RobotsConf 2013 Recap

Dec 10, 2013

By Jamison Dance

RobotsConf was amazing. Here are some highlights.

Take 200 web developers, dozens of robotics and electronics experts, copious amounts of supplies and two days of open hack time. Mix in a blender, serve in a glass with a little palm tree garnish thingy, and you have RobotsConf. Here are some of my personal highlights.

How is printer formed

Confession time: I used to think 3d printers were lame. Why would I pay many thousands of dollars in order to fill my house with cheap plastic knicknacks? Well THE JOKE IS ON ME because 3d printers are incredibly useful for actually building things. Do you have an idea that needs some kind of gear, or case, or lever, or anything besides a bunch of wires soldered together? Print them up in minutes and you can prototype incredibly rapidly. Thanks to @suziam and many others who helped noobs like me print things.

People are awesome

One of the things I love most about nerds is how excited we get about things we think are cool. That excitement plus a common goal of MAKING ROBOTS translated into a very friendly, welcoming environment. It was easy to wander up and talk to people. The speaker->workshop format also helped break down the weird "developer-celebrity" barriers that sometimes arise at conferences.

The friendly, welcoming environment was also enhanced by the diversity of the speakers and attendees.

RobotsConf was also very friendly to beginners. My wife with me, and she commented several times on how cool it was to see so many women speakers and participants. The end result was a plan (her own idea) for us to go home and build a network-connected Christmas ornament that lights up and sings on demand. Congratulations RobotsConf, you have created another maker.

My wife playing with lazer-cutter puzzles

Make art, bring people together

The end of the conference featured a few "big idea" talks, and two of them especially stuck with me.

@whichlight spoke on using technology to create public art. The talk matched the art he described in it, which was whimsical and playful while also encouraging public participation. It was a beautiful reminder of the power of creating things for fun.

Sound-controlled LED strips

Marc Goodner talked about starting a makerspace at Microsoft, and how it grew from humble, scrappy beginnings to a large community.

Together these two talks encouraged me to go home and make things: community, relationships, and robots. A fitting end to a great conference.

Jamison Dance enjoys kittens, making computers smarter and the magic of children's laughter. He tweets at @jergason and GitHubs as jergason. He also podcasts on JavaScript Jabber and Soft Skills Engineering.