At Team FlowJo, we’re excited to expand the depth and breadth of algorithms available to the flow community via the FlowJo Exchange, our plugin sharing site. The Exchange currently hosts roughly fifteen plugins or scripts, and is growing. However, most of these tools were developed internally. Too truly make this resource an integral part of our community we need to convince you that creating plugins is doable for interested people outside our company.
Thus DragonHacks was very interesting to us. DragonHacks was a 24-hour hack-a-thon hosted by Drexel University in Philadelphia, my alma matter. The competition was open to any student willing to spend 24-hours of a weekend in the Main Building at Drexel hacking together either hardware or software solutions to any problem they wished to take on, while guzzling energy drinks and eating 3-AM pizza. The competition ran over the weekend of April 1-2 and drew over a hundred students who quickly made alliances to form 28 hacker teams. As a sponsor of the event, we were allowed to give a short speech at the kickoff in an attempt to inspire some of the teams to attempt to code a FlowJo plugin in just 24-hours. I appealed to the better nature of the contestants…and covered my bases by offering a cash prize as well.
Flow cytometry was a new concept to the participants, so the first hurdle was to spend the first few hours of the contest explaining the nuances of the bi-exponential scale and how we sort through all those dots on the screen to anyone interested in listening. I then kept an eye on my e-mail for questions and support overnight before returning to judge the next morning.
Several teams produced FlowJo plugins, but the team of Anand Patel, Brian Sheridan, Kyle Peirce, and Erick Weigel really wowed me by cranking out a plugin that projected flow data into a virtual reality headset. Taking a walk through our tutorial data was a pretty cool experience. "The competition was an exciting introduction to conduct data analysis within bioinformatics. None of us had experience within this field so it was a steep learning curve as computer engineers to learn about flow cytometry and the areas of visualization that could be useful. This is where we wanted to take advantage of web graphics libraries and virtual reality applications." said Anand. The tool may not immediately add analysis depth to cytometry, but it certainly opens up some interesting possibilities moving forward…and was created in 24-hours. Congratulations gentlemen!
Their plugin is now up on the Exchange for anyone with a VR headset to tryout. Give it a look, and consider adding whatever tool it is that you’ve been using to the exchange. Some useful links for creating a plugin are:
Download FlowJo - Free, unlimited use with demo data