The diversity of Mountain View’s tech scene was on full display at the 7th Annual Technology Showcase this year, with companies and organizations ranging in size from one-person operations to those with hundreds of employees. The event was back in person for the first time since the pandemic began.
Presented jointly by the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce and the city of Mountain View on July 19 at the Civic Center Plaza, this year’s showcase featured everything from 3D robots to space labs. The Voice talked to a few of the entrepreneurs and innovators that make Mountain View one of the tech epicenters of Silicon Valley.
Jinxbot 3D Printing
Jason Reynolds is a one-man show who does it all for his company. He’s the founder and sole employee of Jinxbot, a 3D printing service business that he started out of his garage. Jinxbot began with “one printer and a dream,” Reynolds said, and now he has more than a dozen printers fulfilling orders that can be picked up locally or shipped.
Jinxbot offers 3D printing services from three types of printers, including a new process called SLS (selective laser sintering) printing. It uses a nylon medium creates printed products that are stronger, highly detailed and temperature-resistant.
“It’s just become more commercially available,” Reynolds told the Voice. “So I’ve taken a lot of that cost on for Jinxbot and am providing that technology to everybody who wants it.”
His quick turnaround times – usually 48 to 72 hours – and one-on-one correspondence with his customers are what set Jinxbot apart from other 3D printing service companies, Reynolds said.
“A lot of times, 3D printing services will kind of be like a black box: you submit a file or an order for a part, and you’re not sure what you’re going to get,” Reynolds said as one of his 3D printers whirred next to him. “With me, I’m going to reach out once I get your file and ask questions – ‘Hey, did you want it strong this way? Have you thought about support material this way?’ That way, you know you’re going to get the part that you want.”
Reynolds said his favorite part of running Jinxbot is getting to help people bring their visions to life.
“I get to meet a lot of interesting people,” he said. “People are really excited about their projects and what they’re doing.”
Currently located on Church Street and Calderon Avenue, Jinxbot will soon be expanding to a larger space off of Old Middlefield Way.
A nonprofit on a mission to create an inclusive and accessible space for tech enthusiasts to learn, play and build together, Hacker Dojo was founded in 2009 in Mountain View. After moving to Santa Clara in 2016 and then having to take a pandemic-induced hiatus, the tech-focused maker space is now back in the city where it all started: in April 2022, Hacker Dojo reopened its doors in a new space on Maude Avenue in Mountain View.
“As a nonprofit organization, we’re non-essential, so we had to close our door for two years,” Executive Director Ed Choudhry told the Voice during the Tech Showcase. “In that time frame, we did a lot of soul searching for the organization: what’s our new mission, and how do we navigate through this? And what we’ve come to find is that we’re great for in-person: We’re for those who are online, coming off-line to connect and share ideas and to learn from one another.”
Every great tech startup has to start somewhere, Choudhry said, and that’s what Hacker Dojo aims to provide.
“We’re the platform, the in-person space, to get that idea started,” he said. “This is before you get funding, before you have any kind of users. You’re just kind of socializing the idea. Maybe I want someone to help me out, maybe I just want more feedback on this idea. We’re that community to help support that.”
Marissa Tsoi, an incoming senior at Mountain View High School, has committed countless hours to her school’s Spartan Robotics team since she was a freshman. But because of COVID-19, this was the first year that Tsoi and her team were able to experience not only building a robot from scratch, but competing against other high school robotics teams in person. The Spartans’ robot was on display at the Tech Showcase.
During Tsoi’s freshman year, the team built a robot but never got to compete with it due to the pandemic shutdown.
“It was really different,” Tsoi said of her navigating robotics team during COVID. “It was a lot of Zoom meetings, and just doing what you could virtually, so you kind of missed out on the hands-on sort of thing that’s really fun. … So this is the first year that we’ve actually gone through the entire process of building and competing a robot.”
Each year in January, robotics teams across the nation are assigned a game from the FIRST Robotics Competition. This year, teams had to build a robot that could shoot balls into a goal.
“We basically spent around 25 hours a week at our lab at Mountain View High School working to design this robot since early January,” Tsoi told the Voice at the Tech Showcase. “And all of that accumulates into the competitions we compete at.”
Spartan Robotics took part in two regional competitions this year in March and April, Tsoi said. From there, the team qualified for the World Championships in Houston.
“We were able to make it all the way to become finalists in our subdivision there, which was a really great accomplishment for us given that it was just coming off of COVID,” Tsoi said. “I think everyone on the team learned so much, just going through the design process.”
NASA brought some of its best and brightest to this year’s Tech Showcase to talk about what the Ames Research Center is up to. Lovorka Degoricija, science communicator and outreach specialist with NASA’s GeneLab, told the Voice about how citizen scientists can get involved with space research here on Earth.
“GeneLab is essentially an open science repository that analyzes all of the model organisms that are sent into space on the International Space Station in order to conduct experiments,” Degoricija said. “GeneLab analyzes these organisms using various biological techniques to understand how the space environment affects our biology at a molecular level.”
With intentions to go to the moon and eventually to Mars, understanding how space affects living organisms is crucial to keeping future astronauts safe, Degoricija said. NASA sends model organisms like rodents, fruit flies, worms, bacteria and plants to space and then when those organisms are brought back to Earth, GeneLab analyzes them.
“We really need to understand how space affects us,” she said. “We also want to have some kind of a food source on those flights, so we also look at plants and how they are affected by the space environment.”
Conceptually, GeneLab is similar to crowdsourcing, Degoricija said.
“It’s open to the public, anybody can access this,” she said. “We’re looking for citizen scientists to help analyze data to help NASA’s mission in furthering the understanding of how space affects biology at a much faster pace.”