Science Hack Day, Belgaum 2017

Those who have followed reserved-bit this last year and are aware of its roots, would know of Science Hack Day, Belgaum. It is a 2-day event with science at it’s heart. It is a humble and enlightening 2 days, much like its organisers in India. They bring together people – makers, researchers, engineers, designers, teachers, students, architects from India – for science. The first edition was last year(2016) and we returned with the idea of a makerspace wanting to emulate the wonderful 2 days forever. This year we went in to meet friends we made from last year and be part of something truly epic.

Day -1 After the day wrapped up for our co-workers, we packed up most of reserved-bit in suitcases and cardboard boxes to take along. It is a carry-what-you-need and also some more things that might be useful kinda event, extensive collaboration and exchange is key. I wanted to set up a pop-up 3D pen workshop at the venue, therefore there was a suitcase of filaments and Ira’s colouring books. My hack idea was to set up a photo-booth using a raspberry pi and micro:bit. I also wanted to create an LED ring and design the SHD logo but couldn’t even get started on that one. I have preserved that idea for next year now 🙂

Day 0 We picked up Pooja & Praveen and left early morning to reach Sankalp Bhoomi (We couldn’t ask for a better venue) for lunch. After settling down, we watched others kayak, cycle and had our share of fun with the birds and bunnies. Ira was enamoured by kernel_girl and her red hair. Later Ira met her Ovi didi and needed nothing else. Later in the evening all volunteers, organisers and speakers gathered to introduce themselves and their ideas. I missed the Mapbox folks who had done such a fab job with the organic map last year. It was great to reconnect with Minal, Praveen, Hitesh, Rahul and Rupa on the personal front. It was great to meet Shreyas and to see he had returned with a hack idea of his own this time; last year he was a keen kid trying to help me with my Cookie toy hack. What’s more, he also won a prize this year for his hack! Yay!

Day 1 & Day 2 moved so fast; There was so much to do, learn and absorb. The students were divided into 2 groups on day 1 – one for soldering workshop organised by Jithin and other for science toys workshop. The groups were to swap the next day.  We had a video conference with SHD San Francisco which was happening on the same day, it was phenomenal to interact with makers from the other side of the globe.

Once the hack event started on Day 1, I opened my 3D pens and everyone seemed to be fascinated by them. Rakhi, Amol, Medozonuo and the others adeptly took over and since then I didn’t even have a second look at that table. There were a bunch of aspiring educators from Mysore who I had the privilege of interacting with, they were reassuring indicators of our future as a community. The demo session at the end of Day 2 had people turning up in packs to get their names printed using the pen! Medozonuo also made a beautiful witch hat for Ira that we now proudly display at reserved-bit. On day 2, right before the closing ceremony, I quickly tweaked my rainbow pendant based on adafruit’s hoop earrings with the neopixel ring to flash in blue so that it resembled the arc reactor for Hitesh to wear during the closing ceremony. It garnered a LOT of interest. The event ended on a high.

A few things that will stay with me forever – the aero-modelling demo and explanation, the geodesic dome, the nursery rhymes by Shakthi and the silicon plate at the lightning talks session, Ira’s Rapunzel (on paper) who had precisely 2 strands of really long hair, the rock cottages that had a verandah overlooking a small pool with a boat in-house (no kidding!) and the beautiful rock samples that were up on display.  One unforgettable moment was when Pooja made a 3D model of  a geodesic dome to help the team that was making a full sized geodesic dome using bamboos. That was collaboration at its best! Then there was the young biologist who held a frog in her hand and rushed to her professor and us to show the specimen she had caught. She was so careful in handling the creature and seemed to know everything about it!

Building a community, especially of individuals or groups with diverse interests is tough and exciting at the same time. The core organisers of SHD Belgaum seem to make it work like a charm. I wish for more hacks next year. There is a lot of unexplored territory – artists, designers, astronomers, nature lovers, food hacks, crazy electronics and more.

We left early morning the next day looking forward to visiting the Belgaum makerspace soon.

PyCon India – 2016, Delhi

The delay in writing about PyCon was not just procrastination ,but also getting myself involved with too many things at the same time.

I am happy to have attended this memorable event and hope to spread some cheer with this report.

Beware, looooong post alert. Get your popcorn!

Scroll down to Day 1 if you want to skip my personal peeve stories.

