Another Comic-Con passed and another year the city of San Diego can exhale all the latex, spandex, and virtual PokemonGo decks (well, sort of) courtesy of its convention attendees. Roughly 130k characters, aliens, robots and personified abstract thoughts wandered the floor of the convention center, attending panels and scoring swag.
If you attended SDCC, we hope you were able to break away from your 12+ hour wait in Hall H to come say “S’up” either with a nod of your meticulously-constructed PVC pipe headpiece (please don’t touch) or the removal of your gloves to play with one of our bots. Chances are you also walked away with one of our exclusive BB-8 posters, the last in our convention-touring series this year. So much proud.
Now that we’ve returned our
party tour bus to the touring-bus people, we’re back in the office and buckling down for what will be an exciting fall. Stay tuned. Seriously.
In the meantime, we’re also sharpening our pencils and gearing up for back-to-school by partnering with A Precious Child to host a Fill A Backpack drive; where we’re collecting school supply donations for Colorado kids in need. None of us would be here, doing the awesome things we get to do, without the things we first learned in the classroom. Fantastic products like Ollie, SPRK+ and BB-8 wouldn’t be here without proper supplies and equipment, and we don’t expect any student to learn, grow and create without proper supplies, either.
If you’re in the area and would like to help out, please drop by our office to donate some supplies and say hello. Our buddy Clayton will dazzle and delight you with an office tour for the ages (all the pressure, Clayton) and we’d love for you to see what we do everyday. Heck, you may even learn something. Or at the very least, catch that 12-Pokeball-eating-bust-out-four-times-after-catching Pikachu roaming around. I mean, that’s what we hear. We don’t really know.
Q. Hi, there. To get a few interview formalities out of the way, would you tell us who you are and what your title is here at Sphero?
A. I'm Dan Grollman, and I'm the Robot Brain Architect.
Q. That’s one heck of a title. Indulge us—what exactly do you do at Sphero everyday?
A. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to make robots more engaging, adaptive, and fun! But seriously, I develop models of personality and behavior for our robots, along with some other machine learning and artificial intelligence projects.
Q. Seriously, a kid’s fantasy come true. What advice can you impart for those looking to do the same?
A. Social robotics is still a very young field, and there's tons of interesting work still to be done. Find an area you're excited about and make it your own. And don't shut up about it.
Q. Eventually people will realise my cat-memeing, skateboarding, donut-making robot is genius. Can you share what you’re working on or is it super secret?
A. Hmm. It's kinda secret. Let's just say I'm trying to make your robot seem so alive you'll never want to turn it off.
Q. ‘Nuff said. So, besides these super cool things you’re doing, what’s your favorite aspect of working at Sphero?
A. I really like that everyone I work with is a mad genius in their own way. Everyone's got such awesome ideas that we can't help but do great things.
Q. A collective genius, if you will. Which of our bots is your fave?
A. Good question. At the moment, I'm digging the new SPRK+. Being able to see inside it is really neat, and the BLE communication makes it really easy to connect to.
Q. So let’s hear more about you: What do you like to do outside of Sphero?
A. Oh wow. I like a lot of things. Good food and drink, making music, comedy, nature, travel, and a good book probably top the list.
Q. What do you most enjoy about living in Colorado?
A. Pretty much everything except the lack of oxygen. I also just really enjoy seeing the mountains as I go home every day.
Q. I hear that. Those Flatirons never get old. Can you recommend a place I gotta check out?
I'm pretty new in town, but I've been exploring some of the pubs downtown. License #1 is my current go-to.
Q. Can’t argue with good pubs and good brew. Ok, final question: tell me something about yourself that will surprise me or that I’ll at least find unexpected.
Before we got married, my wife and I spent 10.5 months living out of a car and visiting all 50 states.
It’s no secret Denver is the fastest growing city in the nation right now. Those of us who drive from Colorado’s capital city to Boulder on the daily feel the affects of it in our commutes. What should only be a 30-minute-or-so drive can easily triple as everyone’s shared idea of “beating traffic” is not exactly novel.
Inspired by Boulder’s annual Tube To Work Day, members of our creative team decided to take an alternate route to work to lighten the daily commute.
Our very own Hunter Clawson, David Saucedo (D-sauce) and Taylor Gair opted for an alternate tube—a raft. Possibly prioritising suits over safety, these dapperly-fitted gents braved the mighty currents of the creek; much to the awe but-not-entirely-surprise of a community filled with runners and cyclists alike (so Boulder). With oars in hand and a Sphero flag waving proudly, this maiden voyage could very well have inspired other Boulderites to opt for alternate routes to work with a triumphant arrival at our office backyard.
Needless to say….there were few bumps in the journey. Were the currents’ tumult slightly underestimated? Probably. Did the team make it to our office? Not exactly. Will these fine men be forever immortalized as chicken-foot winners for embarking on this alternate route? Most definitely.
So for all the rewarding delight D-sauce, Hunter and Taylor brought you today, it goes without saying that maybe you should opt for safety over suits if you’re going to try your own alternate route at home or in life.
Just throwing that out there.
