Phone holder for Gilbert Days parade 2021

This year Patterson and some other Gilbert Elementary schools were asked to participate in the Gilbert Days Parade. Okay, okay, I don’t really know if they asked or if they had to pay to participate or how exactly it worked out that Patterson was going. All I know is we were going to walk the mile or so as a family with a few others from the school.

This isn’t our first time in Gilbert Days parade. I think this might be our 4th or 5th time? So many times I forget. Last time we also walked with Patterson and it was FAR DIFFERENT from the years before. The first few times we went with Gilbert Parks and Recreation because Sarah and I taught some robotics classes there back then. And Gilbert Parks and Rec goes ALL OUT and has a big float and a theme and custom shirts and people decorate wagons that go around the float and we had candy to hand out (BUT DON’T THROW IT!) and we had music and people were dancing and the float had swings on it one year. It was super fun! And it was clear they put a ton of effort into organizing it.

Two years ago when we walked with Patterson, it wasn’t like that at all. We literally JUST WALKED. That’s it. No decorations. Nothing to give out. No wagons. No music. Nothing.

This year we wanted to do something different. So I decided to use up all my open rolls of filament and print out as many phone holders as I could in the week I had to prepare. In total we printed 590 of them! We had 6 gallon sized ziplock bags full of them.

3 of the 6 bags we ended up having
YES! It looks like a bottle opener!

Generally people thought they were bottle openers. Which is kinda funny that an elementary school would be handing out bottle openers!

7 Colors!

We also went to Sams Club and spent $60 on 5 boxes of Air Heads (90 in each box). With that we had over 1000 things to give out! The kids with us were giving out the Air Heads and the adults had the phone holders. The candy was gone after about a quarter of the way! Pro tip . . . if you want a cool give away, get a spot in the beginning of the route.

ALSO . . . we took a couple of wagons (to hold the candy n stuff and hold any kids that got tired) and we had Dexter in his Jeep (that has a remote control).

Dexter in the Jeep in front of me

People LOVED the Jeep and for the 3/4ths of the parade, Dexter was crying. But I think all the cheering helped and he was happy by the end. The trouble is we had to get there 2 hours early and he was already done and ready to go by the time we actually started. Plus, I wouldn’t let him ride in the Jeep those 2 hours on account of not being sure if the battery would last. It ended up doing the parade route and then going on a loop all the way back and was still ready to go another mile!

This time . . . we even had a banner to identify the school!

Patterson Banner Practice before the parade started

Overall we had a ton of fun and the give aways were a hit! Probably. The parade goes so fast you don’t have much time to get any feedback.

Thanks URS! (and AECOM)

Today is my last day at AECOM (formerly URS). It’s been a wonderful 2 years and I’m thankful and grateful I made the leap. I’ve repeated this story many times but for the first few months after leaving ASU I thought I made the second biggest mistake of my working life (first being . . . well, ask me about that later). Looking back I can’t remember what it was that made me feel that way but I’ll never forget that sense of dread.

Now, 2 years later, I’m a better programmer, a better co-worker, and probably a better person. On a technical level, I know Javascript/node better, I understand far more about MongoDB, GIS, PostGIS, Jenkins/CI and the list goes on and on. I also finally worked on a big budget/big project where we had several programmers (and even divisions between front-end and back-end), several designers, testers, documenters, deployment/IT engineeris, etc. It was the biggest project I’ve ever worked on and it was a joy to get to learn what goes into this kind of work from Alex and James.

No job is a utopia but URS/AECOM was very close. Sure, it was annoying that I didn’t get time for training or to go to conferences (even when I was speaking at a conference by request I still had to use my own PTO time and work as much as possible). And when I moved to a new location in the building my cube rattled and monitors shook whenever someone came by. But those are small since I had plenty of PTO and had a flexible schedule so that I could work four 10 hour days to take a Friday off for a conference and could work from anywhere and didn’t have to go into the office, etc.

When I explain my AECOM/URS love people ask “then why are you leaving?” and it’s a good question because I do like it here. Sure, the new job is more money . . . but it’s not THAT much more. I think the main reason for leaving is that so many others have left and I not sure there is going to be another big contract to continue the work I was doing and I wanted to be able to leave on my terms not when suddenly there was no more work.

Another thing I get after working here 2 years are some great connections and dare I say . . . friendships? Chris Hogan left not long after I started (and he worked out of the Germantown office so I never met him in person) but he was the first real connection I made and we still chat from time to time to this day and even met up at a conference and will do so again someday. James Fee is the main reason I left and went to URS (he did that “do you want to sell sugar water the rest of your life” speech but relevant to what I was doing) and I’m glad he convinced me to go and then went on to patiently explain GIS and what it means to work on a big project. . . . I think we have forged a friendship that will last as long as he can stand my . . . loudness?. Rachel Wagner was a great boss and I learned a ton about the company culture from her even as I made fun of the company culture. She was patient and was a great communicator (i.e. she listened!). Alex Bostic . . . I can’t say enough about this guy . . . he’s an amazing developer/architect and I learned a ton but besides that he’s just “good at life” . . . things that would be so irritating to me were put into perspective thanks to Alex. Thanks!

I worked with so many others on projects big and small but I don’t have time to write about every one of them. Huge thanks to Lauren, JP, Darla, Bose, Bing, Asa, Manuel, Robert, Jason, Bill, Patty, John, and finally, Robin, who I never really worked with but knew her because she happened to be close to my cube and always very personable.

