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Demo Day January 2022

By Tony Pearson posted Thu January 27, 2022 11:03 AM

Demo Day banner

Happy New Year, everyone!

Last night, I was one of the Industry Professionals for Demo Day, hosted on the [Remo Virtual Event platform] to bring together University students with Industry professionals to show off their work.

Basically, students -- with little or no computer skills -- spend six months "boot camp" learning the basics of front-end and back-end website development, and then in the last two weeks, form teams to create websites to show off their skills. Many of the students are working professionals in other industries that have decided to explore IT as a new career path. In additional to website development, the boot camps have been extended to include FinTech, Data Analytics, and Cyber Security.

I have done many of these before for students at the University of Arizona, here in Tucson, representing IBM as an Industry Professional and as alumni myself. With COVID-19 pandemic, however, they have had to switch to remove learning, and virtual demo day.

Going "virtual" allows this to include other Universities as well. I spoke to students from North Carolina and New Hampshire, for example.

The Interview

Dorenda Johnson was our host, and asked to kick of the 2-hour event by interviewing me as an Industry Professional:

First off, will you tell us how long you have been working in the industry and some job titles you have held?

I started out as a database administrator in 1981, nearly 40 years ago. I have been software engineer, chief architect, product manager, entrepreneur, marketing strategist, consultant, public speaker, blogger, full stack developer, event planner, and curriculum designer. In my current role, I am a technical advisor for about two dozen customers, helping them implement data protection and cyber resilience projects.

How many Demo Days have you attended?

About 9 or 10. The first ones were in person, we (the Industry Professionals) would eat pizza and walk around the tables talking to each team of students, similar to a science fair at high school, or a business conference where there are booths from different vendors.

What value do you get from attending Demo Day?

As a full stack developer myself, I enjoy seeing what others have done with their solutions. Today, I am supporting internal websites built using Laravel, Django, and Flash frameworks.

What keeps you coming back?

Every time it is different. Each team decides what problem to solve, so it is never the same answers to the same problems. At a high school science fair, you expect to see the exploding volcano, or batteries made from zinc and copper wires in potatoes, or bridges made from popsicle sticks, but with Demo Day, you don't know what to expect!

What tips do you have for other industry mentors who are attending Demo Day for the first time tonight?

Remember to ask What/Why/How? What problem are you trying to solve? Why did you choose this technology or that? How hard was it to work as a team? What would you add or do differently if you had more time?

Any tips for our presenters tonight?

One of the most important skills in the business world is being able to tell a story, be able to explain who is your target audience, what are their motivations and user stories, why would they want to use your solution.

Tell us which aspects of the presentation inspire you or leave a positive impression?

I am inspired that a small team of people, often working remotely, and overcoming a variety of technical obstacles, are able to deliver a minimal viable product. There is a huge demand for these skills, but not a lot of supply. The IT industry has less than 1 percent unemployment, and companies are resorting to poaching staff from their competitors because there are not enough boot camps!
Artin' Around

Lauren and Aubri presented their team's website "Artin' Around". This website allows everyone to see what public artworks are available for a given city. It also allows users to register themselves, take photos of public artworks and add them to the system. This was actually a four-person team, but the other two couldn't make the event. Team members were: Lauren Goss, Aubri Henley, Daniel Bradley, and Casey Twine.

(For a map of murals in and around Tucson, AZ, one of which I worked on, check out [A map and 100 photos of Tucson's beautiful murals].)


The BackBoneX website is intended for a Chiropractor, but could be repurposed for other medical professionals. As a Chiropractor assigns certain physical exercises to a patient, the website shows them how to perform this exercise at home. This included stretches, ball exercises, and band exercises.  John Coakley and Christopher presented.

Get Fed

The "Get Fed" website was modeled after "Uber Eats". The website figures out the geographical location of the user, and then displays the menus of restaurants within a 5-mile radius. Items from the menu can be selected, and then paid for by credit card using Stripe API.

INF Coin

This was a FinTech team, presenting a new Crypto coin tied to the Consumer Price Index. In this way, as inflation goes up, the number of coins goes up in your digital wallet to match the original buying power. The solution relied on Blockchain with smart contracts.

Austin Movie Gear

The last team decided to "re-imagine" an existing website for their local camera rental shop. Austin Movie Gear rents out cameras, lenses and other equipment for people to shoot commercials and music videos. Often, these projects last only a few days, so renting is more economical than outright purchases. The new "re-imagined' website allowed prospects to see current inventory, and to book reservations online.

Another fun evening! All of the websites were developed with a [MERN] stack. MERN stands for MongoDB, Express, React, Node, after the four key technologies that make up the stack:

  • MongoDB - document database
  • Express(.js) - Node.js web framework, based on JavaScript
  • React(.js) - a client-side JavaScript framework
  • Node(.js) - the premier JavaScript web server

How would you backup a website like this? IBM Spectrum Protect Plus supports MongoDB databases!