South Florida Tech HubSouth Florida Tech Hub

By Adam Elitzur

18th annual SoFlo DevCon brings together developers, designers, tech professionals and educators

Read Time 7 Minutes

Just last month during #SoFloTechMonth, South Florida’s month-long celebration of all things tech and innovation across the region, South Florida Tech Hub hosted its 18th annual SoFlo DevCon once again bringing hundreds in attendance for the event.

Held at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, the location was a perfect place to bring together those from Miami, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin County and even a few from the west coast of the state. In attendance were software developers, designers, engineers, tech professionals and event school district teachers and college professors from across South Florida.

The event is the only fully regional tech education event FREE and open to the public with classes and sessions running all day long that are completely geared towards STEM and innovation. The event was free to attend, thanks to the support of community partners and sponsors such as this year’s Presenting Sponsor, Cognizant.

The day kicked off with breakfast (sponsored by FAU’s College of Engineering) and 8:30 AM sessions. The first 300 guests through the door were also given a free conference t-shirt (sponsored by Streann Media), and a pizza party lunch was provided for all attendees sponsored by CITY Furniture.

This year’s event featured a Leadership Track and Leadership Lunch in collaboration with Cognizant, CITY Furniture and SIM South Florida. Jeffrey Richman, Customer Relationship Manager and Kishore Dandu, Client Partner of Energy & Utilities at Cognizant addressed the audience as Presenting Sponsor. Kishore spoke about the importance of events such as SoFlo DevCon in the tech community and how proud they are to give back to a local organization helping build the local tech talent. With hundreds of thousands of employees across the globe, Cognizant employs many technical and sales people in the South Florida region. As tech in South Florida continues to blossom, they are happy to be a contributing part of the ecosystem.

Rebecca Bakels, Software Engineer and Tech Community Advocate at CITY Furniture, highlighted that CITY Furniture is more than just a furniture company. CITY Furniture employs hundreds of people in technology and is using all sorts of innovative tech such as AR, data science, and app development all in-house to ensure the best customer experience. CITY Furniture also gives back thousands of dollars towards local community programs and nonprofits each year.

Rebecca is a benefactor of local tech initiatives and the South Florida Tech Hub community. As she began her journey into tech in 2020, she connected with South Florida Tech Hub, completed Software Engineering course with Boca Code, became an intern at CITY Furniture and then was offered a full time role to continue with the company. Rebecca is now involved with many nonprofit organizations and initiatives in the tech space in the region.

Each year, the conference attracts almost 1000 attendees and over 100 speakers, sponsors and exhibitors. The event featured 6 time slots for workshops and 12 seperate tracks to choose from such as mobile/web development, professional development, entrepreneurship, AI/ML, blockchain & web3, UI/UX, and more. These tracks included a range of topics and workshops, including Machine Learning, AI, VR/AR/MR, IoT, .NET, DevOps, MVC Framework, JavaScript, JQuery, SQL Server, Business Intelligence, Software Testing, Xamarin/Mobile Development, Azure/Cloud, Business/Career Development.

