Front Range Open Source Hardware Symposium

Thursday we left Walsenburg around 10am and headed to Boulder for the front Range Open Source Hardware Symposium. Originally, we were just going to attend. Congressman Jared Polis was going to be there and some of the companies that do Open Source Hardware (OSHW), like SparkFun. This is the point where chaos stepped in and twirled us in a waltz. Dan got an email asking us if we wanted to attend as presenters, and showcasing the Ground Sphere receiving station that we’ve been working on for months with Southern Stars and Mach 30. So, we went as representatives of Mach 30.

Panic ensued, but we managed to pull enough stuff together to show. We managed the drive in plenty of time, found our hotel, relaxed for 10 minutes, and then headed out for a late lunch before setting up at the event. We found the place, The Studio, ahead of time, which was a good thing. Downtown Boulder had some interesting construction going on, and it was right in front of the turn off for The Studio. At 5:30pm, we returned and set up. We met Alicia Gibb, the executive director of the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA), got set up and began to chat with people.

It was a small crowd, maybe 50 of of at the peak, with nine other presenters besides us all from Colorado’s Front Range. (ok, Walsenburg isn’t exactly front range, but it’s close. ) Nathan Seidle of Sparkfun, Jeff Moe of Aleph Objects (Lolzbot), Michael Ossman of Great Scott Gadgets, Ryan Edwards of Sparky’s Widgets, Eric Schweikart of Modular Robotics, along with people from Denver and Loveland Maker Spaces. (can I find all the business cards? No! Awgh!!!)

Dan took part in the roundtable discussion with Jared Polis. Questions were asked about What part should government take in the OS movement. Sort of a help or hinderance viewpoint question. Another one was how could Colorado help with the growth of the OS movement and what the benefits could be. This morphed into a discussion of the benefits of OS versus patenting. Last, a brief bit on how the companies present had helped the economy.

Interestingly enough, the most correct answer for most of these questions was Advocacy, Education, and Don’t get in the way of progress. Very much a “let people invent!”, and don’t stagnate. As Nathan said on his TED talk, that people have to innovate. Otherwise, they are unfit. Business moves too fast for patent law, especially as it only pertains to US patents. The TED talk is well worth the watch.

I had a lot of fun talking with the people there. The ground plane that I made got a lot of attention, as did the whole project that is Ground Sphere. I even managed to talk about Dan’s part of the project without messing up too badly. 🙂 Guess you could say I earned a few geek creds. And best of all, as with any symposium or conference, you get to see all the gadgets that everyone makes. I got lots of ideas. Oh, and Nathan gave us a lab coat with the Sparkfun logo on it and the word GEEK over the pocket. We gifted it to Mark Thompson, our STEM teacher. 🙂

We helped take things down and were back at the hotel by 10pm. It had been a great evening, and I’m looking forward to the next one. We got lots of invites to hacker/maker/creator spaces, and we will be taking them up on the invitations.

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