I remembered the first email I received from Dan O’Malley, asking if I am interested in hearing about the Future City. Before giving out an answer, I did a small research about it. I found many cool future city projects that Cisco had built (one in Korea and one in Florida). It’s REALLY fascinating. I then learn that the project wasn’t what he meant to recruit me for, but something else which I think it’s even cooler. Future City is the biggest national engineering competition for middle school students. It is part of the E-Week celebration. Students from 6,7 and 8th grade will form a team of 3 under the supervision of a mentor to build a virtual city using the Sim City software (provided by one of the main sponsors – EA Games), a model cities from recycled products, an essay and a presentation. This age range is quite interesting as it is when girls are likely to drop out from STEM. I thought that I could contribute and also try to bring more girls into the competition. So, I am in!

Engage stage – The competition is amazing, yet convincing schools and teachers to consider the benefits for their students, and to commit to it when having all the extra activities classes the students requires a lot of work and commitment myself. Some teachers got really excited themselves because of their backgrounds, and some were hesitate due to the workload that their students would have to commit to. Anyway, Dina Verdin (the other outreach coordinator) and I talked on the phones with principals and teachers, visited many different schools from San Jose to San Francisco. Sometimes I got a grateful smiles, a promising conversation when sometimes there was a suspicious or even hostile attitude as thinking that I am a salesperson. Finally, all hard work made to a great turn out of 100+ teams signed up.


Support stage – If in the beginning, people had questions about how to sign up, what are the rules, etc, questions during this stage were more technical : how do use the code to download the games, installation and loading the cities, etc. I acted as a technical support. I made couple of instructional videos ranging from “How to download and install the Sim City game on Mac OS” to “How to build a city and rules for the competitions”. I actually downloaded the game and started to play for couple of days before I recorded the video to be familiar with it. I played the Sims before. In fact, I should say I got addicted to the Sims I were young. I grew up with the game (from Sims 1 to Sims 3). Yet, I had never played the Sim City. As expected, I got so addicted building my own city that I forgot to have dinner. After getting everyone install the Sim City software on their computers successfully, they started building their cities, and we started to get more engineering questions. Engineering mentors were recruited to help answer the students’ questions and give them the assistances they needed along the competition. We have too many teams that needed assistances and instead of waiting for mentors (who are also busy with their industry’s workloads), I created a Google group for teachers to ask questions so that they can get a fast response from the mentors, other supported staffs from the Future City, or other teachers.
Final stage – Finally that day had come. On Saturday (Jan 25) at Cisco Building 9 all the teams were ready to present their works to the judges. I arrived at 7:15am and there were already many teams waiting in front of the building (they didn’t have to come until 8:30 am). I started to check people in. Seeing all the students with their models is the best coffee I would had taken. I was so energetic, and couldn’t get tired. I forgot that I didn’t eat anything. I wouldn’t feel thirsty nor hungry. I was walking around to do a final check before the judges come out, and there were students in suits practice their speeches. I sat in couple of the presentations and I was speechless.


– Presentation skill: I am myself an event organizer, took public speaking in college, had been to many hackathons, and felt humble in front of those young students. They delivered amazing presentations/speeches. Regardless whether their mentors/teachers might write the script, being able to keep the audiences interested along the presentation, which was filled with engineering details is a big credit that go to the students/presenters. They would act naturally in a script during the presentations, they utilized great body languages and gestures, and they are very confident. I looked at them and tried to remember what did I achieve at that age. I learned so much from those kids.

– Project quality: some of the judges made the comments: they have been working in the industries for years, and have seen many professional projects, yet the quality of those projects as well as the presentations were really extraordinary. So the theme of this year is “Tomorrow’s Transit: Design a way to move people in and around your city.” From nanotechnology to latest technology were utilized in their cities. One built an underground subway system for a Japanese city. Many groups include the self-driven car of Google. They did their research, thoroughly. I doubt that people in the industry or engineer college students would know about the latest innovative projects as much as them.

– Team work: I remembered one of the most challenging part that would make my grade suffer in college is team project. My communication skill is above average, but I have to admit: working with others is not easy. It indeeds a challenge. In some of the teams, the members didn’t know each others beforehand, some members are classmates, etc. yet they support and encourage each others well. Many teams admitted that they argued every day in the beginning, yet they learnt to work with each others along the way. That’s exactly what the meaning behind the competition. These kids came to learn many things about engineering, technology, yet also different skill sets such as presenting, socializing, team building. These skills are so valuable to them later in college and in the industry.

