Supercon 2018: Mike Szczys and the State of the Hackaday

Every year at Superconference, Editor-in-Chief Mike Szczys gets the chance to talk about what we think are the biggest, most important themes in the Hackaday universe. This year’s talk was about science and technology, and more importantly who gets to be involved in building the future. Spoiler: all of us! Hackaday has always stood for the ideal that you, yes you, should be taking stuff apart, improving it, and finding innovative ways to use, make, and improve. To steal one of Mike’s lines: “Hackaday is an engine of engagement in engineering fields.”

The obvious way that we try to push forward the status quo is, as ever, by selecting the best and most interesting projects and presenting them to you. But if fame isn’t enough of a motivating factor for some, we also offer fortune. (OK, for varying quantities of “fortune”.) Our contests in 2018 brought out some of the best hacks that we saw all year, and that’s saying a lot. The Coin Cell Challenge, Repairs You Can (3D) Print, Visualize It With Pi, and the Return of the Square Inch Project spanned a wide range of hacker skills, and were all stocked with amazing projects.

On a much larger scale, the Hackaday Prize gives entrants the incentive to set aside some time to work on something bigger over a longer timeframe.

But just working on projects isn’t enough. We need you to talk about them. Mike mentions the ideal of “normalizing” talking about science, and that struck home. How often do you hesitate when starting a technical conversation? Why should you have to? So we try to provide venues for you all to talk nerdy to each other: from Hackaday.io’s weekly Hack Chat to the various meetups, unconferences, and of course the Supercon itself. We think it’s important that you’re all getting together and communicating.

Why? Because the world is full of important technical issues. Mike mentioned the DMCA review and right-to-repair as an example of the importance of having informed engineering and hacker voices in policymaking. New issues unearthed with the Intel Management Engine show off the busted computer-within-a-chip inside most all computers. If we don’t understand the ramifications of all of this, how can we make smart choices as a society? Finally, if sports figures are elevated to “hero” status, why not the scientists, hackers, and engineers who have helped improve the world as we know it? We started up a series of biographies to tell the stories of the scientists whose discoveries you know, but whose personal stories you might not yet know.

Just go watch Mike’s talk. He does a great job convincing you that it’s important for the best and the brightest to be involved in science, engineering, and technology — you know that already — but also that because the world will certainly be facing difficult challenges in the future, it’s just as important to bring everyone else along for support. So go out there and tell the world what you’re doing. Be Hackaday!

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