*An app by which you can monitor your home’s and appliances’ energy usage to be more conscious of and better manage your carbon footprint.“
I was in Boston still when they told me about the project. My friends came to me with the idea of making it for this NTx Apps Challenge thing I had yet to hear about. Sound’s cool to me. How are we going to do it?
The plan: Ian was making the app itself, Dylan was designing it and everything else, Adil and I were figuring out the hardware, and I worked to develop the wireless communications between all of the different parts we were working with.
We had the plan, but barely knew where to start. But, we started. After researching, we found useful tools to monitor the energy usage from appliances: Kill-a-Watt’s. We decided to use XBee’s to transmit all of the data to where we needed it to go. We got the Gemalto Concept Board to connect our transmitted data to the cloud. We used a Node.js server to aggregate this data to serve it however we needed it. We made the app to pull this data down. We created analyses and data visualizations for the app so users could see what was going on in their houses and how they could reduce their energy usage.
Somehow, it all came together. Scratch that. We made it come together.
Honestly, I may have been the most clueless of all going into the project. While they were all attending the events that NTx Apps Challenge hosted, I was working full-time in Boston and trying to correspond via Messenger and email to try to understand what they were all doing.
Once I got back, we tried to hit the ground running. We ran into problems. The hardware was going haywire. None of us had any experience soldering, let alone soldering minuscule wires to minute ports. We burnt either ourselves (I hope your hands are okay, Adil) or the hardware itself. On a third round of reordering the hardware, we got it. It worked. The Kill-a-Watt beeped with the XBee sticking out of it. It was rough, but hey, it was a prototype.
I got the Gemalto Board when I got back to town and had already researched the technology necessary to work with it. My computer was stubborn. What I thought would work didn’t work. So I troubleshooted. I tried some random tests with different ports on the board, and eventually I got some output! We figured out how to synchronize the corresponding XBee’s on the Gemalto Board and the Kill-a-Watt.
After some late nights and a mini hackathon, we got it working.
On Pitch Night, everything went wrong. Already late, Apple Maps showed us the wrong venue, so we ended up running 10 blocks to the right place. Imagine 4 dudes, in full suits, carrying backpacks and circuitry, in the middle of Downtown Dallas. That was us.
We arrived, sweaty. Nevertheless, we were welcomed in. We got drinks and heard others present. We set up our project, and got ready.
We went up, still breathing heavily. We had two laptops and a demo phone: a bit much for the small table provided. We managed. I don’t know how it looked like to the audience, but I felt like we were all winging it. Our timing was off, and we skipped around with the demo and everything.
The timer went off after 5 minutes. Dylan kept on going because we had to present some crucial information about the applications of our app. Then, it was done. We met some cool people, some old friends, and some new ones.
We rushed home for TAMS curfew. On the way back, we ran into a guy who begged us for money. We moved on and thought he was following us. As we got in the car, we turned on some classic Kendrick: Sing About Me. We blasted that the entire way home.
We picked up some chicken and waffles from IHOP and went back to the dorm. It was done. None of us felt very confident in our presentation. Welp. Better luck next time. Maybe we’ll come up with a better idea. Maybe we’ll prep better. We believed in our project, but after this night, we felt uneasy.
I forgot about it.
We show up to the NTx Awards Night a few weeks later. We meet some more people. We talk about our project and make some cool conversations about hosting a collegiate hackathon in our area. Then the award ceremony began.
I’m sure we all screamed that in our minds. They took down the big check and welcomed us up. We did it? Wow.
So, now we review our thoughts. Maybe we didn’t do so badly. Maybe our idea could actually get somewhere.
We just had something and went for it. I guess that’s the way to go.