My Year of Making Stuff

In 2016 I worked on a ridiculously broad range of projects, both for work and independently. Sometimes I forget projects or things I learned a while ago, so I decided to write up a summary of the highlights.

  • I started the year writing Scala and Javascript at TempoIQ, which was incredibly my first time working as an official software engineer. It was the perfect startup experience: constantly learning and building cool things and culminating in an underwhelming acqui-hire.
  • My brief time at the acquiring company was in Ruby on Rails. It was a fun throwback to my first-ever paid programming gig in 2007– building a course website for one of my professors when Rails was just a couple years old.
  • Since August-ish, I’ve been working with Hologram on Developer Experience. In November we released a brand new documentation site!
  • I had a small project helping a fellow member of Pumping Station One on some software for a 3D head-and-torso scanner. I didn’t get involved until late in the project, but it got me jazzed about 3D scanning technology.
  • Speaking of PS:1, I started teaching the ShopBot CNC class there back in January. Over the course of the year I authorized over 100 people on the farily complex piece of equipment.
  • Thanks to PS:1 and the ShopBot, I also had my first paid machinist job, helping a member make an enclosure for a product prototype he’s developing.
  • I was really all about the ShopBot last year–my Birdbath was probably my most involved CNC project to date. And it also marked my return to making videos; the last time I spent serious time in an editing program was in high school.
  • I played around with using Android devices as interfaces for embedded electronics projects (Arduino and similar). I got a prototype light controller working but lost momentum as I realized I don’t like developing Android apps.
  • On the more traditional craft/woodworking side, I made an end grain cutting board!
  • For Reverb, I developed an interactive tour of guitarist Joe Bonamassa’s home and studio.
  • I dipped my toe into Twitter bots with one that replayed FiveThirtyEight’s articles from eight years ago. Code here.
  • In order to learn more about the Rust programming language and the internals of Git, I started re-implementing Git in Rust. I didn’t get very far.
  • I designed and built some lampshades from laser-cut acrylic. Once PS:1’s new big laser cutter comes online, I’m hoping to revisit that project.
  • Toward the end of the year I started attending Chi Hack Night, where I’ve been working with the Chicago Justice Project on scraping and analyzing news coverage of crime in Chicago.
  • And my final project of 2016: Robby #1.