The Google I/O is an annual event held by different Google Developers Groups where Google Inc. announces the newest technologies they have been working on the past year. Our very own JKUAT GDG chapter organised the Google I/O 2016 Extended recap event held at the New Science Complex building (NSC) ground floor room 007 and Lab 305. The event ran from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm on Saturday 11th June.
While the members of JKUAT GDG had earlier watched the Google I/O 2016 keynote delivered on May 18th, 8.00 pm EAT, this last Saturday provided an opportunity to discuss in detail the new and amazing announcements that were made e.g Google Home, Firebase tools, Android N, Alo, among many others.
The morning was set off on a designer note with Mark Makuno, a 3rd year Computer Science student at JKUAT who handled material design. Mark introduced the attendees to the world of friendly and appealing user interfaces on the Android platform. This was followed with a session by Robert who is also a student at JKUAT, studying Electrical and Computer Engineering. Robert touched base on the integration of software and hardware by introducing the attendees to the basics of coding for hardware appliances.
The first networking session during brunch was key, as attendees enjoyed a hot cup of coffee and pastries. Yes, there was food involved, plenty of it. The next session was by an alumnus of JKUAT, one James Muindi, who spoke on the Google Cloud Platform. James not only taught on what cloud computing entails but reminded them that anyone, literally anyone and everyone CAN code. The first female speaker of the event took over shortly; Lenah from Kids Comp Camp. She sensitized the attendees on the need to educate the kids on technology. She laid out the strategies and statistics available on how much they had done and how much they intended to do. She also called upon the attendees to volunteer to teach these young ones and leave behind a legacy.
Right before the much awaited pizza lunch break, the second lady on the stage, Eve, spoke on Women in Technology. This evoked response from the audience who actively engaged in the debate on the comparatively low numbers of women in the technology field. “Recently Andela announced its first female only class. Only 1,200 women applied. This was heart-breaking,” said Eve. Having been a participant in the just concluded Andela boot camp held a few months back, she added that out of the 1,200 women, only 40 qualified for the boot camp and eventually only 10 survived it. Echoing similar sentiments, Bob, the lead at GDG KU contributed by adding that while the number of women in the field were few, isolating them altogether may not be the way to go. “Anything worked on as a joint effort between a male and a female is almost always a success.” This seemed to resonate with Eve’s constant belief that for ladies, the bar to their qualification in any tech related responsibilities should not be lowered under any circumstances. This message was both to the gentlemen in the room and more so to the listening ladies.
Right before the break, Dennis Riungu, the GDG JKUAT lead, introduced Google Developer Groups and explained the purpose of the GDG JKUAT community. There are more than 20 Google Developer Groups in Kenya and JKUAT Chapter is one of the most successful in the country. Our consistency in organizing developer centric events for students was a key consideration. Our events have attracted audience from other universities around the country including University of Nairobi, Multimedia University, Kenyatta University, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Egerton University and many others.
In a room full of geeks, you don’t get much audience if you don’t curate their tasteful desires with a piece of pizza. That’s exactly what happened at the Google IO Extended 2016 JKUAT. The sighs of contentment as the meeting was called back to order were enough show of satisfaction. In the afternoon, the attendees were split into two groups to cater for those who already had an experience in developing applications and those who were just getting started. The experienced coders headed up to Lab 305. The sessions had two parts, the first being what is new in Android N covered by Miles.
Android N is the latest version of Android after Marshmallow. Not only does it support virtual reality, multi window support, but it also allows one to install application modules on the go as well as use others straight from the Play Store. They then went on to Firebase which was handled by Amukasa, another JKUAT student studying Actuarial Science (Yes!). Amukasa introduced the new features in Firebase including notifications, IOT support, free licence and gave an Android demo with a firebase backend.
Running concurrently was the start-ups session at the ground floor. The sessions were handled by Bob, the GDG lead at Kenyatta University, Dennis Riungu and James Muindi, both alumni of JKUAT. They engaged the audience in the beginner coder steps and made programming sound exactly as it is; amazingly fun and engaging. Later in the evening, the two groups were merged again for a final culmination session with Bob, the KU GDG lead on Virtual reality and the cream session of the day, IOT (Internet of Things). Bob showcased how to create an automated home assistance with voice commands and showcased several microcomputer interfaces that could run full Linux distributions.
As the final activity, the speakers were presented with magic mugs that change colour depending on the temperature. The GDG JKUAT cake was then cut and everyone got to share and have a piece. But that was not all. Every attendee was given a Google Cardboard to go have fun with and to also prototype Virtual Reality applications on their own. Google Cardboard is a virtual reality viewer. Attendees were really amazed at this experience.
One of the most beautiful things about Google I/O this year was that we got to listen to speakers who were mainly from JKUAT. This goes to show that we have immense talent and resources within our very ecosystem.
After the event, some attendees shared on how the event had gone for them. “I just finished school and am awaiting graduation. I kept saying there are no jobs out there. But while I was here, I realised what am supposed to be doing. I know which direction my life should take now. I have to code!” said Timothy.
We are really grateful to our patron Mr. Michael Waititu, the JKUAT administration, the extremely hardworking volunteers and all those who made it to the event. You are fantastic!
We hope to see more of this in the future; more people exploring the technology world and discovering how exciting it can get. After all, anyone can code!
By Sharon Mwangi,
2nd Year Computer Science.