Q. To get this started, can you tell us your name and title here at Sphero?
A. Dani Hammernik, SPRK Community Relations.
Q. And what exactly you do at Sphero everyday?
A. As a former elementary school teacher I bring a unique perspective to Sphero’s education team. I lead all things community, which spans everything from educator support, marketing, events, and telling stories though exciting content.
Q. What advice can you offer for someone looking to be in the education field who may or may not want to be a teacher?
A. I always thought that getting my teaching degree meant I’d be in the classroom forever. It turns out that education is constantly evolving, and teaching experience is an asset to have for innovative roles outside of a school that will transform education. I’ve always wanted to make an impact on the lives of children, and giving up teaching to work at Sphero was hard at first. Working here allows me to extend my reach beyond a classroom of 30 students. Get out of your comfort zone and see where these experiences can take you.
Q. I like that. So what are you working on these days?
A. This summer we are honored to partner with Apple as part of their Apple Camp programs in retail stores around the world. This year’s camp theme is coding and robotics and thousands of kids will be programming SPRK+ robots during these sessions. I am honored to currently be working with Apple to develop Sphero activities and an agenda for these upcoming camps that will reach so many kids.
Q. That’s pretty rad. Besides working alongside partners like Apple, what would you say is your favourite thing about working at Sphero?
A. The people I work with. At Sphero you’re not limited to working with the people on your team. Our departments are incredibly cross-functional, which has introduced me to some of the most talented and creative people I’ve ever met and I’m honored to work alongside them.
Q. Being that you’re on our EDU team, I’m pretty sure I can guess which of our bots is your favourite…
A. SPRK+ is my favorite. I am blown away by the creative uses for SPRK+ in education. This robot is not only teaching kids the fundamentals of coding and problem solving, but also giving kids their best days of school. Did you ever think you’d see robots in art and literature? Gone are the days of robots being a thing for nerds.
Q. Gone are the days of nerd culture being only for nerds. More about you—what gets you going outside of Sphero?
A. My sister and brother-in-law are the owners and brewers of a craft brewery in Boulder, Wild Woods Brewery, so I spend a lot of time there. I love beer and I love to eat so exploring new places to do these things really “gets me going”.
Q. What do you love most about living in Colorado?
A. Open space. Living in Boulder, I am minutes away from some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It’s great to be able to break away from society once and a while and climb a mountain or sleep in the woods.
Q. So what else is around here you recommend I check out?
A. Drank: Wild Woods Brewery—Ponderosa Porter is where it’s at. Eats: Kitchen Next Door—Garlic Smashers and calamari every time. Outdoors: Blue Lakes hike in Telluride—no words.
Q. I’ll definitely be checking out all those places after lunch. Last question: Tell me something about yourself that will surprise me or at least I’ll find unexpected
A. There is a large wheel of cheese in my fridge right now. And most days.
Star Wars. Yeah, that got your attention. This week we’re particularly stoked about Star Wars because we’re heading across the pond for Star Wars Celebration in London. We especially enjoy attending shows in different countries to experience their culture, possibly because our own Sphero culture is slightly different from most work cultures. And we like that.
If you’ve been following this blog for a minute, you may have read a mention of a Friday ritual we have called Chicken Foot. First let us set the stage: every Friday during our weekly company meetings, we take nominations for both the Board of Thanks (BOTs) and Chicken Foot. BOTs is pretty self-explanatory, where employees nominate other employees for helping out on a particular task, going above-and-beyond the call of duty or simply being awesome. Chicken Foot is kinda the reckless brother to BOTs, where employees are nominated for doing something…blunderous. Let’s go with that.
This ritual is all in good-nature, as nominees are usually self-nominated. Some past winners include accidentally breaking prototypes, terminating yourself, sleeping through a scheduled interview, missing a flight or the always-favourite—nearly setting the company on fire. Which has happened more than once. Safety is not overrated.
Despite some near-miss hazards, we celebrate both achievements and blunders, because that’s part of what makes us creative, if not hilarious. Winners of Chicken Foot should wear this badge with pride, since it’s probably the only Chicken Foot they’ll ever get.
Unless your name’s Ross. So many chicken feet.
Q. Sup. Can you tell us your name and title to get a few formalities out of the way?
A. My name is Jordan Chong and I'm the Systems Administrator here at Sphero
Q. And what exactly do you do at Sphero everyday?
A. Hmm. I'm the jack-of-all-trades IT guy. I [do my best] to maintain and expand our infrastructure while attending to the changing needs of our employees.
Q. If it weren’t for you, nothing would work. What advice can you offer for someone looking to also be a tech doc?
A. Have a passion for what you do! I try to give everyone this snippet of advice. IT positions can be as narrowly focused or as wide-reaching as you want them to be. I have found that people don't know where to get started in their IT careers, but having a passion for technology is the driving force that will not only help people to get started, but to keep them motivated as technology evolves over time.
Q. May there be others like you. Can you share what you’re currently working on or is it super secret?
A. Haha, nothing super secret that I can't share. My current projects are updating Sphero's network, budget forecasting (the fun stuff), projects related to single sign-on and device management.
