Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago and Wisconsin for National Instruments’ LabVIEW Developer Education Days. This is basically an event that NI holds throughout the country in several different locations to spread awareness of a few new features in the LabVIEW environment and how users may use it. There are two tracks–an intermediate track and an advanced track. This is usually an event put together by the regional sales staff, and they usually fly out an R&D Engineer to head up the advanced track sessions. This is not only because R&D works on the features being demonstrated on a day-to-day basis, but because it offers an awesome opportunity for R&D to see how customers actually react to their product.
So, I was flown in to Chicago on Monday morning as part of this effort. On Monday I met one of our customers in the Chicago area, DMC, and had an opportunity to see what sorts of things they are working on. I also gave a short presentation and demo of the feature I’ve been working on, which is basically the ability to add third party licensing & activation to users developing extensions to LabVIEW.
Tuesday was the first developer education day, in Chicago, hosted at Harper College. Harper is a community college but it had a pretty large campus. In fact, they even had a lake! Their convention center was very slick, and had an amphitheater. Anyhow, the developer day itself went pretty well. In the morning, I presented Graphical Scripting, which is a LabVIEW feature that allows users to generate LabVIEW code from LabVIEW programs. This may not make a lot of sense, and unfortunately I cannot think of any analogies outside of the programming domain. Think of it as similar to writing Java code that generates Java code. This basically allows you to automate certain repetitive code patterns.
The afternoon session that I presented was on Advanced Control and PID. I will confess that this is not a topic that I am very familiar with, but the presentation gave me the opportunity to learn about the topic. As software engineers (especially a new one like myself), I don’t really have the opportunity of seeing a real world usage of LabVIEW. The control presentation and a few chats with the attendees afterwards showed me how LabVIEW users use the various parts of the LabVIEW system in their work. It was pretty cool.
After the event on Tuesday, we packed up and shipped our presentation materials to Milwaukee. Ended up having dinner at an Asian restaurant near our hotel (I think it was called Big Bowl or something like that). Since there was nothing else to really do, we ended up catching a movie at a nearby theater–She’s Out Of My League. It was a pretty funny movie… not on the level of The Hangover or Hot Tub Time Machine, though!
On Wednesday, unfortunately the customer visit I had scheduled got cancelled. In the morning I went with the Chicago sales engineers to a company called EcoloCap, which has apparently been developing a high-efficiency, low-cost, environmentally-friendly fuel called “M-Fuel”. They have a bunch of information published, if anyone wants to read more about it. In the afternoon, I visited the public section of Fermi Particle Acceleration Lab. Fermi can be considered as the precursor to CERN. It was a pretty interesting outlook, and gave me an idea as to how NI technology can be used in big physics. Unfortunately, we had no visits scheduled there so I couldn’t get a deeper understanding of how everything worked.
We then drove to Milwaukee (or maybe it was a place called Waukesha… I don’t know) where our Wisconsin Dev Day was going to be held. Luckily we could set up at any time (at Chicago we had to set up at 6:30am on the day of the conference). After checking into our rooms, we waited for all the sales engineers to arrive before setting up. It did not take that long to set up, luckily. We rounded the day off by having dinner at a nearby seafood grill. The food was quite delicious!
Thursday followed much of the same schedule as the Tuesday Developer Day. The turnout was a bit smaller, but higher than the normal Milwaukee Dev Day, I was told. Nothing spectacular/unique to report on that day. After the event we packed up, said good bye to the Chicago sales engineers and relaxed for most of the rest of the evening (except for dinner, of course).
Friday, the last day of my trip, featured three customer visits. I visited Dyne Systems in the morning, FasTek over lunch and Soliton after lunch. Each of the three customers gave me an idea of what they did with their products and with NI technology and then I gave them a short presentation and demo of how the feature I was working on could help them make some moolah. After all that was done, I was dropped off at the Milwaukee General airport (MKE), where I took the shortest flight of my life.
The flight was between Milwaukee and Chicago O’Hare. Our plane left the ground at 4:07pm and touched down at O’Hare at 4:25pm. An 18 minute flight. I don’t want to think about how much that cost! Unfortunately, the wait at Chicago was a little more than 3 hours. I spent the time in one of the restaurants where I had a leisurely-paced dinner with a couple of beers while watching some baseball. Probably the only baseball I’ll watch all year!
I touched down in Austin at around 10:30pm and got a SuperShuttle pretty quickly (which is weird, kinda, usually the wait is around 20 minutes). Got back home at around 11:15pm and was very tired but ended up watching the Tuesday episode of Lost. Still have to catch up with HIMYM, Modern Family and 24, though.
Anyways, after two back-to-back 9-hour sleeping nights, I feel good again! Unfortunately for my health, the NBA Playoffs began this weekend which means 20 hours of basketball (a quadruple-header each day)!