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Rocketeers create an app to control lights with voice in less than 24 hours

What’s cooler than a lighting system that you can control with your mobile device?

A lighting system you can control with your voice.

iOS developer Justin Ehlert, currently a junior majoring in computer science at the University of Texas at Dallas, took on that goal during this year’s Rocket Science. After purchasing a Philips Hue starter kit, Ehlert started to fiddle around with the system’s capabilities and explored the product’s potential.

“I realized that a service that allowed you to have an always listening experience could be quite revolutionary. My vision is to have an iPad mounted on a wall and then from anywhere in the room you can control your lights in the house. Start watching a movie, turn them off without getting off the couch,” Ehlert said.

Hue bulbs display up to 16 million colors – which allows for customizable presets with color combinations.

Ehlert and fellow developer iOS Nelson LeDuc (also a junior studying computer science at UTD) enlisted the help of two new Rocketeers – Brandon Roeder (a senior studying software engineering at UTD) and Colin Campbell (a junior studying computer science at UTD) to create the finished product.

“We just wanted to create something awesome. We noticed that there are no apps that can control the Philips Hue lights with voice and we felt that a product like that could really benefit from a more automated and hands off approach,” Ehlert said.

The Hue lighting system lets you adjust intensity, customize your lighting rig, and schedule different lighting times. Starting kits run for around $200. 

Ehlert even had a Twitter back-and-forth with Hue’s official account. Kudos to the Philips social media team for keeping up with us during our slightly dereanged schedule. 

Stay tuned for a new profile of the winning teams every day this week. 

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Rocket Science 2014: Come and Make it

What do you get when you add up 24 hours, over 180 rocketeers, and countless energy drinks? 

Rocket Science 2014

Starting at noon on Thursday, Rocketeers from every discipline of the company came together to brainstorm, collaborate, and implement ideas for personal projects that reach beyond the scope of our regular (and not-so-regular) workdays. 

We shut-down our emails and put a temporary hold on client work so groups could work on personal passion projects ranging from the Keggerator (a smart beer dispensing device) to the Altimeter (an app to gauge employee morale). 

Projects varied from lighthearted attempts to celebrate our company's culture, like a Bottle Rocket-themed card game, to serious philanthropic work. Team Vocal Id spent their time at Rocket Science developing an app that lets users donate their voice to a database so those who are without a voice don’t have to rely robotic presets to express themselves and they are given a voice that is unique to them.

Team Hue, half of which was comprised of newly hired interns, developed an app to control Philips Hue lighting with voice commands - allowing users to create preset light combinations and other impressive features. 

Rocketeers Jason Osburn (pictured below) and Chris Thrash cranked out hundreds of custom screen-printed t-shirts to celebrate the event on a 4-Color Printa System.

Over twenty teams presented their work Friday morning and fellow Rocketeers voted on five categories: Best Presentation, Brilliant Failure, Most Solid, Most Creative, and Magnificent Success. 

Rocketeer James Helms and Team Keggerator won Best Presentation for their "Making Of" montage featured below. 

The Most Solid award - a brick - went to Team Pico Games, who created 48 mini-games during Rocket Science, which was 24 more than they originally planned.

Team Eye of Sauron, who worked on an app to help keep track of employee locations throughout the office, won Most Creative

Rocketeers voted Team Hot Flag, an impromptu hotdog-themed band, for Brilliant Failure (with love, of course). 

Finally, the Vocal Id team won the trophy for Magnificent Success, a golden goblet, for their work on an easy-to-use voice bank. 

Rocket Science was filled to the brim with creative energy and work that will continue for the coming months (once everyone gets a chance to rest).

Stay tuned for more exclusive content as we update the blog with videos documenting different teams and their innovative work… after a long nap!

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Rocketeer Charity: Hugworks

This month, Rocketeers are supporting Hugworks - a charity specializing in music therapy for hospitalized children.

By conducting live therapeutic music, Hugworks seeks to uplift children experiencing extended hospital stays or children with special needs. 

Founded by musician Jim Newton, the organization has gone on to produce three award-winning CDs featuring music that Hugworks performers play live in hospitals across the country. 

Rocketeer Chris Koeberle submitted Hugworks as his charity of choice and shared his experience with the group. 

When Koeberle’s 9-month-old son was inconsolable in the hospital, two men with guitars came into the room and asked to play. 

“It was probably the happiest moment he enjoyed that entire day, and I just found it so cheering that two gentlemen would take time out of their day to go to a hospital and play music for kids who were stuck there,” Koeberle said. 

For more information on Hugworks, visit their website at http://www.hugworks.org

The two previous charities selected by Bottle Rocket were Meals On Wheels and the Susan G. Komen North Texas Plano Race for the Cure.

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Booking a flight: Bottle Rocket’s New Employee Library

As part of a never-ending effort to expand our knowledge and hone our skills, Rocketeers have put together a company library where employees can check out books on a range of topics: from “Objective C for Dummies” to “Agile Estimating and Planning.” 

Curated by Rocketeers and their department leads, the current selection features over 65 books that span each of the disciplines at Bottle Rocket including (but not limited to) mobile dev and project management. 

Within minutes of the last book being placed on the shelf, Rocketeers were more than eager to get cracking. 

Project Coordinator Tommy Eubanks is one of many Rocketeers excited about the library.

“My favorite part about our new library is that it allows each individual Rocketeer to pursue their own passion at their leisure,” Eubanks said. 

Passions, of course, are not discipline-specific, and all are encouraged to develop themselves beyond their role at Bottle Rocket. Several of the books selected for a spot on the shelves, such as “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” could benefit any member of the organization and give insight in the work fellow Rocketeers do around the office. 

We are thrilled to have these new resources at our disposal and look forward to further filling the shelves.

Prepared by Rocketeer Bryan Lortie 

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Hour of Code: Bringing STEM to students

Stars like Ashton Kutcher and Shakira have come together to promote the “Hour of Code” - a nationwide effort to expose students to bite-sized pieces of computer science. 

Now Rocketeers are joining the push, too.

Developer Tanner Oakes spoke to a classroom of fifth graders at Heritage Elementary School in GCISD on May 9 as part of this effort.

 

Fifth grade math and science teacher Amy Flory brought Oakes in to give her students insights into his work at Bottle Rocket using code for app development. 

“I hope that through my involvement in the Hour of Code event more students become interested in learning about computer science, or gain a better understanding of how computers work,” Oakes said. 

After asking Oakes questions about his experiences, students spent time using beginner coding apps Hopscotch and Kodable on school iPads to get a feel for the process.

Flory’s experience was so positive she now plans on starting a club at the school to promote STEM in a casual environment. 

Rocketeers have been involved in several initiatives to interest students in STEM - from the “House App Challenge” to the Bottle Rocket Coding Club and beyond. 

Links for beginner’s coding tutorials can be found at the “Hour of Code” website.

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Recent News

Bottle Rocket App’s new 49,570 square-foot space, not only almost doubles the size of its current offices in Addison, it provides it with a more-conducive environment to a fast-paced tech company, founder Calvin Carter said.

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