Are you a Geek or an Iron Geek? Gorilla Caro to Represent Costa Rica!

by Caro Aguilar

Gorilla Caro is not only a geek, but an Iron Geek at that. Read more about how she won the Campus Party Iron Geek competition and will be representing Costa Rica in the Netherlands at the Campus Party Global Iron Geek competition! Campus Party is coined as the greatest technological experience of the world which brings together young geeks in a festival of innovation, creativity, science, entrepreneurship & entertainment.

Last August, I started hearing rumors about Costa Rica hosting a large event called Campus Party. Campus Party is defined as “a 4-day festival of innovation, creativity, science, entrepreneurship & entertainment” with several editions around the world.

I’m part of a NGO called Ideas en Acción and volunteer in a mentorship program called MenTe where we teach programming to young girls. Much to my surprise and fellow mentors, Ideas en Acción and Intel sponsored us to attend Campus Party in Costa Rica!

The conference consisted of several talks, workshops, challenges, gaming areas, and more. I was even able to try the Oculus Rift for the first time and got dizzy with a Rollercoaster Virtual Reality game.

The first day of the event, a girl from the Campus Party staff passed by my table while we were eating lunch and told us that there was a trivia-style web game we could play from our mobile phones called “Iron Geek” about science, tech, match, programming, video games, movies and comics. As we were waiting for the next talk to begin, I started playing Iron Geek and answering the questions. What started as a distraction became very entertaining! Alas, it was time to attend the next talk so I stopped playing.

That afternoon, a member of the Campus Party staff called me to tell me that I was one of the eight finalists with the highest score in the Iron Geek game. The elimination round was an hour away…um WAT!? I didn’t know it was a competition, much less a finalist. I was just having a little fun.

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We were quickly ushered in for our first elimination round, starting with a science question. The first four people answering correctly would be semifinalists and go to the next round. And guess who progressed to the next round?

The following day, I awaited the next challenge. Every round was a “surprise” round, and you didn’t know what the challenge was about until the question was posed. The staff divided the finalists into two teams of two and this time the challenge was a little bit more difficult. We had only five minutes to learn Morse Code! A team member was going to communicate a phrase using Morse Code, and the other teammate was in charge of guessing it. To “say” the short signal we should use the syllable “Pa” and the long signal was “Paaa”. It was really funny, all you could hear was “Paa-Pa-Pa-Paa.”

My teammate and I determined that memorizing the whole alphabet was nearly impossible, so we decided to focus on vowels and “special letters” as the “R”, the “S” and some others we were able to learn. I had the job of guessing what my teammate was telling me, and in about two minutes I was able to decode the phrase. WE WON and were the finalists for the next day. But bliss was short-lived after my teammate and I realized that despite working so well together, it was time to show down against each other.

On the last day, the staff started talking about the competition, and they mentioned the prizes for the winner: A drone, $2000 USD and a trip to Campus Party Netherlands in May 2016 (yes you read right, Netherlands!) to represent my country as the Costa Rican Iron Geek! I couldn’t believe this was happening; I was a finalist, had the opportunity to win the Iron Geek title, and win all those prizes.

My final challenge was not an easy task. We had to build a robot that could lift up a plastic bottle using LEGO Mindstorms. In five minutes they were going to explain to us how those LEGOs work AND how to program them. I’m a huge LEGO lover but hadn’t use Mindstorms once in my life. But I’m always up for the challenge so I started building it and thinking what was the easiest and fastest solution. I had some ideas in my mind and managed to stay relaxed and focused. Finally, I came up with my solution ready to test and the first try it start lifting the bottle….but it slipped!

“I’m close, I’m close” I kept telling myself!

So I made a small tweak and tried again and IT WORKED!! IT LIFTED THE BOTTLE!! I was in shock! I couldn’t believe I won, and still seems unreal!

Being a geek sometimes has a negative connotation, but to me being a geek is to love and be passionate about what you do. It is to find solutions, to use your knowledge and hack your daily existence to make your life easier. It is to have crazy ideas and put your heart and use your mind to execute them. I have always considered myself a geek, and now being one gave me the opportunity to win those prizes, travel to the Netherlands and represent my country! Geek never felt so good.


CARO AGUILAR

Caro is a Senior Software Engineer at Gorilla Logic. Her career has been mostly focused in Mobile development since 2012, however she loves to develop not just mobile but whatever represents a challenge. She is a big supporter of women in technology initiatives, as for instance she’s a mentor in a Costa Rican mentorship program called “MenTe en Acción” where she teaches programming and mobile development to girls between 15 and 18 years old. Caro has courage to learn new things and is always looking for something challenging.