Custer Street Container Garden Party

tomatoplantJoin us at the Custer Street Community Center in Stamford on Friday May 20th at 5 pm. We’ll be starting work on our new Container Garden. Children of all ages are needed for this project!!! The more people helping us with this, the more bountiful our harvest will be!!! (There will be a movie playing afterwards, so this is going to be a big night!!)

Stamford STEMfest

stemfestWe’ll have a booth at Stamford STEMfest again this year on Saturday May 14th in Mill River Park. Come on down to see our latest projects. Stamford Academy students will be there showing off the bots they built. Also, rumors are swirling that members of the Open Organization of Lockpickers (toool.org) will be there giving demonstrations and lessons. Thousands attended this event last year. don’t miss out!!!

The kids on Custer Street are mobile again – thanks to Ron Morse!

IMG_0760When we arrived at the Community Center on Thursday night, we didn’t know if anyone was going to show up. Jeffrey Watt, the Resident Services Coordinator, had put the word out that Ron Morse was going to give a class on bike maintenance – but we couldn’t be sure.

But as the night progressed, people started trickling in with bikes that had broken seats, flat tires, wobbly wheels and creeky cranks. But Ron got out his toolbox and, in short order,  got each one of them  pedalling around the complex with big smiles.

The coolest part was when Ron noticed that one of the kids had what appeared to be a dent in his rim. With a few turns of Ron’s spoke wrench, the wheel was true and the kid was back in business!

We all thank Ron for his time and energy!!! We’ll be doing this again in a few weeks, so stay tuned.

**PS  A special thanks goes out to the people at Danny’s Cycles, who donated a couple of seat clamps to the kids!!

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Bike Maintenance for Kids – April 14th

We’ll be conducting a bike maintenance class for kids at 32 Custer Street in Stamford on April 14th at 6 pm. Bring tools if you got ’em (wrench, allen wrenches, screwdriver, plyers). Otherwise, we’ll have some to borrow. You’ll be learning from the Master – Ron Morse (the creator of the SpeakerBike)!!!

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Robotics at the Domus School

DomusRobotsWe had a great time building robots at the Domus School in March with Stefan, Zach and Jay (left to right in picture above). These young men picked up soldering, microcontrollers and computer programming with ease – and we are already planning ways to take our autonomous bots to the next level.

Look out for us at the upcoming Stamford STEMfest, where we’ll be showing off our bots – and much more!!!!!

Bluetooth-controlled robot

I always thought that creating something that could think for itself (like my autonomous robot) would be the coolest thing. But, when someone asked me to create a bot that could be controlled by a cell phone (via bluetooth), I can’t honestly say now what’s cooler.

The really really cool part about this is that I can be literally on the other side of the house and the robot is still responsive as ever.

I’m hooked on this bluetooth-control stuff. Expect more on this from me.

One-Day Robot Camp at Darien Library was a BLAST!!

robotclassatdarienlibraryWe all had a great time at the Darien Library yesterday.  With little knowledge in computer programming, microcontrollers or soldering, every student walked away with a working robot.

I think everyone’s favorite part of the day was coding the bot to behave the way they wanted. Here is an innovative pattern that Arpita programmed her bot to execute …

But here is an example of the autonomous  version of the bot in action …

I was so impressed with everything about the Darien Library. Not that the Stamford Library and Norwalk libraries are bad or anything. It’s just that Darien does everything so incredibly well! They are everything a modern library should be in our modern age. We want to thank Mallory Arents, the head of Adult Programming, for her foresight and wisdom for organizing these and other types of tech activities there.

Thanks go to the students as well. This was a bright and enthusiastic class. It was so great to meet so many interesting people!

Senator Blumenthal – an AMERICAN HERO – takes stand against Visa abuse

blumenthalWe don’t usually get political here at Rippowam Labs. But there has been one issue that has affected each and every IT worker I’ve met in the last 15 years – and something happened this past week that makes it seem like we turned a corner.

On Friday, CT Senator Richard Blumenthal called out Eversource, the utility formerly known as Connecticut Light & Power, for laying off 200 IT workers and replacing them with foreign workers. What makes this situation particularly reprehensible is that Eversource forced the American workers to train their replacements before they were issued  pink slips. See story here.

This kind of thing isn’t new. This very same thing happened at my company – and several other major employers in Stamford. The practice of outsourcing has sent millions to the unemployment lines and, as a result, destroyed families and extinguished opportunity for many more. I feel particularly bad for young people recently graduating with a computer science degree, who have spent over $100,000 on their education and will never get a chance to write a single line of code, because the employment market is owned by Indian outsourcers like WiPro, InfoSys and Tata Consulting. These companies have an absolutely abysmal record of hiring Americans.

But this is the first time I’ve heard of any elected representative taking a company to task – and even calling for a Department of Justice investigation into the matter. The letter he wrote to the Eversource CEO is great because he demands specific facts surrounding their actions. After reading the letter to the DOJ, you almost – but not really – feel bad for Eversource because someone is going to take the fall for this.

Senator Blumenthal is that rare species of leader who is smart enough to see through corporate doublespeak – and has the guts to do something about it. If there were more people like him in Washington, I’m confident our country would be in much better shape.

Senator Blumenthal is a true AMERICAN HERO. His actions will not just force Eversource to answer to what they’ve done. But now, millions of people across the country have a renewed sense of faith in their government.

If you’ve witnessed anything like this at your workplace, you need to reach out to Senator Blumenthal’s office and let them know what you’ve seen. He is currently co-sponsoring Visa reform legislation that will put an end to this practice . If you support this bill, please contact the Senator and let him know!

Everyone needs to get educated on this issue. The alphabet soup of Visas offered by our government results in literally millions of new foreign workers brought here every year…. many unchecked and untracked …. All this is going on at a time when our economy hasn’t really emerged from the Great Recession. You’d think the government would roll back these programs during lean times – but, in fact, some members of Congress are trying to ramp up this program to allow even more in.

There is an excellent book out, written by Michelle Malkin and John Miano, called “Sold Out.”
soldoutThey debunk the myth of an an American IT skills shortage and expose how the multinational oursourcing corporations have systematically thrown millions of Americans into the unemployment lines and are abusing the workers they bring over. In once case, they figured out one Indian worker was making less than $1.10 an hour.

The book will show you that the problem is not just the H1-B visa programs – but also the B-1, L-1 and F visas. All of these conspire against the average American looking for work.

In the face of such such powerful forces, its easy to feel alone. But I’ve been blessed in the fact I’ve found people who care about this and are actively fighting against it. Brightfuturejobs is a Chicago-based group that advocates for IT workers all over the country. Donna Conroy, the group’s leader, is a veteran of the 1960s era Civil Rights marches. She is an understanding person, who has heard literally ever scenario on how American workers have been railroaded out of a job. Feel free to reach out to her for advice …

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