Makerspaces and Hackathons in Vermont

I was recently asked to do a “sketchnote” for a panel discussion in my town, Burlington Vermont.

For those not up on the latest buzzwords, sketchnoting is basically doodling while an event is going and letting other people see your doodles. It has something to do with visual thinking. Or doodling. Either way it’s pretty fun.

Since I’m a fairly miserable artist without lots of revisions and even worse at large-size stuff, I set up using my iPad, an iPad stylus, and the Paper App. No not the Facebook version, this one.

A version of the Storyhack image which is also below. It has no color yet.

Amanda Levinson caught made this picture of my sketchnote screen while I was doodling away.

Below are my notes from the session. Please understand these are simply my notes and understandings from the event. It isn’t a transcription. Some of these ideas and connections only happened in my head and didn’t come out of anyone’s mouth.

If you want a more reporterly version of events I recommend the excellent work of Cathy Resmer which can be found at SevenDays’ TechJam blog.

Hacking & Making in Vermont. A Panel discussion on Feb 10, 2014 at Karma Birdhouse, 6pm. Burlington Vermont

The panel discussion on hacking and making in Vermont was held in February 2014. The room was tightly packed with interested audience members from all over.

Nate Herzog, Storyhack; Jesse Krembs, Laboratory B; Bradley Hold, Code for BTV; Rebecca Roose, HackathonVermont; Doug Webster, Champlain Maker Faire; Organized by Amanda Levinson

The speaker list was an all-star cast of Vermont creative-tech industry superheroes.

Laboratory B: Hacking has been here all along. Burlington has a history of being involved with hacker culture. Members of our 2600 club went on to be involved in several important projects that increased the development of makerspaces across the US. 2600-Hacker Foundation-Hackers on a Plane (Learn how to organize a makerspace in Germany)-Laboratory B

Jesse Krembs of Laboratory B gave a great overview of Burlington’s pre-existing relationship to hacking and making, effectively welcoming the new interest in these activities.

Storyhack: Broadening participation beyond the traditional tech-head community.Digitizing same ol' boring or make something new with digital tools, a hack for creatives--contest, workshop, story code.

The presentation by Nate Herzog of Storyhack noted that hacking/making is something to which people who aren’t necessarily technical can contribute.

CodeForBTV: harnessing the energy of hack/make culture for civic betterment. Fellowship: coder applies to work in a city (like a code-focused peace corp). Awesome, but some issues: no real support, time, uprooted people, low scale projects, longevity--a free puppy. Brigade: steady, facilitate collaborations, no free puppies. Big Heavy World BTV Music Archive, Knight Foundation Grant to leverage BT Gigabit.

Bradley Holt talked about how CodeforBTV works and what they are doing in the Burlington area.

Hackathon VT: HackVT works to connect the tech community in Vermont and also helps address a commercial need to attract tech-minded people and companies. Network for tech community. Open-Data sets required, 24 hours + data + people. Drawing people into Vermont, preventing them from leaving.

Rebecca Roose talked about HackathonVT, a project sponsored by MyWebGrocer.

MakerFaire: balancing the needs of gov, education, and community. Youth: Fun? vs Cool. Robots are always cool. Well, maybe not the specific robot I drew. Sci, Tech, Engineering, Math leads to Make|Hack. The purpose of STEM is to improve making. School vs Community: Not a school field trip event. A cool weekend family event.

Doug talked about Champlain MakerFaire, his role in technical education in Vermont, and the upcoming Generator makerspace.

What about the kids? What do they need? Soft skills: Project Management, Multi-disciplinary thinking, Basic Coding. What about grownups? Elderly, Workforce retraining, Business community (creative economy), Personal Growth & Development

Audience members had questions about the value and needs of both children and adults in Vermont in regards to hacking and making.

Diversity: "VT is not very diverse in the general population." This discussion focused more on gender. Fight social exclusion: head on face issue & provide space, visible leaders. Increase skill development: Things like Girl Develop It.

Diversity, a topic that is challenging both in terms of technology events and Vermont in general, brought up a couple thoughts and ideas.

Underutilized gear taking up space in the garage can be leased to Generator. Q: Security of servers for all this civic hacking? A: Limited services enabled; no SMTP, for example. Space & Policies for classroom integration remains challenging.

Some of the audience questions centered around resouces–sharing, access, how they can be used.

Event-based hacking/hackathons, A well-defined problem (ask questions) overlapping coding skill of participants is where the value of an event lies. Also: highlights local talent, rewards this kind of thinking, networking

Some of the questions brought out discussion of how and why hackathons are useful.

Adjunct services: Investors, accountants, legal, corporate structure, space, real estate. The overlap of public and proprietary work.

There was a lot of discussion about other services that are needed and grow along with maker/hacker culture.

Recognize the difference between default boundaries and real boundaries. The consumer box can be opened. Hacking doesn't require perfection.

When pressed to define hacking, these are some of the things shared.

Getting involved in Makerspaces, hackathons, civic coding etc in Vermont. Laboratory B, Generator, StoryhackVT, HackVT, Champlain Maker Faire, CodeForBTV, GirlDevelopIt (GDI), Coder Dojo, Emergent Media Center, VT TechJam, Makers in VT, VT Coders Connection. Other generally good resources: BTV Digirati, 7Days Tech Newsletter, Meetup, Twitter: #BTV

A variety of resources were mentioned during the course of the discussion.

Here are links for these hackathon/makerspace resources: Laboratory B, Generator, StoryHackVT, Champlain MakerFaire, CodeForBTV, GirlDevelopIt, Coder Dojo, Emergent Media Center, VT TechJam, Makers in VT, VT Coders Connection, BTV Digirati, 7 Days Tech Newsletter, Meetup, Twitter: #BTV

An essay about hackers & makers written in green pen along with a watercolor/chalk rendition of the Thoughtfaucet: A strategic content studio logo. The full text is included in the main document.

Since I got to document this event in this way, I decided I get to have the last word with a little essay.

Hackers and Makers: some quick thoughts

Some are looking to improve the way our civic institutions work, some are hoping to recruit and develop workers, some want new skills and personal growth, some seek to improve the opportunity of students and young people.

Balancing the needs of a community is apparent in any conversation about hacking & making: kid-focused education or grownup-focused retraining? Personal growth or commercial development? Should these activities be sponsored by government? Or commercial entities? Or private citizens?

Luckily, the spirit of hacker culture is not the sort to wait for answers to be handed down. The spirit is to move forward & explore. The spirit is to tinker, to test, to see what works, to see what might work.

Hacking & making, as activities that develop multi-disciplinary thinking and problem-solving, will probably always spark discussion. But beyond the conversation they can remove barriers in a segmented society–taking individual specialized trees from sterile, manicured gardens & replanting them together in a vibrant & healthy forest.

–This interpretation of the event was made by Gahlord Dewald, President/Janitor of Thoughtfaucet, Feb 12, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>