I introduce you to the videos of the finalist presentations:

A student shared his experience while building the Future City

Finalist presentations:

I would like to thank Dan O’Malley – my boss to recruit me, introduce me to this great event as well as being flexible with my hectic schedule. Thank to Laura Lorenzo for putting this Future City NorCal event together and allowing me to contribute as much as I can. I definitely will contribute again for the upcoming Future City and many others.


Girls rocking the engineering future @ Future City Competition

The winner of the Future City NorCal Region 2013-2014 is a team of 3 bright girls from Girl Scout Troop #2225 from Salida.


their beautiful Varuna city in Australia 


Their mentor, Evangelina Paoluccio, is a beautiful and successful female civil engineer and indeed is a great role model.

I had a talk with Evangelina and learned so much from her. She portray a successful female engineer who not only manage the work-life balance well but also has a strong passion to lead and inspire many young girls in STEM.


One of a valuable lesson from Evangelina is NEVER DO THE MINIMUM. She pushed them to not only exceed the limit, but go beyond that. The girls shared with the audiences how they spent 250 hours in building the virtual city, the model and the essay. They also practice nearly 100 times for the presentation. They portray the hardworking attitude of girls very well. Their city tackle many current problems as well as introducing latest technology. The model was built with great attention to details. 


They will be heading to Washington DC for the national competition, competing for the grand prize of a day trip to US Space Camp in Alabama. Through those young girls and their passionate mentor, I visual a promising future of engineering. Go girls!!! Show the engineering world your true color! 

Check out the video of their finalist presentation:


Google definitely never allow users to be bored with it. A new year has slowly started but Google has never too slow to shake Silicon Valley with their news. The “nest” acquisition news hasn’t cool off yet, now Google just reveal another great wearable device which came out from amazing research of Google X lab : smart contact lens that measures your glucose level to help diabetics gets a more precise information.


(source: TechCrunch) 

The contact lens is still in prototyping mode and is testing. Yet, Google already making healthcare industry excited. This contact lens use a tiny wireless chip and glucose sensor. These tiny chips are embedded between 2 soft layers of lens materials

Scientists have been researched about how to track glucose levels using certain fluids from the body. Tears were showed to work really well but we don’t cry that often, so the option was excluded. This contact lens can take one reading/second. One of the feature they are working on is a tiny LED light to warn the users when their glucose levels are in concern range.

Microsoft and other companies did introduce similar lens, yet didn’t gain that much attention, until Google did. There must be a market for these lens, just matter who will bring them to the market.

One of the questions that crossed my mind was the heath concern for elder people. As known, contact lens are hard to put in and remove, so it would be challenge for seniors who will more likely to be interested in tracking their glucose levels.

Google bought a safe NEST for $3.2 billion to be in hardware and household devices industry

When big boss in SV like Google or Facebook acquire a company, I would see an article on TechCrunch about the acquisition, then SV got the news, talk/discuss about it within that day, and…we moved on. But when Google bought NEST, I kept seeing different discussions about it after the acquisitions. Some sources shared the surprise reactions, some curious about Google’s next step.  Why Google did that? What they are trying to achieve? Who got the most benefit from this business? etc.. So, why is it hot? Is it because this deal was paid $3.2 billion in cash? people try to predict what the “giant boss” up to that will (again) surprise the technical industry, or because this acquisition will kick off the technical industry  2014 with full of promising potentials. Let’s figure out!

NEST started selling the amazing thermostat since 2011, yet just only recently it started to expand with the protect smoke alarm feature.

Nest founders – Matt Rogers – was one of the first engineers at Apple and Tony Fadell was known as the “father of the iPod” (no wonder the thermostat is just simply beautiful). So, Google wanted Nest, but the founders chose Google too, as they were thinking that only this big search engine company could bring Nest to another level and go further. For example, Nest’s software has been reported to be very buggy. It’s in a good shape now with Google’s software capability.

