Mr. Patterson goes to Washington follow-up

So I just wanted to write a short follow-up to the trip to D.C. to let everyone know how it went.
First the good stuff:

Press Coverage 1

Press Coverage 2

Press Coverage 3

Now the story…

Basically I was going to demo two different projects. Project 1 is a cellphone that helps you use public transportation more effectively when you have memory lapses. That project was called “Opportunity Knocks”. Project 2 is a system that tries to figure out what you are doing by watching which RFID tags that you touch. That project was called “Care-givers Assistant”. RFID tags are like anti-shoplifting tags on clothes and are going to replace bar codes on products.

There were two demos. On Day 1, both Project 1 and Project 2 were being demo’d. On Day 2 only Project 2 was being demo’d. I was stressed out about Project 1 because I was completely in charge of it as well as in charge of two undergrads , Shiaokai and Nik, who were working on it with me. Project 1 was also not done, whereas Project 2 had been done for a while and was being managed by folks from Intel.

On top of the demos which were on May 16th and 17th I had two papers due on 12th that were the technical background for the demos. After finishing those papers, Shiaokai, Nik and I stayed up very late on the night of the 13th hacking the phone and trying to get Bluetooth and GPS working on the phone. We made a ton of progress, but as the night wore on we started making stupid mistakes and wrapped things up at about 4:30am at which point I had to cut out to catch my flight.

I got to D.C. on the 14th and stayed with my folks that night. In the morning I kept working on the demo trying to get it working by the start of the demo the next day. Later that night I caught the subway downtown and checked into a hotel. I kept hacking until there was a basic program that was receiving and reporting GPS locations, but nothing very fancy. At least we had something going though.

In the morning, Nik and Shiaokai showed up after catching a red eye flight. They crashed for a little bit and then we packed up and headed over to the Dirksen Senate building. When we got there, the company that was supposed to arrange for all the equipment was freaking out because the display equipment (chairs, portable walls etc.) was rejected by the security personnel. That was all fine for us because the demo was apparently going to take place inside a vault-like room and we had a bunch of work to do Basically there was no GPS or cell-phone reception in the room. Not so good for a system that needs both. So we kicked in Plan B. Plan B was Shiaokai and Nik hacking away like mad to make a static demo that just walked through the display and pretended to interact with the system.

The demo started at 3:30pm and by then we had a pretty good fake system going. Our booth was set up and we were ready to give our spiel to the handful of people that we expected to stop by. When the doors opened, though, there were hundreds of people. There were television cameras from CNN, TechTV, and some other random shows. Reporters from Wired, Popular Science, and New Scientist were floating about. Lots and lots of people associated with a policy conference on aging and some stealthy Congressional aides thrown into the mix. We shifted into P.R. mode and I started giving the demo and Nik and Shiaokai started trying to find more copies of our handouts. The room stayed packed until about 7pm. I don’t think there were ever less than 20 people in our booth at any time and we gave out about 125 handouts as well as getting a big sign-up list for email handouts.

We cut out after that and went back to the hotel room. Nik and Shiaokai immediately crashed, I crashed shortly thereafter, and I think that Shiaokai got up late and got dinner. Nik and I never woke up until the next morning.

In the morning of Demo Day 2, Shiaokai was trying to sleep in, but I woke him up and told him to go take a look at the monuments before he headed back to the airport to go home. Nik and I got ready for demo day #2. This time it was with the Intel project.
So we got ourselves together and went over to the Raymond Senate Office Building. This building had a lot more day-to-day business going on because there were lots of hearing rooms and subcommittee meetings going on.

We met the Intel folks and set up. There was some catered food for lunch and when we started the demo at noon, there was a much more modest crowd. Much more like what we expected from the day before. We had about 25 people come by, but today they were almost exclusively Congressional staff. They were people who specialized in health-care policy or similar issues for Congress and the committees. Nik took a final exam behind one of the curtains and I had a chance to sneak to the gift shop and buy Joy a bib with the Congressional seal on it. :) at about 2 pm, Nik went to check out the mall while we finished up the demo. We spent the afternoon after the demo sightseeing and were back in time for the reception with David Tennenhouse, Intel’s VP of Research.

The dinner was low-key, open bar, catered buffet in a hotel ballroom. It was a good spread, not very crowded and pretty casual after a busy couple of days. We hung out there for a while and then went back to the room and crashed again. I think Nik took off then to meet his cousin for another day in D.C. and I packed up to leave in the morning.

At the end of the day we got some good press coverage, but I don’t think I met anyone famous. The closest I came was some big-wigs from Intel and a couple reporters. I’m not sure that was any immediate pay-off for our research group except that other people who were giving demos saw us there and that gave us some credibility I suppose. Most of the benefits will be longer term and less tangible.

So there’s the summary – I’ll take any questions at Kathy’s after Lilly’s wedding!

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