros and cons of using open source technology. For example, Open Data Kit (ODK: http://opendatakit.org) offers the ability for users to build data collection forms, but has stability issues. Stacy discussed the reasons InspiringApps created our own cloud-syncing solution rather than relying on third-party options.

Thank you Revi and the CIMCN group!

Developing Word of Mouth with Apex Ski Boots

by Aaron Lea on September 24, 2014

apeximage_blog

Apex Ski Boots, a Boulder-based company, is revolutionizing the ski boot industry. Their products, targeted toward intermediate and advanced skiers, have grown popular in the few years they’ve been available. Apex customers love their boots – which have a soft inner boot that fits into a rigid outer chassis similar to snowboard boots – and they love telling other skiers about them.
With such a loyal and supportive customer base, Apex came to us looking to break into the mobile market. We worked with them to create Apex Inside Edge, a cross-platform mobile marketing app. Inside Edge helps Apex develop word of mouth and reach potential customers in existing and new sales channels. By delivering interesting, engaging content, Inside Edge gives Apex’s loyal customers a way to become brand ambassadors who refer fellow ski enthusiasts to Apex products.

To motivate brand ambassadors, users earn points with each referral, which they’re able to exchange for branded merchandise. Ambassadors and potential customers can explore Apex’s product offerings with the Product Showroom feature complete with photos, videos and product details. If a user wants more information about Apex products, they enter their contact information, and the app will send them a text message with more instructions. Requiring a limited amount of contact information makes the referral process easy so users can quickly get back on the slopes.

We were excited to work with such an innovative local company to give users an opportunity to share their passion for Apex boots. We’ve expanded our cross-platform portfolio with Inside Edge, ensuring Apex’s ambassadors can spread the word, regardless of whether they’re on iOS or Android. Implementing the rewards program and the technology behind the referral texts were exciting challenges for us to meet, and we’re looking forward to seeing how Apex fans share their love for the products with other skiers.

 

InspiringApps Turns Seven

by Aaron Lea on September 18, 2014

happybday7

We celebrated our 7th anniversary on September 18! In the past 7 years, we’ve gained expertise in new technologies, collaborated with clients in a wide variety of industries, and put mobile technology in the hands of users around the world in client products and our own. Our team continues to grow and improve, driven by commitment to our work and to each other. Bring on 8!

Startup Strava Challenge: out of bike karma

by Jess on June 2, 2014


We had a great time participating in Quick Left’s Startup Strava Challenge last month. We came in fourth place out of 20 teams – congratulations to Radio 360 for their victory!

We loved having the excuse to get outside, make new friends, and get a little competitive thanks to this challenge. But you can’t have a good adventure without some misadventures to balance everything out. Here, software engineer Seth McClaine tells us about an afternoon that made him question his cycling karma:

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Doing my typical Saturday ride with the Bicycle Village group and one of my new riding friends I met through the Quick Left Strava Challenge, I finally get my first flat ever on a ride.

Starting from the beginning, I decided to ride from my house and get the extra 5 miles in to put towards the challenge. I get to BV (Bicycle Village) and we are scheduled for a 30 mile ride. We head out, get some coffee in Erie, and start heading back. About 5 miles out from returning to BV a fellow rider blows out her rear tire. I stopped to help. After giving some assistance and leaving her with a ride ambassador, my friend and I continued riding back.

I went on to say “I always try to stop because I feel like it’s good karma. In the four years I’ve been riding I’ve never gotten a flat on a ride…”

About a mile from BV I have a massive blowout. A pop, three whizzes (rotation of the tire while you can hear the air coming out), and my tire is completely flat. So much for karma!

I’m thinking, “Ehh, about a mile out, I could just walk back to BV then drive home… Oh wait, I didn’t drive.” I replace my tire, using CO2 to fill it up, get back on and get back to BV. A couple minutes after I had set my bike in the rack we hear a pop. At first I figured someone else popped their tire throwing it on the rack, as someone was putting their bike on the rack next to mine.

Later I find out, no my tire blew up, blow out number 2! The CO2 must have warmed up and over inflated the tire. Conveniently I brought an extra tube since my friend didn’t have extras. I take my wheel into the shop and replace the tube again.

As I get close to 100PSI BANG! Nothing makes your ears ring like exploding a tube inside a building. I managed to pinch the tube with the tire since I was being hasty replacing the tube and didn’t roll the tire correctly. I was out of tubes and a little frustrated.

Fine, I take it back to the service area and let them fix it. A couple minutes later I get my tire back and start to walk toward the register. Then I notice a small bubble coming out of the side of the tire… Apparently the pinch flat I had just done caused the side of the tire to blow out. Ok, back to service. They set me up with a new tire, and I’m finally good to go after paying.

All in all, at the end of the day, I now have matching red wall tires on my bike for the first time in two years.

We had lots of fun this month, misadventures and all. Thanks to Quick Left for organizing this challenge! It was an excellent way to foster community, get people out and about, and support a wonderful cause. In honor of Radio 360′s win, we’re making a donation to their chosen organization, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

#BSW14 is almost here!

by Jess on May 8, 2014

BSW

One of our favorite weeks of the year, Boulder Startup Week, is right around the corner! It’s a great opportunity to spend time learning from our fellow startup and tech enthusiasts – and to meet some of the most amazing people the scene has to offer.

