A Recap of Kids Code-A-Thon

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This month TechBirmingham presented their Kids Code-A-Thon at Daxko! Over 60 local children attended, eager to team up and create an app that would positively affect Birmingham.

Let me start by saying this: I work in Services. I know very little about coding… but [spoiler alert] by the end of the day, I moved from the Hospitality Team to leading a team of brilliant kids with the coolest app in the building.

Trent and Adam (of Airship) kicked things off by leading a brainstorm with the kids to come up with app ideas that would benefit Birmingham. Here are a few of my favorites:img_0766-jpg

After splitting up, each team selected ideas from the brainstorm to develop and later present to a panel of judges. At this point, I was still on the Hospitality Team, so I was walking around to see if the kids (or volunteers) needed anything and scoped out what everyone was working on.

One team was working on a pet translator. Another worked on a volunteer crowdsource. Yet another was working on a “BirminghamGo” app. My favorite, though, was a team working on a Birmingham Scavenger Hunt. In the app, the user had to go to each landmark in Birmingham to answer a trivia question. When the user answered the question correctly, they would acquire an item needed to save the princess from “Blazer,” the UAB dragon, at Vulcan.

Just before lunch, one of the volunteers had to leave, and I was asked to step in and work with the Birmingham Scavenger Hunt team (aka Team Awesome). SCORE. We got right to it. They had already decided on landmarks and characters, and although the team was swiftly building the app, their difficulty was in telling the story and coming up with a plan – something I am good at. I absolutely loved helping them discover how to tell their story, what types of imagery to use, and coaching them in how to present their app to our panel of judges.


They were having fun, I swear.

Prior to judging, a couple of very special people joined us…


The kids (and adults) were enthralled to see the Stormtroopers! They lined up to have their pictures made and get autographs.

At the end of the day, Team Awesome won second place and were begging for some extra time to finish building out their app and implement it.

I’m so grateful that Daxko is invested in future generations of coders and geniuses and that my teammates would show up to work on a Saturday – some in full Stormtrooper gear – to make an impact in our community.

Congrats to TechBirmingham for a very successful event!

Emily V. is a proud dog mom, and Netflix connoisseur, and lives on Daxko’s Engagement Solutions Team.

How to Impact Your Community in Just One Hour

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Throughout last week, several members of the Daxko Software Engineering team visited five different schools in the Birmingham area to teach an Hour of Code. Code.org organizes this campaign annually to teach students about computer science. The concept is simple – spend one hour doing a fun, engaging activity that educates kids on coding. The Daxko team used several methods to teach kids about how code affects many of their daily activities, including Scratch, a BB-8 robot, and Minecraft.

Hour of Code isn’t only fun for the kids – it is genuinely fun and rewarding for Daxko team members as well.

Daniel V. is a QA Engineer at Daxko, and he enjoyed seeing the kids “genuinely interested in code and excited about technology.” He continues, “Kids are growing up in a time when technology touches all parts of life, so they seem extremely interested in learning how it gets put into motion. Before working at Daxko, I didn’t have much exposure to computer science. I was inspired to help my own children learn about it through my involvement with Hour of Code this year. I hope to be involved in Hour of Code in the future as well.”


Napo M. facilitating for a classroom full of students


Shaun S. is a Software Engineer and has been with Daxko for several months. He says, “I had a great time playing coding games with the students using a BB-8 Sphero robot. We played magic 8-ball together and then programmed the robot to drive around, gesture, and say things to the kiddos. Every class asked me where they could get their own Sphero to program. The Elves will be busy making BB-8 Spheros this year!”

Shaun happened to teach his Hour of Code at the school where his wife Haley is a librarian. She added, “All my kids really loved the Hour of Code presentation! It was such a big hit that Brookville Elementary is buying its own Sphero!”


Nick M. and Butch M. discussing how code is like Legos


Butch M., Daxko’s QA Team Lead pictured above, says, “Seeing kids’ faces light up once they realize they can code is a great feeling. The kids we had the opportunity to share our time with is the next generation. It was great introducing the younger kids to some basic programming concepts and giving the older kids some resources they can use to get started coding. Minecraft + Python Scripting = Kids’ Minds Blown!”

Kelly M. is a QA Engineer at Daxko, and this was her first year to participate in Hour of Code. She enjoyed it, saying, “It was incredibly exciting and inspiring to see so many young girls and boys announce their tech dreams during our brainstorming session. All the kids were very motivated to finish their projects and problem-solve their way through code issues. If the future of technology is in their hands, we’ll be okay!”

The Hour of Code is an easy way to impact your community. The Daxko team will definitely be participating again in the future, and we encourage you to do the same. Get started here! Let’s do our part in paving the way for the Software and QA Engineers of the future.

Sloss Tech: The Southeast’s Preeminent Tech Festival

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Who’s excited about Sloss Music & Arts Festival? It’s less than a month away now, and the lineup is phenomenal. New to Birmingham or don’t know what Sloss Fest is? It’s a two-day music and lifestyle event that takes place at Birmingham’s Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, and it has truly put Birmingham on the radar in the music festival world. This year, Sloss Fest will also feature a new tech conference aptly named Sloss Tech. It will be a day of thought-provoking presentations and workshops covering the latest in creative thinking and emerging technologies. Sloss Tech will also feature three influential speakers: Gary Vaynerchuk, Robert Scoble, and Andy Grignon. This is a great opportunity for the tech community to network and share ideas, and Daxko is proud to be a sponsor. We’re excited about the growing tech community here in Birmingham, and we truly believe Sloss Tech will add great value to this community. Want to be a part of it? Check out sloss.tech for more information, buy tickets here, and network with us and the Birmingham tech community on July 15th!