On to the next! I start my new adventure Monday and after few months I’ll let you know if it was a big mistake! 🙂


P.S. This is what I sent to my colleagues at AECOM:


As most of you know today is my last day at AECOM. It was an amazing 2 years and I’m so glad I listened to James and decided to make the leap. I really am sad to be leaving and enjoyed my time here. I learned a ton, met many amazing people, and am immensely grateful for the opportunity. 

When your biggest complaint is that your new cube desk shakes when people walk by you know you have it good. Thanks AECOM! I hope you’ll have me back someday!

Feel free to reach out anytime at sheldon.mcgee@gmail or on twitter @tooshel. 



IoT Devfest Website Analytics

When organizing an event with 100 or so people, there are many decisions to make right away. Should we have a website? Brand? Logo? It’s not a huge event so putting it on Meetup or just using the ticketing website (we use Universe that has a really nice looking event page) sounds like a good plan especially with limited resources. Logo design? Only if someone on the organizing team happens to be a designer because that kind of thing can cost thousands of dollars.

We decided early to have our own website and got really lucky that a designer (thanks, Travis!) was willing to help out with the brand. We think having our own site and brand contributed immensely to the success of our event and below is some of the evidence we used to come to that conclusion.

In a later post I’ll go into some detail about how 2/3’s of attendees registered in the week before the event but that fact might help explain the analytics for the IoT Devfest website seen below:


As you can see, on Monday, January 4th we had our second highest number of “sessions” (a complicated metric but it’s the best guess at “visits”). It’s also the day we contacted our fellow organizers and asked them to get the word out and some did that on Monday but others did on Tuesday. Event day was Saturday, January 9th and that was the highest sessions with 523. I’m glad to see that so many people used the website and next time I’m going to make sure it’s even better. What else could we have added? Where could we have organized it better? What did you think of the logo/brand/design? Suggestions and feedback welcome! Hit me up on twitter @tooshel.


P.S. Below is the hourly sessions chart. It would be fun to correlate the time that we tweeted and organizers sent out email to the times where we saw a spike in website sessions (registration was on the front page where you see the video now . . . STILL keeping it up to date!). Maybe there is a business idea in there somewhere.


Categorized as DIY

IoT Devfest

What an amazing event! I’m a bit biased because I helped organize it with Mike but I can tell you I wasn’t so sure it was going to be great the week before the event. At that point we only had about 50 people registered and were thinking about ways we could downsize it. It’s taken selling out, a few days of reflection, and many many many many many people saying it was great for me to know for sure I wasn’t completely biased. In the coming weeks I hope to reflect on the event and post some stories here that I thought were interesting. In the meantime, I need to get post-event work done (reporting, paying bills, videos, etc).


Categorized as DIY

Project Fi after a month

I’ve had my Nexus 6 and Project Fi for about a month now. The short review is that I love the service but don’t like the phone. Below is the long version.


Simply put: I think the phone is too big. It’s bigger than a Samsung Note 4. Even a month later I’m not used to it. Barely fits in my pants. It’s two hands for just about everything. That said, it’s nice having a screen that big with me all the time. Basically, overall, like a big phone but maybe not this big. It’s likely I’ll change my mind in a month just like every other big phone user.

The perf on the phone is fine. It’s not much better than my old (stolen 🙁 from my car) Nexus 5. But I don’t notice any lag except on Tapped Out . . . . but I hear that is an Android 5.1/5.1.1 thing.

Google also sent a welcome pack (and I put my phone in the case they sent and then took a picture) which was a surprise and delight moment.



One of the most intriguing features of Fi is that it makes T-Mobile and Sprint into your network (along with Wifi which is uses instead of either of those two if you are connected. Here in AZ you are taking the #3 carrier for coverage (T-Mobile) and the #4 carrier (Sprint) and making into a tie for #2 in coverage with AT&T and nowhere near as good the #1 carrier for coverage (Verizon). I installed an app called “SignalCheck Pro” mostly so I could tell which network I was on and I was surprised how often I was on Sprint’s network. The jumping between Sprint and T-Mobile is seemless but I have had times where I was on Wifi on a call and the call was dropped as I walked away from the Wifi. It’s something to be aware of but hasn’t bothered me much.

Google Voiceinlinevoicemail

When I transferred to Project Fi I was informed that I either use my current Google Voice number or I port my cell number and loose my Google Voice number. That was a tough decision since I used both often. Anyway, I ended up porting my cell number (and moving my Google Voice number to a different google account) and it went fine. And I love that SMS text messages are integrated with voice messages with a translation. That was certainly a surprise and delight feature.

Project Fi

Not much is different between Google as a provider and T-Mobile as a provider except that I use the Project Fi app to keep track of my data usage. And THAT is the real downside of having to pay for every byte . . . it makes you think about everything you do. There is something to say about psychological detachment you get when you have allotment of data to use or not use. That truly is a big downside to Project Fi . . . even more than the forced Nexus 6.


Project Fi will not save you money except in edge cases. Start at out $20 and then add $10/GB for data. That SOUNDS cheap, but it really isn’t. Especially for people with a family or anyone who uses more than a few GB of data. T-Mobile recently announced a 10GB family plan . . . 10GB for each user. . . . and two people on that plan is the same as a Fi plan using only 3GB each. And I like to tether! So I frequently use over 3GB of data. The T-Mobile plan is so compelling that I decided to give my 3-year-old daughter a phone that I can use when I need to tether.

Categorized as DIY