After the acquisition of Motorola ($12.5 billion) in 2012, this acquisition could be considered as one of the major acquisition. So what Google up to? Google started with a search engine, then to Android / mobile phone, and now they even get into your house. Our lives indeed are full of Google’s product, and should I use the word “controlled by”? As soon as Google acquired Nest, the founders of Nest confirmed on the blog that they promise to take privacy seriously, and limits sharing customer info to improve the service only. Who know where the datas go? Regardless the sarcastic joke that Microsoft played on Google when they started selling the T-shirt about Google’s Chrome stealing data, users didn’t switch from Google to Bing. Google is still the number 1 choice for search engine. So, people accept the fact that their datas are collected and used. So, there is no stealing here – Google doesn’t have to argue. Now every household can get to have another Google thingy in it: a smart thermostat and smoke detector from Google. Nest will help Google get inside the users’ household, and increase its revenue with a whole new market: home devices. Google has been big in software — well, not enough — they wanted to dominate hardware too. Nest will help them make a firm step into the hardware industry.

After wearable devices, we will get to be amazed how Google make it way to the connected home devices industry.

A Girl Geek dinner @ Groupon

I have always wanted to attend the dinner in the girl geek series, but my lottery never get picked (I have no luck in lottery). Finally, Groupon host the Bay Area Girl Geek dinner and I got to get the ticket through their website. I received the email early in the morning, and was waiting from 11:45 am because the ticket won’t be available at noon. I managed to get in. Some girls at the event told me that they tried to get the ticket at 12:01 and they already be put in wait list. Isn’t that insane how quick the tickets were gone. Anyway, it was quite a ride there, but Groupon building is very homie I think. The atmosphere is very warm and the people are very nice (~ in comparison with some geeks at other tech companies).

So I arrived a bit earlier than 5:30pm thanks to the unexpectedly nice traffic. I was welcomed by a lot of women. So I guess I was a bit happy after a tired day. I had a great talk with representatives from TechBridge as I expressed my interest in being a mentor as well as my thesis work and thoughts to support a certain age girl group so that we can retain more girls in the field. Then, I checked out the food bar (twice). The food was really really yummy. I can eat a variety of cuisines, but very picky about good food. Edible and good are definitely different, and I give 4.5 / 5 for the food here. It’s way more better than food they prepared for events at Google and Yahoo. So far, this is comparable with the food that Facebook prepared for a women event. They were really good. I wanted to eat more, but I also wanted to enjoy the conversation with the women I’d just met. They were all high rank women in the field, and I feel so good as seeing those great female leaders. It’s important to keep seeing the great models so that I can be motivated. The group I was talking with complimented me on the fact that I had great resources of conferences/events for women. So, I shared with them how did I came to learn those resources….
[ It was back there when I was a sophomore @ Roger Williams University. I took the first intro to animation programming with Alice and my computing professor saw my interest in computing. He asked why didn’t I want to major in computing and I told him about the stereotype that I grew up with: women don’t belong in tech, engineer, etc. He worked with me and 2 other female classmates in submitting the poster for Grace Hopper Celebration. We got the scholarship to attend the conference and it was my first time going to a conference. It was an all women in computing conference. I was startled. I met so many inspiring women. Yahoo CEO back then was Carol Bartz ( who was fired over the phone not long after that). I also met the Vietnamese woman named Le Duy Loan. She’s the first women who got the senior rank at Texas Instrument. She probably didn’t even know who am I, but she changed me. I got the courage to like computing. Since then, I joined a lot of events and society for women in tech. I became a mentor for middle school girls in GirlTech. I went to CMU for a workshop where I met my best friend. She also has a passion in bringing more girls to STEM, so we exchanged resources a lot. I subscribed to many women in tech groups, been to meet ups, hackathons, volunteers at events, and try every single things to help out this mission. Recently, I got a scholarship to attend She’s Geeky unconference event at Microsoft HQ the end of this month. Everyday meeting new people, I send them the resource I know and encourage them to go with me or by themselves. I had received a lot of helps and information from others, so I want to pass them around ]

Get back to the event, I realized the importance of technology in every aspect of life and work. The great woman who was standing right next to me works in HR of Microsoft and she’s taking class of coding. This is the difference between the east coast and Silicon Valley. An HR manager at a tech company in the East coast wouldn’t voluntarily sign up for coding class and try to learn about software because HR is HR and developer is developer. That’s a nice culture at SV. It’s very DIVERSE.