Backstory – My way to PyLadies

For me the first meetup of PyLadies was about learning basics of Python, I had no idea about the global community that is motivated to make a safe environment for women contributors. Despite being a beginner in Python, I seemed to have suggestions aplenty and it seemed to me that I could get/attract more members for the next sessions. I gave a small communication guideline talk during the second meetup and it was pretty much a sealed deal that I was happy to be a part of this community. What was most inspiring for me was the fact that Anwesha was so motivated to pull the group together, despite no clear path ahead for the group. It was disappointing that there were very few who attended regularly, nevertheless the few who did became good friends and I guess at this point we all fire each others imagination.

Tickets and more

I found out about PyCon from dgplug. The goodman was out for work and I could not imagine leaving Ira without either of us. It was not possible to attend the conference, clearly. I knew of all that was happening behind the scenes – how PyLadies did not get a table, how Rupali had, as always, returned as our knight (dame, maybe?) in shining armor. Red Hat had magnanimously opened its booth for the community and welcomed all contributors to showcase their stuff. Wow!

Almost all of dgplug was attending the PyCon and there were questions about who is joining when almost all the time. One visit from Kushal and Anwesha was all it took for us to consider the experiment of leaving Ira with her grandparents for a night. Tickets were jhatapati booked and plans made for stay. Thanks to Kushal and Anwesha for letting me be the haddi in their kebab during conference days. Truth be told, my mind was constantly occupied with what would happen with Ira ever since my tickets were booked. The husband is talented which enables him to do some nice things like printing few python print t-shirts for PyLadies.

I and the husband had made an LED lit jellyfish costume for Ira which was actually an umbrella based on this tutorial. Me and Anwesha planned to use it as a photo prop at the booth. My original plan was to carry Cookie(who is an annoying battery operated toy) which was to be controlled by a raspberry-pi and a simple python program. However, I wasted a lot of time and it was not ready on time and Ira was appropriately mortified to see her toy all opened up and confiscated it from me. I designed the 2 posters for the PyLadies table.

I had my doubts about using the prop until the last day. I remember giving Anwesha a panic call-

me: Lets not take the umbrella, it will look like a gimmick and no one would be interested. What if we are not taken seriously?!? *panic* *panic*

Anwesha(calmly, uncharacteristically): Ok..dont worry. You get the prop. We will see what to do. By the way, can you prepare a lightning talk?

me: WHAT? WHEN? “ME”??  *more panic*

Err, at this point I think I should do two posts. This is taking too long 🙂 Never mind.

Day 0

So on Day 0, I was still in Pune and I got the posters printed, it was raining incessantly. I PyLady-fied the umbrella by printing the geek lady and sticking it on the umbrella. I had an exchange of images with uber-talented Trishna who was supposed to print the badges.

Day 1

I was supposed to leave at 3:00AM in the morning, in preparing for the lightning talk and catching up with the good-man, I was awake till midnight. Ira, as if on cue, woke up sharp at 2:30AM and bawled to see me leave, making it unbearably difficult to leave. However, I had to go AND I was out with a huge suitcase – for my umbrella prop and posters. I reached the venue at 8:00AM.

The registration desk was well organized. The volunteers were extremely helpful. I spotted a few people who looked like professionals at breakfast, almost 75% of the crowd were students. This is my first PyCon, I have always attended business conferences from my proprietary bubble days 🙂

I finished my breakfast and went to the booth. Pravin and Pooja joined me soon. Pooja is like the backbone of the group – quiet, calm and extremely resourceful. I was so glad they were there. We started with setting the booth. Trishna, Janki, Kushal and Anwesha joined us and the posters were up in no time. The Red Hat guys were busy with setting up their booth too. It was a very bustling, colorful booth. I had goofed with the controller for the LED which the cute-couple (Pravin & Pooja) quickly fixed and our umbrella was glowing 🙂 The photo prop was a huge hit.

PSSI announced Dr.Ajith Kumar B.P, a scientist at Inter University Accelerator Centre, as the winner of “Kenneth Gonsalves Award 2016”. What inspiring work! What was most inspiring is the enthusiasm the achievers have in doing more, contributing more.

Keynote by Baishampayan Ghose was a very interesting start to the conference.