  • In the Web Development track, Todd Albert, Lead Instructor and Founder at Boca Code remarked, “This year, we added several code-along workshops to our lineup, including Next.JS and ChatGPT by Jonathan Sanchez, building a game in Unity with SoFlo DevCon’s youngest speaker, 19-year-old Idan Fischer, and my talk where we live-coded a mobile app in React-Native. Each year, the conference seems to be more energetic and attended by more people. It’s always a great place to expand our knowledge and our networks.”
  • In the AI/ML track, Founder of Indulgent Gifts and Thrivve Group, Roberta Barbosa, and US Managing Director of Exo Mindset, Bruno Savoca Albors, spoke. Barbosa presented the workshop Intro to Intelligent RPA. The workshop covered “the fundamentals of intelligent process automation and how it is helping businesses become more efficient and increase employee engagement. It also shared the RPA leaders in the industry, the tools available on the market, and the most common use cases.” Albors delivered a talk on the evolution of AI and ML, tracing its journey from early beginnings to the present day. He highlighted key milestones, including the emergence of machine learning as a subfield of AI, the rise of neural networks and deep learning, and the transformative impact of the digital age on AI and ML. Albors showcased modern applications across industries such as healthcare and finance and addressed ethical considerations and challenges, including bias and privacy. In conclusion, he provided a future outlook for AI and ML, emphasizing their significance in solving complex problems and shaping the future of technology.
  • In the Web Development track, Todd Albert, Lead Instructor and Founder at Boca Code remarked, “This year, we added several code-along workshops to our lineup, including Next.JS and ChatGPT by Jonathan Sanchez, building a game in Unity with SoFlo DevCon’s youngest speaker, 19-year-old Idan Fischer, and my talk where we live-coded a mobile app in React-Native. Each year, the conference seems to be more energetic and attended by more people. It’s always a great place to expand our knowledge and our networks.”
  • In the blockchain track, ApparelMagic CEO and cryptocurrency veteran Brandon Ginsberg, and Azure Migrate & Modernize Lead at Microsoft and Co-Founder of Nebulai, Renatto Garro were two of the presenters. Ginsberg spoke about recent developments in the Ethereum ecosystem, including The Merge, Shanghai updates, and ERC-4337. His talk highlighted the importance of these updates in enhancing Ethereum’s scalability, security, and efficiency, and their potential implications for decentralized applications and the broader cryptocurrency landscape. Garro led the workshop Unlock the Power of Decentralized Identities. “Decentralized Identities promise to change the way we use the Internet giving us more control, security, and the ability to monetize our data,” Garro stated. “We discussed about solutions from Microsoft like Entra and PolygonID, among others. It is truly inspiring what developers can start building with this technology.”
  • In the AR/VR track, Principal engineer at Microsoft for Mixed Reality, Denise Mendez, Head of Emerging Tech & Innovation Division at PeakActivity, Rob Petrosino, and Harshal Sanghvi, Doctoral Candidate at Florida Atlantic University and Research and Development Specialist at Advanced Research LLC, presented workshops. Mendez talked about the scale of the XR industry, its value in the South Florida economy, and well as how to get started building cross-platform XR experiences in Unity. Petrosino spoke about AI & its impact on 3D, AR & XR. “Generative AI has changed how most organizations and teams will approach visualizing information, floor plans and their standard operating procedures without additional technical teams.” Sanghvi discussed the impacts of AI & AR on Medical Interventions and Imaging as diagnosing and treatment methods.
  • In the Leadership track, Founder of B-Grade Media and Technology Advisor at Leafplanner, Q. Wade Billings led the session on “How to engineer a thriving engineering culture”. “In 2019, I had the opportunity to build an engineering culture from scratch, which is more complicated than it might sound,” Billings remarked. “To help my team and me in the effort, we designed a framework called the “Cultural Development Lifecycle (CDLC)” modeled after the well-known Software Development Lifecycle. This framework enabled us to conceive of, plan, develop, test, and measure our thriving engineering culture. My sincere hope and goal are that presenting the CDLC at SoFlo DevCon will inspire others to think about culture in a new and exciting light.”
  • In the Entrepreneurship track, was a session, “Practical Steps to Turn Your Idea Into a Revenue Generating Business”, Managing Partner at Argent Strategies and CSO of Doxci, Aaron Chavez, covered everything from ideation to product development to early-stage scaling activities. His talk emphasized the significance of proper solution validation, as well as a heavy focus on non-capital-intensive activities that are accessible to all founders. During his talk, he stressed the significance of South Florida’s idea-rich founder economy and the need for said founders to progress by taking practical and cost-effective steps to move their ventures forward.

One of the unique aspects of SoFlo DevCon is that it is open to anyone interested in the tech and innovation community in South Florida. Attendees did not need to be developers to participate in the conference. Designers, project managers, creatives, entrepreneurs, founders, and anyone connected to the tech industry were all welcome to attend.

Software engineer and game developer presented the workshop ‘Unleashing Your Creativity: Unity game development.’ “Participants learned how to create a game where the player collects coins while avoiding obstacles,” Fischer explained.

“We went through the process of making a game, from making game objects to making scripts to control our objects. Overall, speaking at SoFlo Devcon was an amazing experience, especially for my first time speaking anywhere and first time at SoFlo Devcon. Thank you to everyone who came!”

Idan was also voted the audience favorite receiving the Scott Katarincic Speaker Award, in remembrance of Scott who recently passed this year. He was a major part of planning past SoFlo DevCon events and working with all the speakers to ensure a successful event. It was only fitting that our youngest speaker ever at only 19 years old received the award and on his birthday, no less! The award was presented to Idan by Naomi Gayz, Scott’s girlfriend, and Annette Katarancic, Scott’s mother.

