Adventures in Invention: Eric Conn ’85

Eric Conn doesn’t exactly have a traditional career. Then again, he was never a traditional student.

Between switching majors several times and taking a few years off from college to play in a rock band, it took Conn nearly seven years to finish school. However, he has never regretted his decision to take a non-traditional path.

In fact, it is Conn’s adventurous edge that has allowed the 1985 computer science major to prosper as an inventor and entrepreneur.

His latest project, Cellblock.com – a social networking site that allows users to e-mail photos from their cell phones to a real-time online slideshow – will be on display at UMBC’s 40th Anniversary, Homecoming and Family Celebration this month.

The Rock Star Life

After high school, Conn chose UMBC for its reputation in the sciences as well as its proximity to home.

“I lived only 4 miles away in Catonsville, and since I didn’t have a car, my primary means of transportation was my feet.”

He started off as a pre-med major, however, the chance to make a living as a rock guitarist lured him from his studies.

“Since music, especially rock music in the early 80s, was a young person’s game, I decided to pursue that career path while I had the chance. After I had lived the rock star life (albeit on a local level) for a few years, I wanted to get back to school and challenge myself intellectually. My junior and senior years at UMBC were my favorite because I had scratched my musical itch and could really concentrate on academic activities,” he explains.

The Perfect Major

By this point, Conn had also finally found his perfect major. After trying out biology, chemistry, physics and math, he decided to study computer science.

“I ultimately selected computer science because I found it intriguing and it allowed me to solve many of the scientific problems that I had encountered in related disciplines more efficiently,” he said, adding, “There were also many jobs available in the local area and since I paid my own way through college, finding a job was a top priority.”

He credits his experiences at UMBC with teaching him self-confidence, discipline, and problem-solving skills. These skills went a long way to help him establish his career.

After graduating from UMBC, Conn worked as an engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory for almost 10 years. During this time, he received a master’s degree in computer science. In 1996, he launched a software development company with several friends, which they sold in 2003. In April 2005, Conn started his new company, Gloto Corp.

“Gloto.com is our original concept for a mobile phone interface that enables social networking and remote directory services like maps and directions,” says Conn.

A Twist on the Traditional Slideshow

Gloto Corp. recently launched a new concept as part of its mobile phone interface. The new component, Cellblock, allows users to e-mail photos from their computers or camera phones to a shared photo album at Cellblock.com.

“The idea is simple; however, the implications are great,” said Conn. “Many people can contribute to a shared photo album using regular camera phones and the pictures can be displayed on a large screen as they arrive. This is ideal for public events like UMBC’s 40th Anniversary where anyone in attendance or at home can contribute and view pictures of the activities without any special software or advanced notice. It takes the traditional photo album concept and turns it into a social event that promotes communication between groups of people.”

Cellblock.com’s technology will be used extensively at UMBC during the 40th Anniversary weekend. Attendees will be able to email photos from their phones to a UMBC album (umbc@cellblock.com). The photos will be updated in real-time and appear in a slideshow projected at various points on campus.

In the future, Conn would love to see Gloto.com and Cellblock.com achieve the popularity of other social networking sites.

“We hope that consumers and businesses discover the uniqueness of Gloto.com and Cellblock.com and use it in imaginative ways for fun or for profit. We’d love to have millions of users visit the site each day and contribute content for everyone to enjoy.”

– Jennifer Matthews ’07
Originally posted October 2006

2008 UMBC Alumni of the Year & Distinguished Service Award Winners

Originally published Spring 2008

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD

Eric Conn ’85, Computer Science, is an accomplished entrepreneur, executive, technologist, and software engineer and a member of the board of UMBC’s Alex. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship. He is the president and co-founder of Gloto Corporation, which specializes in the design, development, and deployment of innovative products that integrate mobile devices and computers. In 2006 Gloto launched Cellblock.com, which allows users to instantly publish photos and videos from their computers or camera phones to a shared, online photo album. This technology was used to highlight participation at UMBC’s 40th Anniversary. As guests watched from in front of the Library and other locations, real-time photos from events happening all over campus were instantly posted and shared, creating a unique, campus-wide experience for thousands of visitors that night – a new twist that took the concept of a traditional photo album and turned it into a social event.

