Meet Dav Glass, local hero hacker and Yahoo Distinguished Engineer
|Richard Harris in Programming Thursday, November 10, 2016|
Dav Glass is a Distinguished Architect for Yahoo, and has been at the company for 10 years. He works with various teams across Yahoo with their NodeJS applications and deployments, as well as other Open Source initiatives to help their developers give away and contribute to Open Source Software. Outside of Yahoo, he also coaches 3 robotics teams at a local High School and runs an annual hack event in Southern Illinois called HackSI. He also loves to teach people of all ages and backgrounds to hack on drones.
We recently had the opportunity to ask Dav a few questions about open source technology, his expertise in Node.js, and the HackSI annual hackathon.
ADM: What is HackSI? What led you to launch it?
Glass: HackSI is an annual hackathon event that I started back in 2013 with a few local friends. Technology isn't a focused study in our area, yet there are lots of students and people in the area that are intrigued by it. So, I reached out and tried to gather as many of them together as I could, and it turned out there were more than we expected. The "hackers" get 24 hours to build anything that they want, then a chance to show it off in front of a group of like-minded people and have them cheer them on for what they were able to accomplish.
ADM: How did the event go? Who participated? What kinds of hacks were there and who were the winners?
Glass: This year’s event was a huge success, even more than previous years. We had over 120 hackers in the building, not including my dozen-plus volunteers. Our youngest hacker this year was 9-years-old and he was the first at the door waiting to get in on both days. The 1st place winners were a team of four college students who built a Gameboy emulator, in the original Gameboy case, with a Raspberry Pi Zero and the screen from a car's backup camera. Our 2nd place winner was a young lady from one of my robotics teams that had never built anything with an Arduino before. She made a sonar-activated musical piano! Our 3rd place winner was a team that won 1st place last year. One of their team members last year is a PFC in the US Army, and this year he was deployed in Iraq during the event. So, when we started the demos, they dialed him in via video call and allowed him to participate in the event while serving our country overseas. In fact, this morning I shipped off a custom care package with a box of HackSI swag from this year along with a shirt to him in Iraq so he could get a little piece of home while he is there.
ADM: How do you measure success when it comes to your local hackathon? Does that differ from how you measure success for yourself professionally?
Glass: For me, it's all about the participants learning something new and challenging themselves. If one person who participates in one of these events learns something which causes them to start looking at a career in technology, I've made a positive impact and I feel it has been a success. We've had several great opportunities come to past participants and each of them have told me they, at least in some way, relate to their attendance at our event. One of my co-founders of the event used to work behind the front desk at a local hotel during the night shift. When he had free time he would work on programming or server maintenance, etc. After working a few of the events, one of our sponsors talked with him and a few weeks later he was hired on as an engineer and has been successful there ever since. There are at least 3-4 participants every year that come back to tell me all of the things that they have been able to accomplish after leaving the event. I'm sure there are many more that I'm just unaware of. As for how it relates to my professional life, I treat them the same way. I look at myself as a teacher when I work with other teams when I'm asked for help. I'm always looking for new ways to teach up-and-coming engineers and set them down a path that will give them more opportunities to do really awesome things.
ADM: How has HackSI impacted your community?
Glass: I think it has drawn together a very large group of geeks together into a real local tech community. One of my goals was to only use major local sponsors for the event. Each and every sponsor that we have is an individual or company who either still lives locally or who used to live in the area and still runs a local business. I feel that using the local businesses to showcase the technology in the area will help attract more technology-based businesses, as well as retain good talent locally. Showing pride in our local businesses also helps grow our local economy, as well as promote our local entrepreneurs. After the event, if we have any food or snacks left over, we always donate them to the local police departments to show our gratitude for their service in watching over the event from the sidelines. They appreciate and look forward to the annual event almost as much as the hackers.
What advice do you have for other developers looking to turn their hobbies and passions into concrete projects?
Glass: Find a few people that share your passion and get them into a room together. Each one of them will bring a different set of people with them and it's then the domino effect. One person tells two friends, then each of them do the same, next thing you know you have a hundred people showing up and they are all having a blast. The other thing that I would say is never let a minor setback stall your efforts. A minor setback allows you to rethink and redeploy your strategy for making it better next time.
How can developers create more inclusive events and promote STEM topics to different kinds of people?
Dav Glass is a Distinguished Architect for Yahoo
Glass: I've found that volunteering at the local schools has helped me greatly. Out of the four years that we have run the event, we have had more high school-aged winners than college winners. We have three local high school robotics teams this year, one of which is an all girl team. Many of them either participated in or volunteered for HackSI this year. One even won 2nd place.
What advice do you have for engineers in general, based on what you’re doing at Yahoo?
Glass: One of the things that I always tell engineers is always be learning and always be helping, whether it's volunteering at a local school or participating in Open Source Software. If you are either learning or helping, you are always doing something that will make you a better engineer. Many engineers focus too much in one area and never step out of their comfort zone to try things that are different for them. Learning other programming languages or technologies can lead you to think differently about a problem you have someplace else.
What problem(s) are you most passionate about solving right now?
Glass: Right now I'm very focused on increasing the support for STEM-related activities for school-aged children. I love to help schools grow their STEM programs either by talking to their classes, or donating technology supplies to them to aide in teaching kids that STEM is fun. It's cool, popular right now, and a great job to have when you get older. Plus, technology is the wave of the future. You never know, one of these kids could be building robots on Mars soon.
Read more: https://hacksi.me
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