RobotsConf Was Remarkable

by Ron Evans

Team Cylon.js got back a few days ago from the first ever RobotsConf last week. The brainchild of the influential Chris Williams aka @VoodooTikiGod of JSConf renown, RobotsConf was planned to be the first conference to bring open source software developers in and have them leave as new hardware makers.

Unlike a "normal" conference, the format for RobotsConf was to have just a few sessions to inspire creativity and provide some background on the first day, and then devote the rest of the conference to actually making things. Teams of language/subject matter experts (such as ourselves) had been invited to come and help everyone implement whatever it was they wanted to over the the 2 days of the conference. At the end, there would then be a "science faire" where everyone would get to show off their creations, and the "experts" would then judge the "winners". Very fun!

This would be one of the defining characteristics of RobotsConf: the culture of fun and openness. It was delightful collaborating and interacting with so many people. Running around helping alongside the various team members of the @nodebots and @nodecopter teams, along with so many other brilliant humans. It was almost like a music festival attitude of jamming, but of hardware hacking, everyone excited to see what each other were doing.

Thanks to a generous group of sponsors, fantastic hardware kits given to each attendee. It included a Leap Motion controller, which was one of the most popular devices used at the conference. Our team had pushed an adaptor for cylon-leapmotion a week before the conference, which really helped a lot of people get started quickly. Special thanks for the shout out during the Leap Motion team's workshop talk!

The kits also included a brand new Spark Core kit, among the first given to anyone! The Spark team brought some of the first shipment of devices from their success Kickstarter campaign directly to RobotsConf. Team Cylon took that as a challenge, and we were able to push an adaptor (cylon-spark) within 24 hours.

Lastly, the kits packed in an Arduino Uno and a bunch of sundry wires, cables, breadboards and stickers. You always need stickers!

The conference had a dedicated hardware hacking room, with stations setup for soldering, robotics, 3-D printing, laser cutting, wearable computing and more. Not to mention gigantic piles of components, breakout boards, sensors, legos, and googly-eyes that were available for people to use on the projects they were building at the conference. This stop motion video of the first day captures a lot of the tremendous energy and enthusiam that everyone had at the conference.

Next to the hardware hacking room was the drone hacking room with 50 ARDrones ready for flight. Many people came thru and tried their code on programmatic flips, as well as even more impressive aerial stunts. Not all landings were smooth, but no humans were hurt in the process.

We also had 30 Sphero robots thanks to our friends at Orbotix, plus some Crazyflie Nanodrones, a Roomba, and a few other specialized devices. Everything that Team Cylon.js had brought was available for people to "check out" library-style to use on their science fair robotics projects. Quite a few people "rolled" thru, and one of the winners did some really cool things with 2 Spheros and a Leap Motion.

Another of the science faire winners was 12-year-old genius @MakerSylvia and her team. This video shows her flying an ARDrone controlled by a Leap Motion, and then using a Spark to release something while in mid-flight. And she was even sporting one of our Cylon.js t-shirts too. We're so proud! Here is a brief video showing her demo.

Thank you so very much to everyone who took part in RobotsConf. It was incredibly fun and inspiring, and we cannot wait for the next one!