OUTSTANDING ALUMNA
VISUAL & PERFORMING ARTS

Kara Lee Corthron ’99, Theatre, is an award-winning playwright whose works depict the challenges brought by economic circumstances and the power of the human spirit. “Wild Black-Eyed Susans,” which was performed during UMBC’s Homecoming in 2007, earned Corthron the Helen Merrill Award for Emerging Playwrights in 2007.  Another work, “Like a Cow or an Elephant,” received the 2007 Theodore Ward Prize for African-American Playwrights and was produced at the DePaul Theatre School in Chicago. Her work “End-Zone Zephyr” earned Corthron the 2006 New Professional Theatre Writer’s Award. Corthron is a graduate of the Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Program at the Juilliard School in New York, where she has been playwright-in-residence, and is also a three-time recipient of the Lincoln Center’s Lecomte du Nouy Foundation Award

OUTSTANDING ALUMNA
SOCIAL & BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES

The Honorable Marcella A. Holland ’80, Political Science, is Chief Administrative Judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. She was first sworn in as an Associate Judge in 1997, having served as an assistant state’s attorney for 13 years. Judge Holland oversees a $15 million budget and the work of 31 other active judges, several retired judges and several masters. Among her honors are Maryland’s “Top 100 Women” and induction in the “Circle of Excellence” in 2004; and the Ben Cardin Pro Bono Service Award from the University of Maryland School of Law, her alma mater. She has an extensive record of community service with organizations including Associated Black Charities and the Druid Hill YMCA. She is also active in bar associations, having served as President, Monumental City Bar Association; Member, Board of Governors, Maryland State Bar Association; and President, MD Chapter of National Association of Women Judges

OUTSTANDING ALUMNUS
HUMANITIES

Kevin M. Maxwell ’02 Ph.D., Language, Literacy & Culture, is the superintendent of schools for Anne Arundel County Public Schools, a position he has held since 2006. An educator for more than 20 years, he also has served as chief educational administrator in Prince George’s County Public Schools, where he also taught, and as one of six community superintendents within the Montgomery County Public Schools system, as well as a principal in both counties. Under his leadership as principal, Walter Johnson High School in Montgomery County was named one of the 100 best high schools in the United States. In 2000 he received the Washington Post Distinguished Educational Leadership Award and he was named a Fulbright Scholar in 2004

OUTSTANDING ALUMNA
ENGINEERING AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Stephanie Reel ’85, Information Systems, is vice provost for information technology and chief information officer for the Johns Hopkins University. Since 1994, she has also been vice president for information services for the Johns Hopkins Hospital. As the CIO for all divisions of the university and health system, Reel leads operational redesign for information services, networking, telecommunications, as well as clinical research and instructional technologies. Her work to develop electronic patient records management has been honored by Computerworld magazine and the Smithsonian Institution, and she has been named CIO of the Year by the College of Healthcare Information Management executives. She is a member of EDUCAUSE, the Healthcare Information Systems Executive Association, and the National Alliance for Health Information Technology and she serves on the client advisory boards of IBM, GE Medical Systems, Verizon, the editorial advisory board of Healthcare Informatics magazine and the Information Systems Advisory Council for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

OUTSTANDING ALUMNUS
NATURAL & MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES

Reid C. Thompson ’85, Biological Sciences, is vice chairman of neurological surgery, director of the Vanderbilt Brain Tumor Center, and associate professor of neurological surgery at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Thompson received his M.D. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he completed his internship and residency, followed by a fellowship in cerebrovascular surgery at Stanford. A diplomat of the American Board of Neurological Surgery, he also is the author or more than 30 published research papers and abstracts. Thompson’s expertise is in the surgical treatment of patients with complex brain and spinal cord tumors, particularly those involving the most critical parts of the brain such as the brain stem and skull base.