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Seen & Heard Around the Conference: A Conference Gone to the Dogs, Mimbleballs and Massages to the Max

Julia Chambers, creator of Mimbleball, explains to passersby how the fuzzy friend works. Photo by Jacqueline Hyman.

It’s not shocking that the stress-relief puppies stationed in the health and wellness center of the AASA conference exhibit hall would be a hit with attendees who live pressure-filled work lives.

For one woman who declined to give her name, the therapy dogs represented the “best part of the conference.”

In response, another woman remarked that she “missed her dogs more than her husband” during her attendance in San Diego this week.

These two attendees prove, once again, that dogs make everything better. 

Well Off the Beaten Trail

Andy Teipen, an Indianapolis resident attending the 2024 AASA Conference, was asked about the highlight of his San Diego stay. A visit to the world-famous San Diego Zoo or SeaWorld. A break on a sunny afternoon at the beach?

None of the above. Topping his list: breakfast at Las Cuatro Milpas.

“The best tortilla of my life!” exclaimed Teipen, a salesman for, a nonprofit that advocates for computer education and operated a booth in the AASA conference’s exhibit hall.

“And the beans!” added Caison Bridger, his dining companion and a fellow employee. “Out of this world.”

A family-owned Mexican restaurant in San Diego’s Barrio Logan, Las Cuatro Milpas is far off the typical visitor’s beaten path. But Bridger and Teipen deployed their educational skills to find it.

“We just asked, ‘Where can we go that most people won’t know about?’” Bridger said.

Pay to Play at AASA

All conference and no play make for a long day.

But conference attendees wandering through the sprawling exhibit hall in its final hours on Friday had a few options to play.

Smart & Active, a Florida company, showcased some high-tech games meant for children, but ones that adults were seen playing during the conference. One product was a projection system that could turn a floor into an interactive game, like The Floor is Lava. The business also had a mobile interactive wall that players could bounce soft balls off while trying to hit a target.

An even more hands-on experience was an AR Sandbox. It was a sand tank that had a landscape projected onto the sand. Players could touch the sand and reshape the landscape.

All in all, a good way to kill a few minutes at the conference.


Some unassuming, friendly-looking puffballs were on display in the exhibit hall as their creator, Julia Chambers, explained how they help with emotional regulation. Counselors and teachers can use them to disarm a crying child or they can just be an “insta friend” for someone. They have thin, wispy hair that stands up on its ends when you whack the bottom of the stuffed ball.

Their wide-set eyes and lack of a mouth means they don't judge you, said Chambers. 

Massages in Much Demand

The massage line at the Live Well. Lead Well. Health & Wellness Center was so backlogged Friday that people had to come back later even after putting their name on the list. Conference attendees could get on the shortlist by staying to wait for one. One attendee waited around for her massage after not making the cut on the conference’s opening day.

This year, the wellness site had small vibrating foot massaging pads for the people waiting in chairs to get their full massages.

Jordan Evans of Magma Math donned a suit reminiscent disco balls. Photo by Jacqueline Hyman.

Sparkly Suit

An exhibitor wearing a bright silver suit covered in sparkly squares stood out at his company's booth.

When Jordan Evans, of Magma Math, asked if he was wearing the suit for any purpose other than to attract attention, he simply replied, “I love disco!” 

He added that he really does love disco balls and DJs house music on the side. 

A Point to This Story

Traversing the crowded exhibit hall on Friday, Conference Daily Online reporter Bradley Beggs spotted a pointy hat peeking through the talking heads. Curious to find its origin, he ventured into the throng of school administrators, only to discover a wizard, pointy hat and all!

It seemed fitting that this conference exhibitor, Chess Wizards, was an after-school extracurricular program. Captivating and engaging, the chess wizard knew how to catch the eye, even in a bustling convention hall.

(Compiled by Jay Goldman, editor-in-chief of Conference Daily Online, with contributions from various staff members.)

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