Swing by our office on Tuesday at 2 for the “I Moved to Boulder and…” event. A handful of newly-minted Boulderites (including our own Stephanie!) will share what it was like to move to Boulder, from job hunting to relocating a family and scouting out the best happy hours around town. We’ll even have some beer on hand (and we’ll be making it rain with our new stickers.)

But, enough about us – here are a few more events we’re looking forward to:

We’ll also be reppin’ at the sold-out Ignite Boulder. If you see us around, make sure to say hello! And if you’re attending Boulder Startup Week as a job seeker, we’re hiring and would love to meet you.

PerspiringApps and the #startupchallenge

by Jess on May 2, 2014

It’s hard to live in Boulder – the fittest city in the country – without finding your own niche of physical activity. We’re a pretty active bunch here at InspiringApps, with yoga, cycling, swimming, running and even dancing among our favorite pastimes. And while we spend plenty of time at the gym during the winter, our “ActiveIA” selves truly shine when the weather’s nice and we can get outdoors as a team – from participating in the IronMan triathlon relay last year to this summer’s National EMS Memorial Bike Ride.

That’s why we were stoked to learn our friends down the street, Quick Left, had planned the Startup Strava Challenge (#startupchallenge), which kicked off yesterday. It’s the perfect combination of a lot of our favorite things – apps, startups, getting active, community, and supporting great causes. All this month, we’ll be using Strava to track our miles as we compete with 20 of Boulder’s finest startups like PivotDesk and Pearl Izumi. The team with the most miles per capita will have the “pot” of entry fees donated to the organization of their choice. We’re walking, running, hiking and biking on behalf of People for Bikes, a great organization that gets people active and improves cycling conditions in cities across the US.

Follow along as we rack up the miles by checking the Strava widget below – and to see how we compare with the other teams, head on over to the Quick Left blog. We’re small but mighty, and we’re pumped to have another reason to spend some time out and about this month.

Ready, set… GO!

AlwaysInspiring: #WERUNDC

by Eric Miller on May 1, 2014

Our team members regularly inspire with the apps we make in the office – but our out-of-office projects can be pretty inspiring, too. Recently, part-time IA software engineer Eric Miller developed and helped produce interactive set pieces at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in DC.

expotique

Can you provide some background on you and your work?

Like a lot of people, I’ve always felt torn between technical and creative worlds, never feeling entirely at home in just one. Maybe that’s because at some level it’s all “techne“, if you will, but in our culture it seems hard to find a way to do both—particularly the purely creative side—and make a living.

Lately I’ve been drawn to what seems like an intersection of worlds and I suppose the name for it is “interactive installation”. It can incorporate so many creative, human, and basically architectural concerns by means of technology. And it’s fun: the suprise and delight factor can be really high with these things since you don’t see this stuff happening everywhere yet and the possibilities are so vast. In urban contexts I think this kind of work could really change the experience of a space, a commute, or even a city. I think we’ll be seeing more ambient computing and “activated spaces” and so on in the coming years.

So anyway, I’ve put together or helped with a handful of interactive art installations. As a part-time freelance developer and creative coder, I’d really like to do more of it. The Nike project obviously wasn’t about changing anyone’s life but it was the largest-scale project I’ve done so far.

nikesign

How about some background on the project? How did you get involved, and what you were hoping to accomplish?

The idea was to take the RFID sensors used to track a runner’s time and trigger personalized, animated messages on great big screens. There were two places this would happen: right after folks picked up their bibs in an “expotique” tent, and towards the end of the race itself, around mile 12. I was approached by a Boulder creative/ad agency called School, which had been hired to produce the experience.

Aside from delivering the app in a robust and non-crashing way, I wanted to improve my chops with a couple of “newer” technologies. That’s newer, of course, only for someone who originally learned C++ and graphics in the late 90s!

thesetup

Did you use C++? What other technologies did you use?

I built the app with Cinder, which is a lovely framework for working with OpenGL in C++. The RFID sensors output a protocol called ChronoTrack, and we had to talk to them over direct socket TCP. We were running on OSX, so I used some Obj-C networking classes for that, and for fetching the name/bib database over HTTP, which was being updated in real-time as people registered.

And did you learn any “new” tricks?

It turns out that C++ has grown a lot since the old days and I’m still trying to catch up. Ha! I feel old now. And I’ve been dying to become more facile with GLSL—the “shader” language used to program the graphics pipline on modern hardware. I managed to sneak in some nice realtime glow and motion blur effects using GLSL. It was a very basic accomplishment in terms of what’s possible, but I was happy to make it work.

Anything else to add?

I think that historically we’ve often used technology to sever our minds from our bodies, if you will. We seem to habitually seek distraction from our immediate, physical, and feeling situation and we build technology to enable it. In my opinion this is really bad news for everyone. I don’t know if interactive installation can turn this trend around and use technology to instead “re-embody” our urban and personal experiences—maybe for just a few minutes, for a few people—but I’m really interested in asking that question in particular.