After a while, everyone was asked to move to the big room for the presentation. I totally understand that Groupon host it so having presentation to introduce themselves make so much sense, but it doesn’t have to be more than an hour continuous presentations about them. Facebook hosted event for women and they didn’t spend too much about about what Facebook up to. It’s ok to hear for a good 15-30 mins, but overdoing it actually making viewers like me feel no different with going to a marketing event where the company try to market themselves. I managed to learn from the presentation even though they were very unexpected so I found them a bit unpleasant. Everyone knows Groupon, so the presentation tried to explain the business model, the design team, and introduced their great success of shifting platforms. Let’s go through what I learned one by one:

1. Mobile is obviously the fastest and continuous growing revenue. They show the graph of starting from only 5% couple years ago, and move up to nearly 50% in the past year. That’s insane! Mobile will continue to grow for sure. Have you check out Groupon 2.0 for iPad yet?

2. Groupon goods : They mentioned 2 problems that they solved successfully:
– One is the long wait that customer had to experience if  they would order from the vendor, waited for it to ship to warehouse and then ship to customer
– Second problem is that they are trying really hard to NOT overbuying anything
When I heard of these problems, I wondered why didn’t they apply “drop-ship” model which the vendor will send directly to the customer who ordered the product. As an experienced buyer for a big business in Rhode Island, I was very familiar with these concepts so I found the topic was very interesting. I was guessing that because Groupon didn’t want to provide the customers’ information to the vendor so that they will go straight to the customers in the future. However, the answer from the presenter was that some of their vendors are small so they are not confident shipping to the customers yet rather to sell in bulks for Groupon. Make sense!

3. The biggest shifting to unify the platform and now Groupon is fully NodeJS. So, I learned that Groupon America used RoR, SQL while Groupon in Europe used Java. They decided to have a shift platform and they chose NodeJS (definitely not a bad choice). It was pretty inspiring to hear the story from the engineer. He was very fascinated about it. Some of the main points that I liked was 1) frozen features (everyone stops working on new features and focus on re-writing their web page in NodeJS within a period of time) 2) At the peak moment such as Black Friday, they would wait for the website to … crash and was so happy that it was working fine. Doesn’t it sound familiar? This is what a developer would enjoy more than Christmas or black friday shopping.

4. When a technical presenter on stage, I saw traditional slides with graphs, codes, etc. When a designer leader on stage, it’s beautiful. The presentation was full with video, images. The slides were all polished with flash, animations, motions, sounds, etc. It’s an art. I found it’s pretty interesting to see such a distinguish in 4 presentations. All of the presenters from Groupon have a great sense of humors though. Sometimes, when I almost fell asleep because of all the good food and sweets that I digested not long before the presentation, they said something funny or interesting that I should learn about the industry in general and Groupon specifically that wake me up immediately.

I exchanged contacts with some great women and am looking forward to keep in touch and see them in the future (hopefully at She’s Geeky in couple of weeks). These types of events greatly support me. Not only because it’s an all female event, but also the community is very nice, friendly and professional. With the increase in numbers of company which claim themselves as a supportive resource for women in tech, Girl Geek dinner have done a good job in letting truly supportive companies host the dinner for women. I hope there will be more events like that in Silicon Valley (mostly in San Francisco).

If you are interested in attending great events, let me know so I add you in the list to contact whenever I heard of a good event to go to. It’s always good to share resource, and I really hope to see more girls out there too.

Happy reading!!! Any question about the post, let me know 😀 Any comments, feel free to leave them. I do read them seriously 😉

2013 trending in Asia through Google search report

Google release the report for search trend in Asia in 2013

In Korea: of course we can’t miss Psy’s music video, but the top search was actually go to “Attack of Titan” – an anime TV series which was rated 8.6/10. TV drama “Master’s Sun” is also a in the top. I wonder why the TV series “Heirs” or other TV series which are way more popular didn’t get that many searches. The case of Actor Park Shi-Woo was accused of rape also a big search. The new girlgroup Crayon Pop that had a lot of rumors around copying Japanese singers and songs also a big search.

In Japan, a clear trend of tv series search indicates the likelihood to use mobile phones during watching TV in this country. Besides all the entertainment products, there’s also a search about the typhoon that hit Tokyo.