Q. So what’s your favorite aspect of working at Sphero?
A. My favorite aspect of working at Sphero is working with people from diverse backgrounds—all of whom are working towards a common goal: Delivering the best connected play experience in the world.
Q. Speaking of connected play, which of our bots is your favorite?
A. That's a tough question... I'd have to say BB-8. I have friends who have young children and they love how they can make BB-8 nod, or shake his head in response to their kids' questions, and their kids just go crazy.
Q. I also go nutty over that feature. I get you, kids. What do you like to do outside of Sphero?
A. Oh boy...I'm a total couch potato (Netflix/Video games)…otherwise I'm either trying to make it to the climbing gym, or I'm kicking it with my kitties: Bootsy and Buff (Dad gave you a shout out!!!). I have a lot of tech at home, so I'm usually tinkering around or reading up on new things so that I can keep myself up to date.
Q. Dad’s on the blog, kitties! What’s your favourite thing about living in Colorado?
A. First and foremost, I love winter and all of the snow that comes with it! Colorado is full of wonderful, welcoming people, and of course, some of the best craft beers in the world!
Q. Yes. Word to all those things. What place do you recommend I gotta check out?
A. Oh gosh. My favorite drinking spot is the Colorado Keg House. 75 craft beers on tap all from Colorado!
Q. 75? Holy catfish, I’m sold. Ok, one last question—tell me something about yourself that will blow my mind.
A. Well...I was born and raised in Hawaii, and I've never been on a surf board. Mind blown?
Mornin', kiddies. Did you receive the open-to-everyone birthday invitation from our mutual friend, America? We sure did. We think we may have seen you there, too, between our second servign of BBQ ribs with Lynyrd Skynyrd soundtracking our mastication. We were gonna come and say "hey", but you know--macaroni salad is a sweet, sweet seductress.
We imagine you celebrated America’s birthday in a similar fashion to us—too many BBQs to attend with so little time and stomach space. Between all that eating, some of us felt a little ambitious and had a side of trail run or 14er-hike. Others of us opted for America’s party favours and found a baseball game in our goodie bags. However you chose to celebrate, we hope that included some good food and awesome-but-legal pyrotechnic viewing.
Not to rub it in too hard, but hopefully some of you were able to celebrate an extended holiday like us, where your work week started on a Wednesday (today) with Sphero making you some sweet, buttery hotcakes. Yes, you read that correctly. The best part of waking up maybe a pancake in your cup. Or on a plate. Or even going au-natural out of your hand; all three are equally Instagram-worthy.
Seeing how delicious this morning was, we’re thinking of celebrating America’s birthday every week. Pretty sure robot productivity would go through the roof when fueled by post-party pancakes. There’s probably some study conducted by the best scientists and Mrs. Butterworth backing that up.
I’m sure we can find it around here somewhere.
Q. Hi, there. To start this off, mind telling us your name and your title?
A. Claire Tindall, Sr. Director of Marketing and Communication.
Q. Hello, Claire. Can you tell us what exactly do you at Sphero every day?
A. I lead communication, marketing and event strategy for my teams around the globe. My people are spread across every region of the world and together we tackle all things media relations, social media, events and more.
Q. Spreading word around the globe. What advice can you give for someone looking to get into the PR and marketing world?
A. Be resourceful, solution-oriented and humble.
Q. Solid advice for anyone, I'd say. Can you share what you’re currently working on or is it super secret?
A. Mostly secret, as my time these days is spent planning for our major product launches coming later this fall. What I can tell you is that we have a number of cool events on the horizon. Look for us across the pond at Star Wars Celebration in London next week and immediately following that, International Comic Con in San Diego.
Q. Two amazing places and two amazing events. Super jelly. As if that wasn't enough, what is your favourite aspect of working at Sphero?
A. Hands down, the people I get to work with. From my immediate team in Boulder to my partners around the world, I have the privilege of working alongside some of the most talented and brilliant people in this world.
Q. Which of our bots is your favourite in this world?
A. SPRK+ is my personal fave. I am constantly inspired by the creative ways educators and parents are using this bot with kids. Yes, this bot is intended to teach foundational coding and programming, but to see robotics integrated into the arts, music and literature is just so cool.
Q. Another win for SPRK+ in this office. What do you like to do outside of Sphero?
A. I’ll keep it real here … I clock in as mom for my three year old son. With a career that requires travel for trade shows, media tours, etc., I try to prioritize work-life balance. Be it playing in the mountains or simply chasing a toddler around Costco, every weekend is a new adventure.
Q. I feel often feel like a toddler at Costco. Sample-sensory overload. Can you tell me your absolute favourite thing about living in Colorado?
A. I travel a lot for work. I love coming home to the Flatirons, fresh air and open space.
Q. Totally. The view never gets old. What place can you recommend I check out?
A. I survive mostly off of coffee. My go-to spot is ink! Coffee in Denver. I love the Aspen location, too.
Q. I'll add that one to my coffee-tasting list. Ok, one last question—tell me something about yourself that will blow my mind.
A. I once had lunch with Oprah.
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