We want to educate everyone. That means helping the government when they ask.
At SparkFun, transparency is one of our core values, which I care about deeply. I just had a new development manager start, and I took two hours going over each core value. No kidding. I take these things seriously. Internally and externally, we want to be transparent.
So, a few months ago when the the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) reached out to SparkFun wanting to have a conversation about technology, I wanted to make sure we could talk about it in an open manner.
The DHS and ODNI wanted to ensure that they would have access to people who could help shed light on embedded electronics, where the industry is and where it is going. They are looking to learn from experts in the world of makerspaces, Internet of Things (IoT) and autonomous vehicles, so we took the call.
The program is called the Public-Private Analytic Exchange Program (AEP). It’s designed to facilitate technical conversations between the public and private sectors. The program exists to ensure that the right technical information is readily available to those who will need to understand that information. It is a mission of education, understanding and hopefully enlightenment (ok, maybe not enlightenment, but education and understanding, yes). The program is bigger than we are and touches a lot of different industries. Thought leaders and experts across a wide gamut of fields are participating in these targeted micro-summits all across the country.
A program like this is very important to SparkFun, as our mission is to educate and empower people in working with electronics. We accomplish this through high-quality tutorials, hookup guides, models and videos. We take all of that seriously (well, as seriously as we take anything here at SparkFun).
Our education mission encompasses many types of learners. These customers want to know how our products can fit into the classroom, how to teach with a certain board and how to integrate lab packs into their curriculum. Our very popular Micro Controllers for Educators class is designed to give teachers and educators (middle school through higher education) a foundation in electronics, programming, computer science and “making” for their classrooms. This is part of our educating everyone mission.
The work we’ll be doing as part of the AEP is also part of this mission. We want to cut through the myths and assumptions that surround technology. Currently, IoT is a big space full of plenty of myths, but also a lot of realities (for more, you can always contact me, and I’d love to give my presentation "IoT: Myths and Realities"). Getting to the heart of the matter, understanding what the technology is, what it can and cannot do and how it fits into the bigger technology picture moving forward is our responsibility and our privilege. To turn our back on this opportunity would be abdicating our responsibilities to our customers.
Now there may be a segment of our customer base that will be concerned that we are working with "The Man." I’m here to assure you that ours is a mission of education. We don’t hand over customer data or purchase history; that’s not the kind of transparency we like. We do like the kind that makes things clearer for people. Ensuring that decision makers and people in the loop understand the world of die-hard hobbyist electronics, the world of makers and hacker spaces, and the future of IoT and embedded electronics ... that is our kind of transparency.
I'm excited about our first AEP meeting! We’ll let you all know how it goes.
I think "The Man" is so far removed from the diversity, creativity, and level of engagement/enjoyment that the maker community as a whole will be safe for years to come. Long live TINKERING!!! Well done SparkFun for all you do in education.