Read more here



SQL stands for Structured Query Language
It is used to access and manipulate database
In order to build a website that input and retrieve data from database, we need:
A relational database management system (MS Access, SQL Server, MySQL)
Server-side scripting language such as PHP or ASP
Data is stored in database called table. Table consists of attributes (columns) and tuples (rows) 
SQL is not case sensitive (but I capitalize the commands to specify it with the rest of the code)


The essential commands:
A generic SQL statement:

SELECT col_name
FROM table_name
WHERE condition operator values
** Operator values include:
=      equals
<>    not equal, different from
>      greater
<      less than
>=    greater or equal
<=    less than or equal
like   (to search for a pattern)

AND     values must match all conditions
OR       values must match any conditions
DISTINCT select unique records only (ex: SELECT DISTINCT cust_first_name)
ORDER BY sort results
INSERT INTO insert values into table
ex: INSERT INTO Customer (first_name, last_name)
VALUES (‘Sophia’, ‘Ngo’)

UPDATE table_name k
SET column_name = value
WHERE column_name = value
ex: UPDATE customer
SET last_name= ’N’
WHERE first_name= ‘Sophia’

SELECT TOP (number or percentage) select a portion of the database
ex: SELECT TOP (50%) : if database have 1000 records, result will have 500
SELECT TOP (10) : results have 10 records

LIKE (pattern) : used to search for a pattern
ex: SELECT *
FROM customer
WHERE city LIKE ’s%’  (select customers with city starts with s)
% substitute for 0 and more characters
_  substitute for single character
[abc…] set of characters
[^abc] or [!abc] character that not match whatever in the brackets

IN : select from multiple options
ex: SELECT city
FROM customer
WHERE city in (‘Bali’, ’Bangkok’)

ex: SELECT *
FROM product
WHERE price BETWEEN 10 and 20

Aliases / AS : assigned calculated value to new column/attribute
ex: SELECT * , value / price AS per_unit

JOIN : inner, left, right and full join
UNION : apply for multiple SELECT
ex: SELECT cust_ID FROM customer
SELECT class_ID FROM class

SELECT INTO : copy table to another table in external database
ex: SELECT *
INTO people IN ‘backup.mdb’
FROM customer
— Copy everything from customer table to people in backup database

INSERT INTO : copy data from 1 table to existing table
ex: INSERT INTO people pp_ID
SELECT customerID FROM customer

CREATE TABLE + Constraint Syntax
ex: CREATE table Person(
PersonID int auto_increment not null,
Lastname varchar(225),
Firstname varchar(225),
**Constraint Syntax include: not null, unique, primary key, foreign key, check (validate the value), default (set default for value)

CREATE INDEX : allow finding data faster without the need of going through the whole database
ex: CREATE INDEX index_name on table_name (column_name)
-> CREATE INDEX pIndex on Person (last_name, first_name)

ALTER : add, delete, modify columns
VIEW : create a virtual table
** Important functions include: 
NOW : current system data and time
DATEADD : add specified time interval to a date
DATASUB: subtract specified time interval
ex: SELECT prodID, unit_price*(unit_in_stock + ISNULL (unit_order,0))
— if unit_order is null, return 0 instead.

char (n) – n is fixed length / varchar (n) – n is max length
binary (n) / varbinary (n)
integer (p), int (integer), smallint, bigint, decimal (p,s)
numeric (p,s) , float (p) , double prevision
date, time, timestamp (yy:mm:dd hh:mm:ss)
Function_name (column_name)
AVG : average of all values in the column
COUNT  : how many records in the columns
FIRST : first value in the column
LAST : last value
MAX : max value
MIN : min value
SUM : sum of all the values in the column
GROUP BY (column(s)_name)
HAVING : apply for aggregate function
ex: SELECT last_name, COUNT (orderID) AS num_orders
FROM transaction

UCASE / LCASE : convert to upper/lower case
MID (column_name, start, length) : extract character from values
ex: SELECT mid(state,1,2) AS short_state

LEN : length of value in text field
ROUND (column_name, decimal) : round a numeric value to decimal places desired
ex: SELECT FORMAT (NOW (), ‘DD-MM-YYYY’) As eastern_date_format