SoFlo DevCon 2023 was a huge success, bringing together the South Florida tech community and providing a platform for learning, networking, and collaboration. The day ended with an after-party happy hour and karaoke!

South Florida Tech Hub’s Dev Con 2023 was made possible because of its sponsors: Presenting Sponsor, Cognizant, T-shirts, Streann Media, City Furniture provided lunch and Telerik by Progress sponsored ASL interpretation. Thanks to the supporting sponsors, including Florida Atlantic University, OZ Digital Consulting, NRG Way, Boca Code, SIM, Algorand, Agile Infoways, Total Wine & More, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft TEALS Program, Code Magazine, FPL, Office Depot, Carrier, Modernizing Medicine, Florida Crystals, Social Mobile, Verizon, and Dedicated IT, for their contributions to the event.

See more photos here.

By Nikki Cabus

Re-Discovering Innovation at TECHPalooza 2022!

Read Time 7 Minutes

Where do we start?

You may think that not having a main highlight at this year’s event would be a bad thing. In fact, it’s just the opposite. There were so many exciting things happening this year, we don’t know which was better. I guess it depends on who you ask.

From flying cars, augmented reality dodgeball, robot dogs, 3D printers, speaking sessions and taking over an entire museum, this year’s TECHpalooza was one for the books!

Over the past couple decades, Florida has consistently been ranked as one of the top states in the country for entrepreneurial activity, but has struggled to gain national attention as a true technology hub attracting businesses, talent, and funding. Technology and STEM related fields such as fintech, healthtech, proptech, oceantech and aerospace have been a focus for the state for years, but now just starting to the attention. Over the past few years, others areas of the state such as Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville have really stepped up and helped put Florida on a national (and international) level.

TECHpalooza is here to showcase that technology.

Formerly known as ITpalooza, the event has been know as one of the main annual tech events in South Florida attracting approximately 1000 – 1500 each year. It started as a holiday party and local meetup with many IT and MSP folks in the community and grew over the years into something much more.

Being at the intersection of it’s 10th year anniversary and the first one back in person since the pandemic, TECHpalooza 2022 was due for a little shakeup!

The 2022 theme was Re-discovering Innovation so we wanted to create an environment where our tech professionals and executives could re-discover that child-like wonder of discovery STEM for the first time. Presenting sponsor, Dynatrace, was on board!

The Tech Hub team decided to move the event from the Broward County Convention Center to the Museum of Discovery & Science in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. MODS was gracious enough to allow Tech Hub to do a museum takeover and use the IMAX theatre, multiple classrooms, and the entire 2-story museum to feature the events’ keynote sessions, panel discussions, interactive activities, and 50 featured exhibitors. Imagine having your booth right next to a life size replica of an extinct megalodon or the live otter viewing area!

There were almost 20 sessions with discussions touching on topics from cybersecurity to mixed reality, but the opening keynote sure made a splash that morning.

Serial entrepreneur, inventor and Founder of Magic Leap, Rony Abovitz, was interviewed by David Coddington, Sr. VP of Business Development at The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance.

Abovitz is not only the Founder of Magic Leap, but also the founder of Z-Kat Inc, Mako Surgical Corporation, and Sun and Thunder. He had never shared his founder journey publicly so it was a great honor for all in attendance.

The other two keynote sessions of the day were Sam Jaddi, CIO at ADT, who spoke about the importance of culture within a company in his talk titled ‘Change the Culture – Change the Game,’ and Chuck Miller, VP of Global Solutions Engineering at Dynatrace, educated the audience on the topic of ‘Modern Cloud Done Right.”

Additional sessions topics included Smart Cities, ClimateTech, Cybersecurity, Web3, Data and AI, The Future of Work, Mixed Reality Tech, Digital Transformation, Cloud Migration, Robotic Process Automation, and the Future of Flying Cars. Yup – flying cars.

Sessions were sponsored by Dynatrace (the event’s Presenting Sponsor), LAN Info Tech, Excess IT Hardware, Focus Global Talent Solutions, Brightline Trains and South Florida Business & Wealth.

