SXSW 2015 -- Help us get to Austin!

We've submitted some great proposals to SXSW and we need your help to get them accepted!

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SXSW is a massive music, film, and interactive festival where people from all over the world gather to learn and be inspired. Right before the regular festival is SXSWedu, an education-focused event with the goal of fostering innovation in learning.

In considering proposals for acceptance, SXSW uses a tool called the ‘panel picker’ to take in public feedback and support, which substantially influences how a submission is judged. SparkFun has submitted ten (10!) proposals for things we feel strongly about sharing with the community. Today, we’re asking you help us get to Austin by voting for our panels (if you find them worthwhile - and we hope you do!). Here are our submissions:

Make First, Teach Later: A Classroom Manifesto - by Derek Runberg

The recent questions about the maker culture that are asked the most tend to be around how it works in the classroom. The “Maker Culture” does not fit nice and snug within contemporary educational models. A classroom that adopts a maker model inherits radical change. Historically, radical ideas have always been documented through manifestos; sets of rules and ideas to live by. We present our classroom manifesto that strikes at the culture and values of making within the classroom.

Beyond “Pink-Washing”: Including Girls in Making - by Tara Tiger Brown, Leah Buechley, Kylie Peppler, and Ben Leduc-Mills

There has been a lack of gender equity since the beginning of the “maker movement”. Solutions such as “pink-washing” are shallow and play into existing gender stereotypes. This panel will discuss different, deeper strategies focused on engaging girls and women in maker activities both inside and outside the classroom. Topics may include books, activities, websites, and other educational resources, tips on creating an inclusive environment, and other useful strategies for broad inclusivity.

Re-Making Education: Thinking about Thinking - by Brian Huang and Silvia Lebow-Martinez

The Maker Movement is a global revolution of people learning to solve problems with modern tools and technology. Contrast this with the growth of high-stakes testing and standards-based assessments, which result in rote memorization, teaching to the test - ineffective practices for real learning. We will share our experiences in teacher professional development that supports authentic “Making in the Classroom” experiences at Constructing Modern Knowledge and Microcontrollers for Educators.

Game Changers: Tools for Constructivist Learning - by Paulo Blikstein, Jaymes Dec, Carlyn Maw, and Ben Leduc-Mills

A panel of seasoned educators will share their experiences, strategies, tips, and tricks for running a successful “hands-on”, constructivist learning space. This applies to teachers looking to incorporate new technologies into their classroom, after-school robotics club and girl scout troop leaders, district administrators looking for new ideas, and especially those interested in evolving a fab lab or “makerspace”. Activities, curriculum, new technologies, and other resources will be discussed.

Collaborating through Data: Internet of Things 101 - by Jeff Branson

The Internet Of Things (IOT). What the heck does this mean? Participants will find out by creating networked objects that feed data to an internet-based “data channel.” We’ll explore the quick-start way to take data from sensors and post it on an open-source, free service on the internet. In many settings the ability to share data across the internet from local sources is a high-value topic. We’ll build an example project, connect it with a server, and then look at some tools for expansion.

Playful Computing – Programming All Ages - by Brian Huang and Kate McDonnell

Learning to code & program is a new literacy requirement for our students of the 21st century. We will present a set of activities designed to engage students in programming and computational thinking using physical computing. Physical computing is an approach to programming that focuses on how we interact with technology through the use of programming sensors, actuators, and LEDs. We will demonstrate activities in physical computing that weave art with engineering, mathematics and technology.

The Ins and Outs of Kickstarter Fulfillment - by Matt Bolton and Marcus Schappi

So you’ve got an awesome idea for the next Oculus Rift or Pebble, and you’re ready to go to Kickstarter. But wait! How are you going to manufacture 10,000 units in your garage? You need a competent partner that can deliver on your Kickstarter project. SparkFun Electronics has provided engineering expertise, manufacturing, and fulfillment for numerous wildly successful Kickstarter electronics products, such as MaKey Makey. Come hear Director of Production Matt Bolton and Geek Ammo’s Marcus Schappi talk about the MicroView, the newest Kickstarter success fulfilled by SparkFun. They’ll discuss the best and worst parts of supplying a product designed outside the office and the insanity of sourcing, producing, and shipping Kickstarter projects. You’ll come away with a better idea of what you need to have on hand in order to find the manufacturing partner of your dreams.

Why Patents Are Killing Innovation - by Nate Seidle

Gadgets. We all own one (or a hundred). But from Apple to Samsung to Oculus Rift, those beloved gadgets are drowning in a sea of intellectual property lawsuits, a tide that threatens to strangle tech innovation for good. Nathan Seidle, CEO and founder of SparkFun Electronics, happens to know a thing or two about IP and innovation. He made gadgets and their parts his life’s work, building a multi-million dollar company for embedded electronics, all without filing one single patent application. Nathan will guide you through the world of patents, how long it really takes copycat products to appear in the marketplace, and show you how sharing can truly build profitable, growing companies. Makers, gadgeteers, and anyone interested in what the future of innovation and business looks like—come hear how open-source technology will save the world.

Phant.io - The Super-Lightweight Internet of Things - by Chris Clark

You get what you pay for–literally. Almost any electronic device today can get online, including your car or your refrigerator, for a price, of course. But the Internet of Things is not solely accessible to big manufacturers with tons of resources. Christopher Clark, Director of IT for SparkFun Electronics, presents Phant–a tool for putting the power of building IoT networks into the hands of the average consumer. Built to be lightweight and modular, and open-source end-to-end, Phant is a free, open-source engine designed to run on the smallest devices. Phant powers SparkFun’s free streaming service (data.sparkfun.com), and coupled with open-source hardware, it is a powerful tool to rapidly deploy sensor networks to collect rich data from the field. Christopher will take you on a full tour of the open-source technology that makes Phant go and give a demo of building a private sensor network using open-source hardware.

