My first ChiPy event — ChiPy blog post #1

Y’all, that evening was an ordeal.

After a tiring mile-long walk through the snow storm from the red line, I started my event by trying to enter through the wrong door (in my defense, it was on the north-ish side of the building). As I kept trying to get my frozen fingers to press 294 and went through every possible permutation of options on the dial pad, I started wondering if I am cut out for this. Maybe this is a sign. Maybe the Python gods have deemed me unworthy.

Billy Mays here to tell you the worst is yet to come

Turns out I was, indeed, on the wrong side. As I walked up to the very clearly marked “North Entrance,” I tried to regain my composure. The rest of the night doesn’t have to go like this, there is still hope! Then I proceeded to go inside just to end up getting lost in the massive building. But I teamed up with someone looking slightly more confident than I, and we finally found the ChiPy meetup room.

We both sat down, and after a couple of diffident introductions, it was time for attendance. After checking my name off of the attendance list, I was asked if my mentor was here also.

-“No, he has a presentation today, but we already met up last week, and we check in on Slack.”

“That’s great, who is your mentor?”

-“Jax. I MEAN ZAX.”

“I know what you meant.”

I might as well leave now.

But I didn’t.

Alas, despite my public humiliation, I was proven to be just masochistic enough to stay and persevere. And as I sat there staring off into space, I got caught up in the usual pity party for one:

I don’t belong here. I do not have a CS degree… nor do I have one in anything else. What makes ME qualified or worthy? I’m not a programmer — I train dogs for a living. I have zero experience working in a tech environment. Why was I even chosen for this? I have never even been to a ChiPy meeting before. This could have gone to someone who deserves it more. Everyone else will be more experienced than I am, I am so alooooone! Obviously, the only logical conclusion I can currently come to is that I am pretty dumb.

Except, I’m not, and I should stop being so dramatic

Then more people started walking in, and after going over the program details, we got to have dinner and socialize.

My palpable initial awkwardness aside, I ended up meeting some kind and brilliant people. I chatted with someone making a Django app who was excited to put what they know into practice, and I made a friend who wants to make a desktop app about a topic we’re both passionate about.

My initial reaction was wrong. I belong here. I’m clueless, but these people are my people. I was inspired by how passionate some of them were about programming and their projects. Being here made me that much more eager to learn.

So much wiggly butt excitement

Do you know that moment when someone is really excited about something, and their eyes light up, and they start talking really fast like there is not ever enough time to get it all out there, and that passionate little rant turns into a real-life example of a run-on sentence like this one? Sometimes they even get shy after they realize they have been talking for five minutes straight! I got to be on the receiving end of that at the end of the night, and let me tell you, I had no idea what he was talking about, but in that moment there was nothing else in the world that I wanted to listen to more. I loved the blazing passion about Python!

That was a good end to the night. First exposure to ChiPy ended up being pretty great.

I didn’t talk much that night, but I got to see many people connecting, learning, and sharing. So many driven people! I also realized I am not alone in being nervous or unsure. I noticed other fellow mentees also tripping over their words when talking about their own projects or experiences, or standing on the sidelines unsure of what to do. Some of them looked as nervous as I was! That’s okay. We will be okay. That was just day 1 of this thirteen week journey.

I look forward to seeing all of them also spontaneously combust into their own fires of brilliance and learning and passion. I want to see them also grow in confidence, and make their own connections, and glow while they share their progress and their projects.

You are otterly brilliant

I also want those things for myself.

I want a project that I can be proud of as I learn more about what makes my butt wiggle.

Which leads me into…

My Project

I have changed project ideas a couple of times now for various reasons, and even now I only have a vague idea of what I want to play around with.

Wonder if I can train a dog to build it for me

I was starting to feel the pressure because I have not made up my mind about what project I wanted to do over a week after being accepted into the program. I made a list of Kaggle datasets for Zax and I to go over the next time we meet, but was left feeling unfulfilled. After venting to my partner about not knowing what to do with machine learning, he showed me a video of a little raspberry pi self-driving car, and guys, I lost it.

“LOOK AT IT GO! IT IS SO CUTE! HE IS SUCH A GOOD DRIVER YES HE IS LOOK AT HIM. I WANT TO LEARN HOW TO DO THAT!” (Wine may or may not have been involved in the decision-making process)

I just got so excited about the idea of making a self-driving car! I am going to start with programming one to drive itself in Grand Theft Auto, and if time permits, program a raspberry pi car. Up to this point, the majority of my machine learning studying has been focused on supervised and unsupervised learning, but I did have an interest in reinforcement learning. While my reinforcement learning knowledge is very limited, behaviourist psychology is not a foreign concept to me, and is actually one of the things I find most rewarding about training dogs. Teaching something to learn would certainly make my butt wiggle!

Battle Plan:

  • Keep learning about reinforcement learning
  • Learn about OpenCV
  • Make a GTA self-driving car
  • Possibly make a raspberry pi car
  • Make friends and have fun

So buckle up, buttercup, because we are going for a self-driven ride!