Learning to Hardware Hack at RobotsConf

I’ve been a programmer (if you can call me that) for quite a few years now. But for the most part, it’s really always been about designing software based systems. Even though these systems are larger than the average startup or SaaS company would get to work with, it’s (as I said) still about designing software based systems. Enter Robots Conf.

First of all, what is Robots conf? Well in its inaugural year, it was a place for software developers (amongst other people) were able to become makers. There were a lot of really cool things about Robots conf. One of the coolest (besides being held at a really nice resort in Florida is that the entire conference was around 150 people in total, and about half of them were women (which most regular technical conference goers know is not the norm). Plus there was a life size Johnny 5 robot that actually talked and sounded like the original AND a life size game of operation that can be played with a robotic arm.

The game of operation with a robot arm.

The game of operation with a robot arm.

Life sized talking Johnny 5 robot.

Life sized talking Johnny 5 robot.

The conference started off with two amazing keynote speakers, Whurley from Chaotic Moon Labs and 12-year-old Sylvia Todd (who I want to be as smart as her when I grow up) and her father who created a water color painting robot. Then after a few talks on understand electrical and maker basics, we got to dive straight into the hacking. Most folks hacked well into the night and then were up early the next morning continuing on the track. The conference day concluded with a science fair where people demoed what they build (or in my case attempted to build). Most of what I had to show for my efforts was figuring out to play Jingle Bells on Piezo Element (see the gist here or listen to it on YouTube) and created a lowrider robot with giant pink wheels that immediately fell apart in a circus like fashion when it started to move.

My poor attempt at a low rider Arduino controlled robot.

My poor attempt at a low rider Arduino controlled robot.

But all in all, this is definitely one of the best conferences I’ve ever been to. And this is definitely a conference that I will be coming back to next year and the year after and the year after. It’s an amazing experience with brilliant people and passionate people willing to both learn and teach. Chris Williams and crew did a fantastic job. If you are a maker or are looking to become one, I highly recommend looking at Robots Conf.