After attending the annual Open Hardware Summit in both 2011 and 2012, I returned again this year to revel in the excitement that surrounds the open source hardware community. Every year, the summit continues to grow, with over 500 people attending this year’s summit. Held on the MIT campus, this year’s summit did not disappoint – the speaker lineup was nothing short of fantastic, and I really enjoyed hearing first-hand updates on some of the world’s most compelling open source hardware projects.
One of the highlights of this year’s summit was the ePaper conference badge, developed by the folks at Wyloum, RePaper, and Seeed Studio. In typical OHS fashion, the badge itself is comprised of completely open source hardware and software, and is readily hackable. Naturally, I’ve already started hacking mine to turn it into a weather station for my apartment (I’ll have a blog post detailing this hack when I’m totally done with it).
One of Several Pre-set Screens on the OHS Badge
In my typical fashion, I actually had several reasons for attending this year’s summit: I wanted to catch-up with my fellow open hardware enthusiasts from around the web (whom I generally only get to see in person about once per year), I wanted to attend all the talks given by individuals whom I really admire, and I wanted promote my book among a highly targeted demographic. Wiley, my book publisher, agreed to sponsor the summit, thus providing me with a ticket to attend and enabling me to hold a book signing during the summit social hour. This was a particularly novel opportunity for me (pun intended), because I’ve never held a book signing before, and because I was honestly very skeptical about why anybody would possibly want my autograph. As it turns out, I managed to sign and sell every copy that I brought with me, and I met a number of people who were already familiar with my work from online. I also finally had the opportunity to meet my amazing technical editor, Scott Fitzgerald, in person. As the night was drawing to a close, I still had 4 books left to sell; with some prodding from Chris Gammell (who some may recognize as the mastermind behind Contextual Electronics and The Amp Hour Podcast) I put my metaphorical salesman cap on and paraded through the lobby yelling “Books for Sale! Learn Arduino and have fun doing it! Everything must go!” Here’s an unflattering photo of me selling those last books (it worked – I sold all 25 books that I brought to the summit):
As it turns out, yelling about Arduino in a room full of open source hardware enthusiasts gets people to pay attention.
As you have likely gathered from my repeated use of Adafruit.com parts in both my book and my online tutorials, I’m a big fan of the work they do to provide approachable electronics platforms to help people build awesome things. In fact, Adafruit sells my book, and they recently gave away a signed copy to a trivia winner on one of their weekly video streams. So naturally, I was thrilled to finally meet (in person) Adafruit’s founder, Limor Fried, and Adafruit’s creative director, Phillip Torrone. Here’s a terrible photo of the three of us (and Exploring Arduino):
We somehow managed to capture a photo where both Limor and Phillip are blinking. What are the odds!?
I won’t go into too much detail on the actual talks, since they were all recorded and will soon be available on the OHS website for anybody to view. Every single talk that I attended was great (I missed a few while I was in the lobby schmoozing with people). Talks about using open source hardware as platform for international education really resonated with me – a few of the speakers discussed this topic. During the final panel session, I posed a question about how we can leverage open technologies to make learning more accessible for people in developing nations. I didn’t expect anybody to have a definitive answer, but it was made clear by the panelists that this is tough problem that necessitates having a critical mass of individuals to solve it. I encourage everybody reading this blog post to take some to think about steps you can take to leverage your knowledge to teach others who could benefit from it! Feel free to comment on this post or email me with your ideas! Here’s a shot of me posing the question:
Posing a Question to the Open Hardware Panelists
All told, the summit was (as it always is), a fantastic learning experience for me. I met interesting new people, reconnected with friends and colleagues, and I got a sneak peek at what’s coming next in the world of open source hardware. I’m excited to attend again next year! To see tons of photos from the summit (some are mine, many are from others) checkout the flicker tag: #ohsummit!