Can Fandoms Fix Tech’s Gender Gap? - by Jessica McDonald

According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology, 12% of 2012 computer science degree recipients from major universities were women. That number represents a staggering decline from just a decade ago. We talk a lot about closing the gender gap, but how can we if universities aren’t producing more women in STEM fields? Jessica McDonald, Director of Marketing and Communications for SparkFun Electronics, argues that the answer lies in changing how we think about teaching technology. She’ll present original research describing how participation in fandoms–yes, fandoms–through sites like Tumblr and cosplay are shaping a new generation of techie girls, as well as discuss initiatives her company has taken based on this research in an effort to help close the gender gap.

We hope some of these panels strike you as interesting - and we’ll let you know which of these ultimately get accepted. Thank you for your help - and see you in Austin!


Comments 14 comments

  • I hope Nate discusses patenting the color Yellow ;)

    • That absolutely should be at least an aside in his open source discussion… How a great company like Fluke can get bogged down in the process of hindering competition instead of challenging them with newer, better, cheaper items to compete in the marketplace, and that it’s ultimately good for NOBODY when that happens..

  • On the subject of the gender gap (two different things above on it!), as an old-fogey (60+) male engineer, I’m delighted by “Lady Ada” and her friends over at Adafruit! The world of high tech may be predominantly male, but it doesn’t mean that women can’t succeed and lead.

    BTW, when I got my engineering degree back in 1980, women with an engineering degree got about 10% higher starting salary than male counterparts with the same credentials. (Admittedly, the women did tend to be used as “show pieces”, but usually they were expected to be as productive as a man.)

    • Got my degree about a year before you. Over the years I’ve worked both with and for some great women engineers. Why aren’t there more? I think part of the reason is simply lack of meaningful exposure at the right age. Emphasis: meaningful. A lot of parents clearly have a hard time providing that, they just don’t know where to take their kids to get good technology exposure, and the girls especially need to get that exposure in a way that is comfortable to them. I base that assertion on observation of other parents that are friends of mine, who don’t know how to enable technology exposure for their kids, and don’t know where to go for help.

      I started taking my daughter to the surplus houses as a todler as soon as she could reliably count to 20. I would hand her a bin of switches or caps or such and tell her to count out 10 of them for me, and of course if she wanted a big, shiny, blue capacitor for her own collection of shiny trinkets I’d get her that, too. I taught her to solder at age 5, and now she is very good at even SMT soldering of fine-pitch parts, and loves PCB design. She is right this minute working on college application essays targetting top robotics engg schools.

      Her success came from exposure to a progression of ever more challenging activities. A key piece missing for most kids is what I think we could call “step 2” activities. We quit going to kid-tech-fair sort of activities long ago, because they are repetitive. You see the same simple, introductory projects over and over and over again. Great, so you’ve exposed kids to the basics of science and technology. The ball gets dropped at that point, and there just isn’t much out there in the way of teaching kids the next level, getting to something a little more meaningful.

      I also have issues with the emphasis on competitions like FIRST robotics. FIRST succeeds because it is easy to describe and pitch to doners and to show a spiffy results video to doners. But it is also a hot-house environment, emphasis on competition instead of analysis, and the typical team isn’t usually all that nurturing to newbies in my experience. In my daughter’s case, she is “all about robots” to quote her, but can’t get far enough away from competitions like FIRST. She would much rather work on a more free-form challenge that is more grounded in real-world interactions than on some kind of quasi-combat artificial game, and she wants to work collaboratively. FIRST can work well for rambuctous boys, I think, but is a turn off for a lot of girls.

      So if you are involved in anything like a local robot club or ham radio club or anything like that, be sure to look for the new kids that got there because some popsicle-stick-and-hot-glue project at a “technology fair” got them interested. Find out what they know and provide them a next step. They will be all over it, and the parents who cared deeply enough to drive them there hoping they would find some help for their kid will be forever grateful.

      TL;DR: Girls can love technology. Most parents of girls don’t know how to expose them to technolgy in a meaninful way. You can help.

      • Unfortunately, non-knowledgeable parents aren’t just a phenomenon for daughters, though it is a much worse problem for daughters. My mother used to accuse me of “taking my money down to Radio Shack and throwing it at them”. That only stopped when in 1976 I got a job in an electronics factory making more per hour than my father (who at the time was working as a heavy equipment operator for the State Highway Department’s Research Lab).

        • Very true that non-knowledgeable parents are equally distributed. Boys seem more adept at working around that. In part, I think girls need a little more affirmation that it is OK for them to be doing something technical, just as boys need a little more affirmtation that it is OK to like sewing. But yes, what I said about being a technical mentor to some kid that shows up at your local techie activities applies equally to boys and girls.

    • I agree. I wonder if in this venue, it would be possible for SparkFun and AdaFruit to team up and present a “united front” on the issue?

      • I actually did reach out to Becky Stern at AdaFruit for this, but sadly she was unavailable during SXSWedu – having said that, I don’t think there’s much doubt that both organizations would love to see more girls and women involved in traditionally male-dominated tech fields.

  • The Phant.io link seems broken, I think this is the correct link.

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