Warning: This is a long one. Maybe I should have split it down into 3 posts….
I was lucky enough to get myself a free ticket to this year’s ElectroMagnetic Fields Camp through a competition I found out about from Codebar Brighton. All I had to do was send them an email about why I felt under-represented in tech and then Yelp Engineering provided 4 of us with free tickets. Yay!
ElectroMagnetic Fields (EMF) is a non-profit festival run almost entirely by volunteers, and it is an incredible festival at that. I was pretty overexcited when I got a ticket and went through the line up of talks and workshops trying to prioritise what I should go to.
I was the first of our Codebar group to get there, set up camp in the middle of the festival and immediately started getting stuck in. The first day consisted of:
A mental health workshop – this was run by Andrew Gordon and took a look at mental health in a similar way to how I had done in education, there was a lot of discussion and studying of a real life case study before and twist in the narrative. A very engaging and thinky talk, if you have a chance to go to any of his stuff in the future, I would really recommend it.
3D printed sculptures of 4D things – Brain twisting and confusing, mathematically 4D shapes can’t exist but in the world of this talk they could and this was proved by 3D printing their shadows (No, I don’t really understand either). Fascinating but brain hurty. Talk by Henry Segerman
An Introduction to Mixology – Yum! Thanks to Ryan Alexander, I learnt how to make my first Old Fashioned (and yes, the bourbon was provided!). Tasting along every step really showed how each ingredient affects the flavour – an interesting, funny and rather scrummy hour!
A talk on Sex Robots – Yes, sex robots have been invented. What would you want yours to look like? a humanoid or something far from human? What will happen to the data stored in that? What if your sex-robot rejects you for the toaster? And other bonkers questions take seriously in that line of research from Kate Devlin. You can read her article on why we should be researching sex robots, not banning them, here.
Swing Dancing for Engineers – Hot, sweaty and good fun! It was packed out and there was hardly enough room to move let alon dance, but we managed it with a lot of laughs and tech jokes along the way.
After the talks it was time for a wander round the site looking at cool installations and meeting nice new people. Firepong, musical fire, LED garden, giant guitar hero with massive LED lights. Yes, basically lot’s of music, fire and colourful lights.
The next morning I got up bright and early (after a terrible and freezing night’s sleep) and left the others still getting themselves together to go off to a couple more talks.
Radios – A talk by amateur radio operators about how they’re involved in emergencies when the internet fails.
Socio-technical evolution – Igor Nikolic looked at Darwinism and how it is relevant to evolution today – including the use of technology by individuals and societies.
Building an open source political platform – This was a brilliant workshop. Open source politics is a system which everyone can be involved in. This version uses a Github repository and direct democracy. Anyone can submit policy ideas and then they’re voted on by other contributors. Through this repo, a politcal party was formed by James Smith (called Something New) and even had a couple of candidates stand for election in 2015 on the manifesto of the people. We got involved and added our own policy ideas too.
Badge Hack – As part of the ticket, each participant of EMFCamp was given an electornic badge. These came fully kitted out with LED screens, connected to WIFI, had snake inbuilt and even had their own phone numbers for SMS. They were incredible. In this workshop we were shown how to add an LED light to the badge and write a little python script to make a torch app on our badges. This was my first time writing python and my first time soldering something! No injuries – whoop!
Hebocon – We all know and love robot wars, awesome robots fighting to the death with cool weapons and tactics etc. Hebocon? Not so much tech and wonder, much more hilarity. A hebocon is a robot wars between crap robots. There were some fantastically shit robots submitted and 32 fought it out (or tried not to fall of the table and actually make contact with each other). One robot, for example, consisted of a Pikachu stuffed toy mounted on an egg timer. Another, was a fan from a laptop. Yet another was a wind-up penguin shieled inside a plastic cup (that one came second!). It was fantastically funny and I’m defitnely going to be on the look out for more to watch in the future.
After that I got some food and chilled out with people for a bit. We wandered around, meeting new people and taking cool light photos.
After a suprisingly good sleep I got up and again left the others to get themselves together whilst I started the day
VR workshop – I was super excited to get involved in this workshop. Armed with my laptop, Google Cardboard and smartphone I managed to create a very basic world in virtual reality just using HTML and Aframe.JS. This was so satisfying and defintely something I want to continue playing with! Massive thanks to Michael Straeubig for the workshop!
Realtime Web – I’m going to be honest, this workshop went a little over my head (and from the chatter I wasn’t the only one). It didn’t seem to lend itself to a workshop so well as only a few people could code at once but they did create some pretty cool stuff which affected each of our computer screens at once – such as changing the colour of a browser when a button was pressed to a colour we’d individually selected earlier.
A talk on how data is used in and from schools – This one was kind of scary in some ways. Schools are now being told to provide the government with country of birth details from students – this can’t be good. In light of the uncertainty from Brexit it might scare parents off sending their children to school in case it leads to deportation or something. Also the government have a database of details of every under 35 year old in the UK – acadmeic things from when we were at school and such like. All this can be passed on to compaines too…. Concerning eh? Find out more
Meditation for Hackers – I ended the festival with 2 hours of being taught meditation techniques. Nice. My favourite was to focus on all the sounds around you, try to focus on one particular one, then try to focus on two, then three. It’s hard and it doesn’t matter if you stop at 1 or 2 sounds, but it definitely shuts my brain up!
Unfortunately EMF Camp is only bi-annual. The next one isn’t until 2018 – booo! But for now we can satisfy that itch by watching the talks from this year here.