Monday, January 20, 2014

ShmooCon: It Lived Up To The Hype, But Not For The Reasons I Thought


     I have known about ShmooCon for years now. I have always wanted to go but could not justify spending the money. I have even submitted a few CFPs and was actually glad they weren't accepted. Getting turned down made it easier to not spend the cash and go.
    Unlike other prospective presenters, some of whom I consider strong acquaintances, I never have felt entitle when it comes to CFPs. Also, I never get upset when I am not selected at a conference. Quite the contrary, I get upset when I hear others complain about getting turned down.
     This year was completely different. I REALLY wanted to go to ShmooCon and I REALLY wanted to present. Not for me though, for my daughter.
     My daughter, Emily, has always has a kind and giving heart. This genuine care for others was readily apparent at an early age. As she grew older, her love and need to assist others grew too. In 2013, my wife and I decided that it was time for Emily to travel with my mother-in-law on a mission trip to Kenya. Prior to the trip, Emily and I learned about the many uses of the RaspberryPi. After talking to Sam of Hackers For Charity, I learned about the RachelPi learning system from World Possible. Emily raised over $1,000 for her trip and decided to provide a RachelPi to the children of the Future Hope orphanage. We then built a RachelPi and she took it to Kenya with her. On this trip, Emily would assist in building a school at an orphanage, install the RachelPi, provide 2 computers to the kids, and help teach a vacation bible school at another school.
     When I wrote the CFP for this year's ShmooCon, I actually became very nervous. You see, I wrote the CFP with the hopes that my daughter would be selected to speak. Because she is 14 and cannot travel alone, I added my name to it. After what seemed like an eternity, I got that fateful email. We were accepted! My attention turned to prayers of thankfulness and safe travels. You see, Emily was scheduled to return to the US the Tuesday before we left for Shmoo. If she had travel issues like bad weather, this whole plan could be shot.

Emily testing the RachelPi
     To make an already long story shorter, all went well in Africa (there were a couple of hiccups like no power in the new orphanage site). The RachelPi was handed over to the staff of the orphanage, a care provider was trained on how to use it, and the computers still worked.
     As for ShmooCon, I have heard for years that the staff and attendees were very friendly and the atmosphere was laid back. What I learned is that this was true. I am glad I went this year and I am glad my daughter got to speak in front of a rather large audience.
Helping build a school

After our presentation, Johnny and Sam pulled us aside and offered to help us on our next trip. They provided us with a PelicanPi and support for a future trip to Kenya. This is something that really touched me and am embarrassed to say brought me to tears (I was able to keep it together when they were talking to us but lost it later). I have had many encounters the staff and volunteers of HFC and I know they do good work but I never thought they would help us do that work too.
Johnny Long, Emily, and me
     After getting home and discussing logistics with my wife, we have tentatively decided to take a trip to Uganda and Kenya in the Fall of this year (before the rainy season). At a minimum, Emily and I will go. We are praying that my wife will be able to go with us. Plans may change but, God willing, this is a GO!

Note: As usual, I will post a link to the presentation when the videos are uploaded.