I have just finished reading the blogs from Graham Robinson about SAP inside track this year and his follow up blog for DemoJam 2105. We were the winning team for 2014, it was my father, my daughter and myself presenting. I thought that I would finally get around to giving a bit of a wrap up of our experience and how we got there.


First up, it was brilliant. Being able to compete with 3 generations was unreal. To have a common interest across three generations is very cool and quite unique in the IT industry. We got to spend a lot of time together as we planned, designed, and hacked together the entry. It was stressful, no doubt, but heaps of fun and enabled to me meet heaps of different people in the local SAP ecosystem. It changes your context.

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Our entry was an IOT device that did real time power monitoring using CT sensors. We had a couple of other sensors in there as well to add a bit more context. We were using light, humidity and temperature sensors in addition to the CT sensor.  We were recording all of this data in an HANA system running on AWS. We then designed and built a UI to display the data while incorporating some gamification concepts in there as well. The use case was around real time monitoring of power in retail stores and providing real time feedback of the consumption to drive behaviours. We estimated that 10% of power consumption was due to human behaviour issues and targeted these with our project. We were trying to visualise and contextualise the data and get those people to compete against each other (other retail stores) by doing things like turning off the lights and setting the air conditioner at an appropriate temperature. It was a thorough use case with a good design and an 11 year old girl fronting the team.

So how did we get there? Well, my kids are a into technology, like most kids nowadays. As a very passionate IT guy I spent time with my kids exposing them to different things you could do on the computer with programming. We started with Logo and played with a few others. Bella has been going at this for a couple of years now (she was 11 years old at the time)  and I wanted her to move onto a language that she could grow into. I chose javascript for her. I also chose SAP HANA. why? because it is one development environment, it is easy to develop in and with things like Core Data Services, it is really easy to teach kids (I’ll write a separate Blog about this). As we started playing with the environment we looked for a suitable project to get her to build something. We also wanted to integrate some electronics into it as it is another passion of ours. We have been playing with MicroControllers for a number or years. The kids loved electronics because they could flick a switch and watch a light turn on. It was like HelloWorld meets the real world. We decided that we wanted to incorporate all elements into Bella’s learning.Bella Solder_Fotor.jpg

As I said, Bella was only 11. This project was about teaching her about electronics and systems. It was not about building everything for her and bringing her out on stage to steal the win. She was heavily involved in the entire build The electronics, prototyping, the subsequent soldering when we moved from a bread board to a prototyping board. The programming of the electronics to read data from the sensors and the routines that published this to SAP HANA. She was then involved in the HANA design, ODATA service, data model and later on the UI build. Everything was an opportunity to teach her.

We got it finished with about a week to spare and then started on the presentation. Bella had been quietly working on this for a week or more and was far more relaxed than her father and grandfather about it. As it turns out, it was the first presentation on stage for all three members of the team. Of the three of us, Bella was the one that was doing this in her stride.

The day was a nightmare, but in a good way. You get time to rehearse during the day, you get the support of people like Graham through the process as well as the eventful team that do everything they can to make you feel welcome. It really was a pleasant experience. Why was it a nightmare though, well it is DemoJam, nothing ever works smoothly. In our case, the travel down from Brisbane led to an issue with the electronics and nothing would work. A bit of tinkering got us back on track and ready to go.

The presentation

6 minutes… it is such a long time if you sit there and watch a clock. It is even longer when you consistently practice your presentation delivery and nail it. The reality is that if you can do your presentation in 4 and a half minutes in rehearsal then you might “just” finish on time when you come to doit. You would be surprised how fast the clock spins when you are up there.

Everything worked for us, Bella did extremely well, Jeff and I held ourselves together for the 6 minutes and we got through it. I loved it, I was hooked. It really was  a lot of fun. Stressful yes, but fun. As a result Clint Vosloo and I entered the DemoJam in Vegas at Teched 2014.That was even more intense but very exciting, it is a different story I must also blog about.

The Win

The win for us, specifically Bella was amazing. She was over the moon and had wonderful support from everyone there. It has gone a long way to her continued interest in electronics, computers and programming. She got to meet the amazing Marilyn Pratt, who Bella now considers as a role model. The eventful group were wonderful to her and to my son, who was just a little too young last year.

All that changes this year though. We are bringing the A team, Bella (12 years old), Santo (9 years old), and myself (old enough to know better). We have a pretty cool idea this year. We intend to make it bigger and better than last year. More electronics, more technology, more calculations, more visualisations…. and bacon !!!

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This is a call to arms for the SAP Inside track attendees… Have a go! Make my kids earn it, don’t let them just have it. We don’t mind beating Graham Robinson again, but we want a challenge this year. Get involved, let your geek out and have a bit of fun with it. We took a big risk and it could have all crashed and burned, that is part of DemoJam. Some of the best entries over the years have been the burners, where they have failed in spectacular fashion. Just make it a show. No powerpoint, no sales pitches and no marketing BS.


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