POWERUp Delivers A Virtual Shot in the IBM i Arm
September 21, 2020 Alex Woodie
The COVID-19 pandemic may have caused COMMON to cancel its in-person conference – twice – but it couldn’t stop the group from bringing the IBM i community closer together. Thanks to modern video conferencing technology and the last-minute efforts of volunteers and staff members, COMMON pulled off what may be the group’s most unique annual meeting in its 60-year history.
COMMON president Larry Bolhuis certainly earned his keep as the head of the national IBM i user group during the tumultuous past six months. The leader, who doesn’t actually get paid for his work with the Chicago, Illinois-based organization, helped to navigate the user group through the country’s worst viral pandemic in 100 years, and concluded his stint in the president’s chair last week by overseeing its largest virtual event.
It was touch and go when COMMON canceled the original POWERUp 2020 conference scheduled for Atlanta, Georgia, in late March, and it was touch and go again when it had to cancel the rescheduled show in Tampa, Florida, at the end of August. So it should come as no surprise that the group was working feverishly leading up to last week’s big event, which was held entirely online for the first (and hopefully last) time in the group’s history.
“It’s been a big change, but we have pulled it off,” Bolhuis said during his comments at the POWERUp 2020 opening session, which took place Tuesday morning. “An amazing amount of work was done to undo our POWERUp conference in Atlanta and then plan a conference in Tampa instead. And then unplan that conference, and finally turn around and plan and execute this conference.”
“It’s amazing. It’s absolutely incredible,” he continued. “These seven folks have been working almost around the clock in some cases. I know some of the staff has worked overnight, through the night, as we worked up to this conference . . . If we could do a standing ovation for them right, it’d be going on, so thanks to each of you for the amazing work you do for COMMON.”
It wouldn’t be COMMON (ah, POWERUp, rather) without awards, and Bolhuis delivered them from atop his virtual dais (mask-less, since we’re all at home, he pointed out). The top-rated speakers at the 2019 POWERUp conference in Anaheim, California, were as follows:
- Gold: Wayne Bowers, Charlie Guarino, Ted Holt, Pete Massiello, Dawn May, and Steve Pitcher
- Silver: Liam Allan, Ray Everhart, Scott Forstie, Scott Klement, Mike Pavlak, Justin Reock, Robert Swanson, and Steven Wolk
- Bronze: Rob Bestgen, Andrew Dekreon, Jesse Gorzinski, Mark Irish, Edmuch Reinhardt, and Steve Will
The “Best New Speaker” award went to Justin Reock, the chief architect for OpenLogic at Perforce. The President’s Award went to Alison Butterill, the IBM i product manager who is also the IBM liaison to the COMMON organization. Kim Greene, the “Domino Diva,” was honored with the Distinguished Services Award, which recognizes volunteers’ dedication to COMMON.
The Al Barsa Memorial Scholarship was presented to Michelle August, who is a professor at professor at Moraine Valley Community College near Chicago and also the executive director of the COMMON Education Foundation. The John Earl Speaker Scholarship Award, meanwhile, went to Marina Schwenk, a developer who works at the Wisconsin lighting manufacturer Everbrite and who was named a 2019 Fresh Face.
Randy Dufault, the president of the COMMON Education Foundation and a past president of COMMON, presented several the CEF’s conference scholarships. The winners included Allen Pearson, a professor at Gateway Technical College; Doris McCreary, a professor at Itawamba Community College; Nilofur Khan, a student at Moraine Valley Community College; Marty Campbell, a professor at Seneca College; and Ann Brice and Mike McArdle, professors at Western Technical College.
“The mission of our foundation is to foster the development and growth of IT professionals who will create, manage and support the computing system of the future,” Dufault said. “We do this in part by providing scholarship opportunities for students and educators to events like this so they are able to learn from an educational experience centered more around real life than around theory. As the demand for business information technologies continues to grow, so does the need for a base of students to enter the job market.”
The IBM i Innovation Award was presented by Steve Sibley, the vice president of IBM Power Systems Offering Management. The award went to Heartland Co-Op, a farmer-owned cooperative with more than 60 locations throughout Iowa. The co-op used Raspberry Pi devices to collect data from the field and feed it into their IBM i system. Sibley provided some more color on the deployment:
“Over the last year, they’ve been working with an Internet of Things capability and Raspberry Pi devices connected straight to their IBM i to exchange data, not only for the scheduling of their deployment of fertilizer, but also the tracking of all of their equipment that’s out there as it goes through the different rows and tracks, from an ability to deploy accurate and precisely the amount of fertilizer to the right sections of the fields that they’re driving,” Sibley said. “Really a very innovative approach. Randy [Sunderman, Heartland’s VP of IT] and his team have done a great job in demonstrating how you can extend the core capabilities of IBM i to some of the most advanced capabilities to drive machinery and farming productivity. So congratulations to Randy and to your team.”
COMMON and its volunteer speakers produced more than 180 presentations for the virtual POWERUp 2020. The material will be hosted online until the last week in October. Interested parties can still register to get access to the material at the user group’s website: www.common.org