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Drumbeat Festival: Part 1 - Let's Play Together!

My time at the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival is a three-part story about the supportive open-source community, the passion for free learning, and opportunities for change in the midst of extreme personal loss.

Part 1: Let’s All Play Together! Wednesday was opening night and I set up my examples from Switch Craft at the Science Fair and demonstrated how to make them. The participants, who were drawn in by the lights of Shiny Clutch, were inquisitive and encouraging. Each question of how and why was followed by a statement of confirmation that we do indeed need more women in technology who love fashion or they’d say “where was this when I was younger?”

About an hour in, it died down and people went inside to hear Joi Ito, and I went for the free snacks and wine. It was there, I made a friend. His name is Massimo, and he is one of the creators of Arduino. If you don't know it already, Arduino is an open-source hardware platform that is used around the world by artists, designers, architects, teachers, scholars, and just about anyone who wants to create an experience with the physical world. He’s famous among the DIYers such as myself, though admittedly I did not recognize him and one of his entourage was kind enough to remind me.

We talked and the Arduino crew was very complimentary and supportive. I was honored to talk to them as this is a community I haven’t been a part of in awhile because it involves programming and hardware wiring which are a level two for my readers. I tend to stick with level 1. At least I did, but after hanging with Massimo, I think I am ready to graduate Switch readers to another level of learning. I learned that the Arduino platform was created in Italy in a creative design program at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea. I had known about this school years ago, but it was shut down in 2005 for no apparent reason, just as it was gaining success.

Here is a little video of the opening night, with Massimo starting it off.

He smiled as I explained my passion to get fashion designers, craftsman, and artists into creating with technology. Then he gave cute purple Arduino pin with a heart on it and pointed at one of my pins and said, “I’ll trade you one of mine for yours. I really like what you are doing here, please feel free to come and hang out with us in the hacker space tomorrow.” I said, “yes,” of course. His smile made me smile, and that is how friendships are born. 

The next day was spent in the hacker space where Massimo and his group taught the basics of the Arduino, then prepared the class for creating a robot the next day. Time passed quickly and I didn’t realize that I was missing the rest of the festival. But, apparently, it was a roadhouse of activity with ideas and conversations on free education, open software platforms, and cool art projects. Eventually, I wondered into the main hall and found people from all over the world huddled in chairs around two or three people talking. Everyone was invited to participate or contribute to the conversation. You could tell this was a space where people with similar passions were driven to discussion. They were seizing the day and discussing ideas such as One Laptop Per Child, Wikimedida in Classrooms, and Hastac presented a platform that allows teachers/lecturers to get instant feedback from students on the value of the content from the speaker. I wasn’t so keen in this idea because sometimes crowds are just moody even if it’s a good talk and crowds of kids making snap judgments on the topic just didn’t sit well with me.