Girls Robotics Workshop at OSCON 2012

In July 2012, a friend of mine and I went to OSCON, O’Reilly’s Open-Source Convention, to organise a “Girls Robotics Workshop”. It was an exciting adventure and I would like to share some impressions here.

Once passed to TSA airport ultra-top-mega-security, the journey continued smoothly. After 2 flights, 12 hours and a lot of sleep, I arrived safe in Seattle where I passed the night at a friends home. The day after, we went to Portland by car.

OSCON is a quite special conference and the idea of having 50 girls hacking robots in the middle of thousands of geeks was really thrilling. But first things first: shopping…

The plan was to have the girls programming a “virtual” Mars mission, executing the final application on a Mars landscape using Lego Mindstorm robots (kindly sponsored by Lego Education, thanks!). Basically the same what I always did during Sagan-1 workshops. Obviously, we did not bring our Mars landscape model kit over the ocean, so we used the weekend before OSCON to gather all needed materials.

The OSCON organisation was very professional. All PCs were ready as promised and installing Sagan-1 and all the drivers was a cakewalk.

OSCON exposition hall during set-up
Our space during set-up
PC set-up, social media and other preparations…
Our space finally ready for the show…

The two event days went very well and we had quite a success in the Exposition hall, that’s the least to say. A lot of geek (parents) were appealed by what we did. The girls did a great job – first modelling the Mars landscape and then programming the Lego Mindstorms. O’Reilly was supporting us with all their resources.

The girls decorating their lab coats…
Building the Mars landscape…
Programming Sagan-1

Besides of the inspiring speakers from our sponsors, all women in technology, we had also the honour to welcome Laura Baldwin, President O’Reilly Media, as speaker. Moreover, Gary Richmond, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory software specialist, and Jane Houston Jones (Blog, Youtube), outreach specialist for the Cassini Mission to Saturn at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena CA, spontaneous joined us to speak for the kids. Jane is really an inspiring and dynamic person, and I’m honoured to have met her!

Laura Baldwin, President O’Reilly Media, speaking to the girls (and the rest)
Gary Richmond, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Jane Houston Jones, outreach specialist for the Cassini Mission to Saturn at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Beside of our work, we had also the pleasure to enjoy OSCON a bit. I didn’t see any talk, but I met a lot of interesting, cool and also famous people (and I had a lot of fun at Camp OSCON)!

OSCON speaker reception
Camp OSCON games

The flight back was however a bit more complicated. First there was the weight limit, which was “slightly” lower for intra-US flights than for inter-continental flights. Gotcha! Even after dropping my collection of MongoDB cups, I had a hard time to negotiate the drop of the 100 USD charge.

The second surprise was the TSA information note that I found inside of my luggage once arrived at home. It seemed that all the robots, RP6 and Mindstorms, raised some suspicion and TSA had open my bag somewhere between OSCON and Brussels. Fortunately without any damage to the robots.

Group Picture…. Cheeeeeeeeeeese!


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