The diversity of Mountain View’s tech scene was on full display at the 7th annual Tech Expo this year, with companies and organizations ranging in size from one-person operations to hundreds of employees. The event returned in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
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 expo featured everything from 3D robots to space labs. The Voice spoke with some of the entrepreneurs and innovators who make Mountain View one of Silicon Valley’s tech epicenters.
Jinxbot 3D Printing
Jason Reynolds is a one-man show who does it all for his company. He is the founder and sole employee of Jinxbot, a 3D printing service business he started out of his garage. Jinxbot started with “a printer and a dream,” Reynolds said, and now he has more than a dozen printers that fulfill 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 and creates printed products that are stronger, highly detailed and temperature resistant.
“It’s just become more commercially available,” Reynolds told Voice. “So I’ve taken a lot of that cost for Jinxbot and I’m offering that technology to anyone who wants it.”
Its quick turnaround times — typically 48 to 72 hours — and one-on-one correspondence with its customers are what set Jinxbot apart from other 3D printing service companies, Reynolds said.
“A lot of times, 3D printing services will 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. 3D printers were spinning next to him. “With me, I’ll reach out as soon as I get your file and ask you questions — ‘Hey, did you want strong this way? Have you thought about the supporting material in this way?’ That way, you know you’re going to get the part you want.”
Reynolds said his favorite part of running Jinxbot is helping people bring their visions to life.
“I meet a lot of interesting people,” he said. “People are really excited about their projects and what they’re doing.”
Currently located at Church Street and Calderon Avenue, Jinxbot will soon expand to a larger space off Old Middlefield Way.
A non-profit organization with 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 makerspace is now back in the city where it all began: in April 2022, Hacker Dojo reopened its doors in a new space in Maude. Avenue in Mountain View.
“As a nonprofit, we’re not core, so we had to close our door for two years,” CEO Ed Choudhry told Voice during the Tech Showcase. “In that time frame, we did a lot of research on the organization: What is our new mission and how do we navigate that? And what we’ve found is that we’re great for in-person: We’re for those who are online, who come offline to connect and share ideas and learn from each other.”
Every great tech startup has to start somewhere, Choudhry said, and that’s what Hacker Dojo aims to provide.
“We are the platform, the personal space, to launch that idea,” he said. “That’s before you get funding, before you have any kind of users. You are just socializing the idea. Maybe I want someone to help me, maybe I just want more feedback on this idea. We are that community to help support that.”
Marissa Tsoi, an incoming senior at Mountain View High School, has dedicated countless hours to her school’s Spartan Robotics team since she was a freshman. But because of COVID-19, this was the first year Tsoi and her team were able to try not only building a robot from scratch, but also competing in person against other high school robotics teams. The Spartans’ robot was on display at the Tech Showcase.
During Tsoi’s first 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 floating robotics team during COVID. “It was a lot of Zoom meetings, and you just did what you could virtually, so you kind of missed the hands-on thing that’s really fun. … So this is the first year that we’ve actually gone through the whole process of building and competing a robot.”
Each year in January, robotics teams around the country 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 about 25 hours a week in our lab at Mountain View High School working on designing this robot since the beginning of January,” Tsoi told the Voice at the Tech Showcase. “And it all adds up to the races we compete in.”
Spartan Robotics participated 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 being a finalist in our subdivision there, which was a really big accomplishment for us just coming out 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 Ames Research Center is up to. Lovorka Degoricija, science communicator and outreach specialist with NASA’s GeneLab, told the Voice how citizen scientists can get involved with space research here on Earth.
“GeneLab is essentially an open science repository that analyzes all the model organisms that are sent into space on the International Space Station to perform experiments,” said Degoricija. “GeneLab analyzes these organisms using various biological techniques to understand how the space environment affects our biology at a molecular level.”
With goals to go to the Moon and eventually Mars, understanding how space affects living organisms is essential to keeping future astronauts safe, Degoricija said. NASA sends model organisms such as rodents, fruit flies, worms, bacteria and plants into space, and then when these organisms return to Earth, GeneLab analyzes them.
“We really need to understand how space affects us,” she said. “We also want to have some kind of 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 is open to the public, anyone can have access,” she said. “We’re looking for citizen scientists to help analyze data to help NASA’s mission to advance our understanding of how space affects biology at a much faster pace.”