I was introduced to Devi, the veteran contributor and mom. It was lovely meeting her, personally for me because I aspire to be working like her. I also found out about anandology.com, which I am referring nowadays to practice some python exercises.

Vijay Bung had an interactive Request for Volunteers and suggestions session at the open spaces. Me and Pooja attended it. This was in continuation with the Python month as organized by PSSI. Some valuable suggestions were noted and we made way to lunch. Rupali ended up being alone at the booth managing Red Hat and PyLadies single-handedly for some time.

Rest of the day was spent mostly at the booth talking about the how, when, what and why of PyLadies, Pune chapter. It was heartening to see so many women contributors come up and share their stories, encouraging for us as a team to keep up what we are doing.

For those interested in starting their own PyLadies interest groups-

  • http://kit.pyladies.com/en/latest/prospective/checklist.html
  • http://kit.pyladies.com/en/latest/overview.html#how-to-use-this-kit

I attended Anwesha’s talk and the delightful keynote by Van L. I will never forget his 3 tips for any conference –

  1. Come to contribute,
  2. Meet someone new &
  3. Say thanks

We were all treated to a great dinner hosted for PyCon speakers and volunteers. Another great avenue to network and also good food. I was attempting (and failing) to keep up with my Keto diet. Of course with the desserts, the diet flew out of the window 😀

I went on to complete the lightning talk and submitted a proposal for the upcoming FudCon in Phnom Penh and crashed to a dreamless sleep.

 

Day 2

Kushal left early because I was taking too much time *giggles*. Me and Anwesha barely made it for breakfast thanks to our (not) wonderful driver #sarcasmalert who took ages to reach us. The previous day Anwesha had spoken to Paul and Van about organizing a session by PyLadies about how to grow the community. So we were all set to organize the same at the open spaces. Since this was my first conference, I made the blunder of presuming and not checking with the volunteers about availability of the open spaces; went by the literal meaning – the space ought to be “open” for anyone. The very enterprising Janki got into her element and got us one slot at 11AM by successfully negotiating with the speaker who had the slot. We are grateful to Udayan for the slot. I missed thanking him personally at the venue.

The session went very well, we actually ran out of time.

Rupali gave an unforgettable introduction – outlining how PyLadies, Pune started as a student initiative but didn’t quite grow as anticipated, pointing out how Red Hat had opened its booth for the community when all else had failed and giving a primer on how we can move forward. She introduced the speakers – Paul Everitt, Dmitry Filippov, Van Lindberg and Jeff Rush – who had insisted on the session being an informal, interactive one. It was a wonderful idea. Jeff bought his vast knowledge to the fore and gave the entire room a big box full of ideas. They were encouraging, full of stories, insightful, charming, approachable and everything that leaders usually are. Why MEN for a panel at a Py”Ladies” event you ask? Firstly, we are not  opposed to men participating [As we create a space for growth, we may end up excluding ourselves: driving home the stereotype even further] and secondly, when we are learning the ropes it is better to take tips from the ace (unfortunately, we had planned the open spaces session at the last minute and couldn’t get women speakers. Better planning next time, promise)

Unfortunately, all slots for lightning talks were taken for day 2, in fact they had some talks spilling over from the previous day. So my lightning talk will make its way to the next meetup 😀 I personally loved the idea of a 5-minute platform to strut your stuff very helpful and interesting.

We also had a #dgplug stairway meeting. I was elated to be part of such a vibrant and promising group. We met again for a photo later towards the end of day.

Some more time was spent at the booth. I attended the IoT talk by Jaimon Jose and picked a few ideas. I was really tired at the end of day 2, on day 1 I was probably running on some reserve-energy store, read caffeine 🙂

Farewell was expressed to everyone and I was out – back to my baby – with a promise in my head to do more and get better 🙂

PJP dropped me to the airport, while I regaled him with a report on my life. Whether he wanted to know or not was never a question 😀 I also finished reading Scion of Ikshvaku since I had 4 hours to spend at the airport. Yayy!

Follow up – To do

My poster design has been suggested to be the official logo for PyLadiesPune. Yoohooo! Also we need to work extensively on the PyLadies website

We had noted contact details of the women who visited us at the PyLadies booth. The idea is to get in touch with them and have sessions with them via Hangouts for our future meetups to keep in touch with what is happening in various fields w.r.t Python – exchange of information forging a multi-culture community.