A Walk Down CSI Memory Lane

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My name is Tai L. and I joined CSI Software back in 1998. I’m going to share some of our CSI History and how the product came to be what it is currently today. I even included a timeline chart, which resembles from the one in my favorite movie:




The first CSI Software Product was written in DataFlex, which ran on the MS-DOS Operating System. Originally developed by CSI’s founder Dr. Robert Ross, the product was further developed by Randy Martin and fellow colleague Cuong Nguyen. The software featured Member Management and General Fitness Assessment (GFA), which was used by Universities Recreation Centers.

Windows 16-bits Era


CSI originally hired a 5-6 programmers to develop its first member management system for Windows using MS-Access 2.0. When I officially became a part of the team in January of 1998, the product had features such as Member Management, Prospect Management, Point of Sale (POS), Fitness, Accounting, and Grill Mode POS for touch screen monitors (Commonly known as ELO). One of my first projects, aside from current responsibilities of bug fixes, was to complete and finalize the Accounting Module, which offered A/P, Journal Entry, Balance Sheet, Profit/Loss, Cash Flow, etc. By the end of the summer when the product was stabilized, it was time to catch up to the new Windows 32-bit OS that came out in 1995 (Win95 then Win98).

Windows 32-bits Era


In the 1990’s, VB6 was the hottest platform of the decade. For CSI, here were the factors of why we did not choose to use this platform:

  • VB6 development time, deployment, version control, and client update (dll hell)
  • No experienced web developer, so Visual Interdev was out of the question
  • On site live program debugging (Access rules)
  • You could build, debug, test, and deploy (to all customers if necessary) at least 2 major reports/developer in 1 day versus 2 days developing 1 report with potential bug. Same applies to today’s .NET.
  • Access 97 came with a runtime engine, therefore, installation is no different than any other ordinary Windows applications written in VB6 or any other language.

With this in mind, CSI Member Management database was completely redesigned from the previous version. The tables were separated into 6 different databases: member, transactions, fitness, grill pos, accounting, and check-in, for performance since Access was a file sharing read/write DBMS. For MS Access client, tables in the databases were treated as one since it used linked tables. A local database for local client usage to store temporary table was still the same as of previous version.

The Millennium Era


Here came the year 2000 with Windows 2000, the best Win OS ever. A must-have request from a client to build an Access 2000 version for Windows 2000. One product conversion, and one deployment, and that was it: the buck stopped here. The timeline was skewed, and we knew that we had to get back.

The SQL Server Era


The next revolutionary product from Microsoft was MS SQL Server 7. The ease of installation, development, and maintenance was far superior to other database servers in the market. Not to mention that MS SQL came at a fraction of the cost compared to the other big names at the time like Oracle and DB2.

When Virtual Private Network (VPN) became a reality in a stabilized environment, the next version of the CSI Product (Spectrum) was created. Written in Access 97 as the front-end client, Spectrum was a product that supported multi-sites in real-time. The older versions employed data upload/download mechanism from satellite sites to the main site.

The Dot Com Era


With the boom of the ‘Dot Com’ era, web applications were becoming all the rage. To stay competitive with other vendors, CSI produced a web version of our Spectrum Product called “e-Member”. Written in ASP with a VBscript product, e-Member utilized the same database schema, and offered the full functionalities of our Spectrum, sans some hardware (hand scanner, sig cap) and 3rd party integrations (Micros, Technogym) due to web limitation.

The .NET Era


When Microsoft released its next revolutionary product, .NET, CSI developed the current revolutionary member management product, Spectrum NG. Spectrum NG was re-written from the ground up, and the database was redesigned to adapt the new environment. For the first time, CSI had a true source control, versioning, and also the largest development staff in company history.

Compared to past products, there was no debate on what we needed Spectrum NG feature so we decided that the product needed to have:

  • Smart client – able to control users and interact with peripherals
  • True client/server application – no direct link to database tables
  • ClickOnce – one click installation and automatic update on individual workstation(s)

The Big Bang Era


The next major trends in the software industries were beginning to take shape in the form of the “Cloud” and “Mobility”. CSI decided we needed to take our product to the next level.

Software as a Service (Saas) is an extension of the idea of the ASP model started from the 90’s. With that Cloud movement, CSI extended Spectrum NG to run on the in Microsoft Azure platform.

With release of the Apple iPhone and iPad, the industry shifted to mobility computing. CSI extended Spectrum NG with the development of the Vanguard API to create mobile applications for iOS and Android Platforms.

It feels like Chinese New Year when people celebrate with big bangs from firecrackers expecting a newer and better year to come. CSI, now Daxko, expects a soon-to-come new product that will make a major impact again.

The journey continues but the fun never stops.

Tai L. is a Software Engineer who likes cheese, wine & dine, and Argentina tango.