Hackaday SuperCon Marks The Dawn Of Something New

Best. Conference. Ever. And believe it or not, I don’t think this is a biased opinion.

I am of course talking about the Hackaday SuperConference – the first full-blown hardware conference we’ve ever put together. I had very high hopes going into this and was still utterly astounded by how the two-day event turned out. Let me give you three reasons why it was spectacular: The people, the people, the people.

The Presenters

[Shanni Prutchi] presenting her talk about Quantum Entanglement
[Shanni Prutchi] presenting her talk about Quantum Entanglement
Our call for proposals didn’t go out months ahead of time, instead it was mere weeks, yet we were flooded with around 160 proposals. It was a tough proposition to whittle this down to 30+ talks and workshops, but we had to because of time and space limits. Every presenter made it count. We are honored by this diverse set of people who laid down an enthralling collection of talks about hardware creation.

Just to give you a taste: the first talk, presented by Shanni Prutchi, covered the hardware used in quantum entanglement research. Quantum Entanglement Research! This highly technical subject might seem like a lot for a Saturday morning, but Shanni has a gift for explaining her work. Every person in the room was engaged throughout and stayed this way through the entire weekend.

Packed house during the talks
Packed house during the talks

SuperCon was a hardware conference that was actually about hardware. We could tell something magical was happening when we had to hunt down more chairs (borrowed from an off-site venue) to accommodate all of the people who wanted to hear the presentations. We know that the hardware community yearns for talks that go far beyond being shiny and deliver the details you need to grow your own set of engineering talents. The extra-chair anecdote proves the need for more opportunities to learn and interact with experts of hardware creation.

Don’t worry, we recorded every single one of these fantastic presentations. It will take time to edit the content but it will be freely available soon. If you’re excited about your own work and can speak about it with authority, you need to be at next year’s Hackaday SuperConference. I promise we’ll call for proposals further in advance for the next one, but start your talk prep now. You won’t want to miss it.

[Paul Stoffregen] leading his Advance Microcontroller Based Audio workshop
[Paul Stoffregen] leading his Advance Microcontroller Based Audio workshop
Conspicuously missing from our story so far are the hands-on workshops which ran concurrently with the talk track. Every workshop was sold out, and every extra chair was occupied by those who wanted to audit. Much of the workshop material is already online, and we’ll get a dedicated post out to help link you with that information.

The Attendees

Talk about the most amazing group of people to spend 30 hours with over two days. The 300 people who packed Dogpatch Studios to capacity made it impossible to have anything but a great time at the conference. These are all people with passion for hardware – I was tripping over fascinating conversations at every step.

Badge hackers hard at work as talks continue just to the left

We blocked out a few places in the schedule for lightning talks. Everyone was encouraged to sign up and participate. Since the majority of people at the conference brought hardware to show off, these blocks were as popular as the more formal presentations.

This is also how the badge hacking was presented. Conference badges were PCBs with no components. Off to the side were tables strewn with components and tools so that you could work on your badge and watch the talks at the same time. Those seats were constantly occupied. As the end of the day approached on Sunday, we had around twenty people present what they had created on this blank slate. And yes, we’ll be covering this in-depth soon so stay tuned.

The Workers

Registration did a great job of clearing this line once the doors opened
Registration did a great job of clearing this line once the doors opened

You can have talented presenters and eager attendees, but it takes a lot of hard work to keep everything running smoothly and bring the two groups together.

We had an army of volunteers and a gaggle of staff who worked together like a high-functioning machine. Registration was quick and efficient and transitions between workshops were smooth and calm. The WiFi worked (conferences are notorious for not having connectivity) and the speakers had the A/V resources they needed. There were plenty of beverages, snacks, and meals. The workers of the SuperCon — all of them hardware-lovers too — had a personal stake in pulling this off. Mission accomplished. You all rock!

We Are a Community

The SuperConference felt like home. New acquaintances treated each other like life-long friends. Everyone brought their hardware passion and treated one another as equals. And as has been proven time and again, Hackaday is a community and great things happen when we all get together with purpose. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who made this possible.