In between educational speaking sessions and networking with exhibitors, VIP attendees got a chance to relax and get some coffee and food in the VIP Lounge, sponsored by the TechStrong Group with Coffee Bar sponsored by General Provision and VIP swag bags by OZ Digital Consulting.

There were food trucks and outdoor food court area sponsored by Culture Partners and a station with free snacks and water for all guests, sponsored by Origina.

Some of the featured interactive exhibitors featured this year were:

Doroni Aerospace, an eVTOL, short for electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (AKA ‘flying cars’) gave attendees to see their first flying car prototype ever. Over $6B was invested in eVTOLs in 2021 alone, and 5 of the largest air taxi companies went public for a combined market cap of $10.7B

They are already a leader in the 2-seater segment of this industry, with a vehicle designed for personal use with potential use cases in law enforcement, search & rescue, and emergency response. The company had a cockpit protype there to educate attendees about their soon-to-launch vehicles for pre-purchase.

HADO featured an exciting interactive arena where you could challenge another team to a dodgeball game by launching virtual blue fireballs, blocking those thrown at you with energy walls, and racking up points for your team. HADO combines traditional sports with competitive gameplay as the world’s first Augmented Reality (AR) physical Esport.

The company launched in Japan where the game is highly competitive and sold out arenas bring thousands of players and fans together to watch a team battle it out for cash prizes. HADO was recently launched right here in South Florida as the U.S.-based headquarters and the company is starting with schools as an immediate target audience.

It’s fast-paced, fun, and catching on quickly.

NextEra Energy brought out some of their drone technology as well as a little friend named Spot.

Spot may not be a cuddly puppy, but this robot dog built by Boston Dynamics can be deployed amidst storms to perform essentials functions that would normally be required to be performed manually. Spot can collect substation data earlier, allowing improved coverage without risk to humans. He even had his first Super Bowl ad cameo in 2020.

Spot became fast friends with Florida Robotics’ walking and talking robot Izzy. The new pair were certainly a sight to see.

The SilverLogic, a custom software development company, had a large interactive space showcasing multiple technologies they had built for some of their clients.

They are a global organization of full-time software engineers, designers and architects focused on developing and delivering products that help businesses grow. TSL works with clients in all sorts of industries tacking issues through app creation to process automation.

Three of the featured interactive technologies that TSL featured were Lumentender, a lighting controller app, Why The Face, a facial feature detection app, ZF, an augmented reality boat parking assistance app, and a generative AI demo using test-to-image AI models to generate images with Demo Stable Diffusion and GPT3.

Lime Design, one of the leading product design companies in the U.S. and a local tech and creative hub in Hollywood, was there to feature some of the cool technologies they use when designing, prototyping and developing their one-of-a-kind products for clients.

From 3D printers, CNC machine, plasma cutters, laser cutters, blasters, graphics machines and so many more, Lime Design has all the equipment and professionals needed to bring products to life.

Attendees got the opportunity to learn more about how products are created and built, see a couple 3D printers and CNC machines at work. Just in time for the World Cup, Founder Rodrigo Lima, even printed a replica World Cup trophy that was later raffled off that night.

EventFy, a Miami-based startup company and XR virtual event metaverse cross device platform showcased its futuristic technology to business executives.

The platform allows users to be transported to another world using AR, VR, and XR tech. You can get comfortable, enjoy and relax in this new immersive experience while attending a concert, trade show, or board meeting. The possibilities are endless.

EventFy has already nabbed clients such as the NFL and Televisa Univision!

The day ended with live music from our Tech Hub band, The Cyberdelics which includes Kelly Boyle, Tech Hub board member, Jeb Reynolds, Tech Hub Ambassador, and Lenny Chesal, former board member and current Tech Hub advocate. Food and drinks were sponsored by Semantix and Gravity IT Resources.

Thank you to all the wonderful people who came together to make this year a success. The City of Ft. Lauderdale, Mayor Dean Trantalis, City Manager Greg Chavarria, NBC South Florida, our volunteers, the Dan Marino Foundation, organizing committee and so many others. Although you may not be mentioned here, we know who you are and thank you!

We have big plans over the coming years so make sure you are a part of all the action. See you at TECHpalooza 2023!

18th annual SoFlo DevCon brings together developers, designers, tech professionals and educators
Re-Discovering Innovation at TECHPalooza 2022!