UPENE 2010

Saturday six shop members(*) made the six-hour round-trip drive to attend UPENE 2010 in Norwalk, OH. It was free again this year, but advance sign-up was required with a limited the number of attendees.

This year there was a theme: to build and bring a robot built around/using the Propeller. HackPittsburgh members who had attended last year thought that this year was a bit smaller in terms of demos/tables. (Perhaps folks thought that if they didn’t have a robot they shouldn’t demo, but it is hard to know why there was a difference in turnout.)

Parallax gave each attendee a goodie bag, containing:
A Parallax Proto board and a ColorPal color sensor.

Lunch and dinner were again provided free this year. Due to dietary issues we skipped the free meals and ate elsewhere.

Three were probably a dozen folks who’d set up tables. Most of the robots were pretty simple, entry level ‘bots. I got the impression that most of the folks responding to the theme hadn’t built a robot before. Notable among the demonstrators was the father of the organizer, who had a home-made robot arm (about human sized). Most of the other robots were small wheeled vehicles. Of the robots on display, only a few were operating.

Another demonstrated system of note was a head’s up display that could be “painted” on to a spinning propeller (the kind attached to an airplane). This product was not centered on a Parallax Propeller, but used one to generate the image being painted. RGB lasers (three) are used to “paint” the spinning propeller and an IR laser/sensor is used to find and track the prop.

Informal talks started around 3pm. Matt spoke at 4pm about the shop and the balloon project and how we’re thinking that a Parallax Propeller could make our future balloon projects easier. After his talk a group of about 8 people gathered around to ask follow up questions.

Just before dinner, around 5pm, Matt, Josh, Sayan and Isaac had to leave. After they left, the last speaker (from Parallax) talked about an upcoming product that is a Propeller and ethernet and SD card ‘website on a stick.’ It’s probably going to be out next year at about $50 each. Friar and I stayed for that talk and since I had bought tickets for the raffle, we stayed for the drawing. Raffle prizes included several Parallax Propeller products, including a Professional Developer’s kit. No one from HackPgh won anything in the raffle. They also did a small hand’s on “What do I do with this Propeller thing?” session after dinner that we thought might be interesting. When we found out it was aimed at beginner programmers we decided not to stay for it. and left around 6:30pm. We stopped at a nearby Bob Evans for dinner on the way home.

I am glad I went. In addition to the free hardware, I bought several small kits that various attendees were selling (interfaces for the proto board mostly).

There was also a “free table” where people could put things they didn’t want any more and other folks could pan for the discarded “gold.” Several times the Parallax guy would dump some high quality stuff onto the table and there would be a mad dash and feeding frenzy.

Thanks to the organizers and volunteers for all the work they put in to make this event happen! Thanks also to Parallax for their goodie bags and the cool stuff they donated for the raffle. I think they footed the bill for the food and drinks as well.

Matt made a point of letting the organizers know that they really need to contact more hackerspaces. We talked about having a HackPittsburgh demo table at next years event, but I don’t think any promises were made.

(*) – Matt S, Josh, Sayan, Isaac, Friar, and Doug. Sam, a member of @MakerAlliance, hung out with us for most of the day, and went with us to lunch. Sam found out about UPENE from Matt S with only about two weeks to spare.

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