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FedEx Day Fosters Continuous Innovation

FedEx Day Fosters Continuous Innovation

DMC recently held our 7th FedEx Day across all offices. On FedEx Day, everyone in the company works on a project that interests them and that they think will improve DMC. It’s one of our favorite company traditions!

It's called a FedEx Day because part of the project must absolutely, positively be delivered by the end of the day. You can read about past FedEx Days on our blog: here, here, here, here, here, and here. Also, check out this classic FedEx Day video!

How Does FedEx Day Work? 

FedEx Day preparation starts with a brainstorm to get ideas for a project. Then, employees build a team to complete the project and gather materials for the project in advance. It's a perfect opportunity for employees who don’t normally work together to try something new and collaborate!

While some people use the day to catch up on internal project work, most employees choose to bring fun new projects to life. The ideas we brainstormed for this FedEx Day were some of our most ambitious projects yet!

Chicago FedEx Day Projects

Cooking for Colleagues – Anne, Amy Costello, Frank Riordan, Grant, Heather, Lexi, Jimmy Brady

Cooking for Colleagues Team PhotoThe Cooking for Colleagues team.

Our President, Frank, kicked off FedEx Day planning by announcing the Cooking for Colleagues project. He organized a team, “building on [his] childhood love of cooking and passion for feeding large groups of people.”

The goal was two-fold:

  1. Feed DMC on FedEx Day with freshly prepared meals
  2. Create a platform for “Cooking for Colleagues” whereby there will be periodic meals created by some of DMC’s best culinary artists to be shared with everyone

They prepared an amazing omelet station for breakfast and a taco bar at lunch!Frank and Jimmy flip omelets for breakfast on FedEx Day and DMCFrank flips omelets for breakfast!

Dog Tracker – Lyndon, Andrew, Matt Goedke, Alex

This team wanted to create a dog tracker for our furry friends at DMC. They scattered modules throughout the office that constantly report the signal strength of all the Bluetooth devices they can detect. 

Photo of Rosco the dog laying down in the kitchen wearing the tracker tile for the Dog Tracker.Rosco rests after a hard day of testing the dog tracker.

Using highly advanced mathematical formulas, we can now calculate and display the location of our various office dogs by monitoring the Bluetooth devices they're wearing!

Screenshot of a live view of the Dog Tracker

Our very own doggie “Marauder’s Map”.

Kegerator Upgrade – Natalie, Molly, Nicklas, Nikhil, Parker

Sometimes non-engineers get a little jealous of all the fun projects that engineers work on. So when we found a group working on an IoT Kegerator, Natalie, Parker, and I all decided we were ready to learn some new skills!

IoT Kegerator Team prepping the Raspberry PiThe Kegerator team preps the Raspberry Pi and Arduino.

We used a Raspberry Pi, flow meters, and our Kegerator with an existing Kegerator app to bring everything together. Natalie, Parker, and I learned to solder as Nikhil and Nicklas prepped the flow meters for installation.

Photo of Nicklas shaving down parts for the IoT Kegerator.Nicklas trims down parts for the flow meter.

By the end of the day, we were more than ready to make good use of the Kegerator. Though there were some kinks to work out following installation, the project was a success! We can now measure the amount of beer left in each keg, display the types of beer currently on tap, and have capabilities to do much more!

Photo of the Chicago office kegerator UI

Click on the UI to see more.

Fake Tile – Ji-hoon, Emily, Caleb, Ben

Photo of the Fake Tile team.The team wanted to create inexpensive “tile”, or wireless devices that they could attach to pieces of DMC lab equipment. If the equipment was misplaced, we’d only have to press a button on the key fob to make a noise and locate the item.

Photo of Caleb using the soldering tool.Caleb solders the 555 Timer onto the board.

By the end of the day, our very first tile was up and working!

Ball Demo – Beth, Steven

Steven and Beth worked on redesigning the user interface and rewriting the code for the DMC Ping Pong Demo. The project included updating the code to LabVIEW 2015, improving the ability to identify the ball location, and reworking code into the state machine template to improve maintainability. While the demo is not up and running yet, all the components were tested separately and integrated into the project such that testing can begin.

Screenshot of the new UI for the Ping Pong DemoLV Projectile Ping Pong Demo - New UI

Other Chicago FedEx Day projects included a PM Tool Update, 3D Printer IoT, KPI Dashboard improvements, an Activity Fund Pictures App, and a Light Display to show where our often out of the office employee, Ben Griffith is currently located. He aptly named it “Where in the world is Ben?

Denver FedEx Day Projects

Snow Scraper – Cameron

The snow scraper uses a BeagleBone Black to grab snow reports and weather forecasts for Colorado ski resorts from the internet and display them on a small LCD. The display includes current snow conditions, 6-day snowfall forecasts and weekend weather forecasts.

Photo of the DMC Snow ScraperPool Vision – Devon

Devon improved upon a past FedEx Day project that detects which balls are on a pool table and where they are. Next up is getting it to work with Denver’s Cutthroat Pool application that runs on a tablet.

Doodad Box – Nick A, Tyler

The intention was to create a handheld device for basic diagnostics and troubleshooting and for basic I/O to test PLCs and National Instruments devices. The design has 24V compatible digital inputs with LED indicators and 24V digital outputs triggered by toggle switches. Additionally, we have 4-20mA analog output that is fully adjustable and overshoots on both ends if need be to test clamping. We also have a function generator that can supply DC, Sine, Saw and Square waves from ~40Hz to ~13kHz as an additional four independent analog output signals. 

Additionally, Tim, Sully, Boris, Ryan, Jimmy, and Otto used to the day to continue work on the Denver Drink Bot demo. They have been using Siemens hardware items to create a cool Siemens demo that is portable for mixing drinks, similar to Boston's Drinxperiment

Boston FedEx Day Projects

Roomba – Phil

The Roomba has a serial port and a byte-level control interface that enables someone to directly drive it or read its sensors. With the help of a Raspberry Pi, Phil wrote a Python library to control simple movements. Tom added to a .NET app that serves as the user interface and communicates commands to the Raspberry Pi.

Screenshot of the Boston Rumba UI and route through the office.

Additionally, Liz worked on adding Entrance Music for those entering the office; Dan, Erin, Lillian, and Bill worked on Cognex (what?), and Eric Baggen made additions to Stevie’s web alter ego (Stevie is the first of the Boston office’s fish). Finally, Adam & Bill worked on a .NET app for querying DMC SQL databases.

Houston FedEx Day Projects

The DMC Houston team created an IoT nerve center for the Houston office on a Raspberry Pi. Using Node.js, they implemented a RESTful API to query and control their IoT Kegerator, IoT Office Lights, and Amazon Dash Button doorbell.

The system was designed for future Slack integration and web-based management of the entire ecosystem. 

New York FedEx Day Projects

Finally, our newest office contributed to the FedEx Day festivities with continued work on a Pool Tracking application and an Alexa light show.

The New Yorkers added a PARTY MODE to their Drake themed collab room using an Alexa voice command. Alexa turns on the music and changes the lights when you ask, "Do you like to party?".

Stay tuned for more updates on DMC's FedEx Day projects as they continue to evolve!

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