44 thoughts on “Hackaday SuperCon Marks The Dawn Of Something New

  1. I read this while waiting for my long flight back home. It seemed like a ridiculous idea to travel half way around the world for just a weekend , but looking back it was worth every moment. I’m so stoked I was able to meet lots of brilliant folks.

    Best. Conference. Ever.

  2. It was indeed an incredible weekend. I’m so very glad I was able to go, and bring a workshop!

    All my workshop material is on the hackday projects site. Most of the others workshops have project pages too. For the audio stuff, Alysia & I made a walkthrough video for everyone who was unable to attend, so you can see every part of the workshop’s material.

      1. I’ll be there. Stayed in Amarillo on our way back from Idaho two weeks back – yeah, we went the long way. Anyway, the Holiday Inn Express waffle machine makes Texas-shaped waffles. ‘Nuff said.

  3. Just to feed the – very lame – troll, I’d say it was less than 50% macs. Also IMO a minority of iOS devices; I saw a lot more Android – the hacker’s phone of choice. Ok back under the bridge with you…

  4. I had a fantastic time; really good size for that (great) venue; that was about all it could handle. Talked to lots of interesting people. Next year I’ll bring a personal project of my own. I’m sure next year it’ll be way larger, although I’ll remember this years very fondly. Excellent job on the wifi (fast+functional), food (yum), coffee, badge-hacking and presentations. No complaints at all; well ok the bar on Saturday night could’ve been a bit cheaper – get a sponsor and make it free booze next year! (well ok that might rather impact the turnout for the Sunday morning sessions).. %-) I’ll be back!

  5. Thank you for pulling off a great event! The best was putting faces and voices to people I had been communicating with by email or in forums for a long time. What a pleasant surprise to run into old friends from 3 continents that I did not expect to be there and sharing brilliant conversations with all the enthusiastic participants.

    Awesome!

    1. Lots of photos and some video clips are already shared. Many are findable on twitter, #supercon

      Here’s a clip of the “most over the top” badge hack winner, for a taste of one really awesome little part of the supercon:

      https://twitter.com/Fumi/status/666059947365429248

      They did film all the talks with 2 high end cameras. Editing to merge good audio with cuts from 2 angles would take quite a lot of effort. I don’t know how much of that they’re planning to do, but given the amazing amount of work they put into making the conference run so smoothly, I wouldn’t be surprised if we wait a little long for a much more polished and watchable product than a mere “camera in the back of the room” shot.

      It’s really not feasible to film very hands on workshops. For my workshop (the audio one), we made a video walkthrough… since a video in the room would be just a group of people listen to headphones while working away with laptops and breadboards from the printed manual, with us running around helping them. You can find the walkthrough video and PDF for the workshop on this project page:

      https://hackaday.io/project/8292-microcontroller-audio-workshop-had-supercon-2015

      Tom made many 5 minute videos for his Spice workshop. Doesn’t look like he’s posted links to them yet, but this page would be one to watch for good video material from his workshop.

      https://hackaday.io/project/8392-circuit-sim-with-spice-2015-superconference

      1. Wow, thanks for including all of these online resources with your workshop Paul. It was great to see you again, and I’m glad we were able to share a meal together rather than our normal “standing for a quick chat during the chaos of live events” ;-)

        Hopefully Hackaday will do a northwest tour and we’ll get a look at all the great stuff going on up in Portland!

    1. That whiteboard is awesome! Thanks so much for bringing it with you. I was surprised by a few different things: It’s super fast, super quiet, and the marker always seemed to have great contact and great ink transfer with the whiteboard. Excellent CNC build Joshua!

      If you haven’t seen it yet, check out this video of the whiteboard drawing the SuperCon logo. This was a big thing to lug around but I really glad Joshua made the effort:

      https://twitter.com/joshu/status/664921083594674177

  6. That many presenters ready to go with only with short lead time is good news. Many people with a story to tel. Plenty of people looking for stories to hear. All sorts of organizations needing programming material monthly or quarterly. Schools with far out teachers will need it even more often. Hopefully someone will figure out how to introduce the demand to the supply. Even at that I’m sure there will be those regions left wanting , but there’s not much local.

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