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Coding for Booze (& other fun stuff)

Database-related programming has to be right up there on the boring scale. But if you want to improve your coding skills, why not do something interesting while you learn?

Microsoft's Clint Rutkas has the right idea. One of the hits at the recent Professional Developer's Conference was his automated bartender robot, a contraption with tubes, valves and a compressed CO2 tank that serves up cocktails.

"It pours drinks," he told Scott Hanselman during a Channel 9 video feed from the conference. "I basically built a machine to pour mixed drinks."

Who says Microsoft isn't cool?

Rutkas and two friends from the Coding4Fun department were on hand to demonstrate the lighter side of application development at Redmond. "We get to literally figure out cool, crazy items that people want us to build, or we want to build, and we basically blog about it," Rutkas said.

Tim Higgins showed off his Wi-Fi Warthog Nerf weapon, and Brian Peek revealed a video game controlled by brainwaves.

I was more interested in the bartender.

Rutkas said he came up with the idea because "I was always getting yelled at for mixing drinks too strong." So he said "I'm building a robot" to serve drinks and "be the McDonalds of the bar world."

The robot bartender is powered by a touch-screen laptop running Windows 7 and SQL Server. "The front end is WPF; it uses LINQ to SQL to poll data," Rutkas said. "Basically the entire app was my excuse to learn WPF and LINQ to SQL, and improve my knowledge of threads."

He said all the parts were readily available off the shelf and no soldering was required. A relay board, which Rutkas described as "a glorified light switch," opens up the correct valves, and then the pressurized system pours the liquid. He said the relay board mounts as a COM port, or serial port, and "I created a wrapper to talk to it."

"The entire system actually has one moving part," Rutkas said. The relay board is operated by Bluetooth. Rutkas said he had to go wireless because he "blew up a laptop" in his first try and had to enact "a harsh separation of church and state" to keep the liquids away from the electronics.

He said he would be posting all the details of how he built the bartender at the Coding4Fun blog page.

You can see more Coding4Fun videos from PDC on MSDN.

The "Iron Bartender" really got my attention, so I did a quick search and found other fun, database-related tutorials featuring dogs, galaxies, Facebook apps, memory games and more. I'll write about them later. When I do, I would love to include your examples, too.

Tell me about your favorite database-related tutorials that inject some levity into the learning process, or are just more interesting than the average "display Customer data from the Northwind database" variety.

List them in the comments section below or drop me a line at [email protected]. I'm sure you can come up with some fun stuff-even without alcohol.

Posted by David Ramel on 12/09/2009

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