This past weekend Test Guru Pete (of Pogo Bed fame) and I had the opportunity to participate in the Feast on Good Conference, held at The Times Center in NYC. Wow! So many creative, brilliant people in one place all excited about creating positive social change in their own unique ways. SparkFun was honored to be invited to join in on this collaborative discussion. We even taught a workshop several times at The Feast's ACTION Day. By the end of that day we were once again reminded of how excited people are these days to build things with their own hands. As always, it is so thrilling to see a student's face light up when those LEDs start flashing and the buzzer starts beeping in fantastic "Hello World" fashion! The participants this time around were also especially engaged in and curious to know more about physical computing, beyond the basics of soldering. It truly felt like a "teach a man/woman to fish…" day of workshops.
The opening day of the conference
was packed with a healthy serving of intelligent, thought-provoking speakers who challenged us to think outside the box in many different ways. One of my personal favorites was the insightful and forward-looking presentation by Rachel Botsman on the idea of Collaborative Consumption. Rachel has recently co-authored a book, titled "What's Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption"
, on this very topic. I love that the maker/builder community is already ahead of the curve in this movement, with places like hackerspaces
and companies like TechShop
. They bring together the tools and materials in one place that can be shared by many. Do we all really need our own CNC machines or does it make more sense to share one machine's capacity with other makers? For that matter, do most of us really even need to own a personal power drill? I know mine sits in the garage, untouched, for about 99.943% of the year.
Another great presenter was FourSquare
co-founder, Naveen Selvadurai, who encouraged the audience of 400+ to turn our lives into a game as a more fulfilling and gratifying way of experiencing new things. This is the essence of what they have done with FourSquare. It allows users to explore cities and find friends then rewards them in unique ways for doing so. In a personal anecdote of Naveen "walking the walk", he even admitted that he tracks his sleep patterns nightly so that the data he collects can be used to give him greater insight into his daily productivity and level of happiness. The idea of finding new ways to enjoy your world is one that we at SparkFun have no trouble embracing! Who doesn't like to play games and have fun? But to incentivize every aspect of your day-to-day life is a clever and interesting thought. Does it go too far? Maybe…but in moderation this application for increased happiness and satisfaction has far-reaching implications.
Tony Wagner, of the Change Leadership Group at Harvard's Graduate School of Education
, led an interactive, fast-paced discussion on the great education challenge facing America today. He has recently published a book on this topic with an exceedingly long yet thorough title: "The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need--And What We Can Do About It"
. He has been a career educator, serving in all levels from high school teacher to K-8 principal to university professor, and is bringing that wealth of experience to his current research and change efforts. Tony argued in his presentation that students these days are not graduating from secondary education with the necessary survival skills, the basic core competencies, that are required to succeed in college or the current workforce. And he believes that this is due to our schools and educational leaders being ill-prepared and inadequately supported. As the son of a teacher, I feel strong emotion towards the current failings of our school systems. And I am excited for Tony and the work he is doing to reform a system that simply is not working anymore.
Lastly, there was a compelling quote from Paul Arden's book, "It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be"
, that was shared with us at the conference last weekend: "Give everything away you know, and more will come back to you." I'm presently inspired to do just that. And on that note, go be free, beginning this weekend, to have fun and share your passion, creativity, and knowledge with the world. I know that I've certainly returned to Boulder with a renewed spirit and hope in the potential for positive change. The Feast was hearty and substantial. I hope these leftovers that I've shared here leave you also feeling full on good. Cheers!