EMF Camp 2014

I realised yesterday, as a few second years from my university were discussing EMF 2016, that I hadn’t yet written about this particular event.

As a brief intro, EMF Camp is kind of like Glastonbury for Geeks. That’s great for someone who’s been to Glastonbury, or in fact any musical festival, but erm. I…haven’t. So I had absolutely no idea what to expect and had only discovered this event about a month before.
Essentially, the idea is Hacking in Tents over 3 days (EMF stands for Electromagnetic Field, by the way…). Over 1000 makers, hackers and creators of any sort descend on a field together, show off what they’ve been making and teach others how to do the same. At EMF this year there were several workshops, ranging from creating the One Ring to laser cutting a useless contraption.

So I headed down from Hull on Saturday afternoon, tent, Raspberry Pi and various random components in tow, and set up camp. I knew a handful of people from Pi circles attending and another handful from the Bristol Hackspace attending, so as I wandered round I bumped into a few familiar faces and overall, had a really great time hanging out with old friends (I say old – I’ve been into electronics hacking for about two years now, and doing it socially for probably a year or less) and meeting some new ones.

The first afternoon I attended the Simon Singh talk on the Enigma machine: I found this a really great talk and he explained everything well. I’ve been to Bletchley Park maybe 2 years ago, but some of the information had dissipated from my brain.
Later that evening we headed over to the BarBot created by Nottingham Hackspace: a robot which mixes cocktails, the ordering of which being online. Despite the cocktails tasting…pretty bad, the amount of LEDs which some would deem unnecessary in drinks making means I thought this was an awesome project, and the generosity of Nottingham Hackspace to offer these without forcing payment is pretty generous: I did donate, like a good person, of course.

Before turning in for the night I headed over to the main stage tent to see what music had been put on for the eve: terrible rave music along with lasers and smoke machines. Standard.

The following day was meeting some new faces – among those, Chris from Element14 and Rachel from Raspberry Pi who I’d been meaning to meet for a while. Her Zoe talk was pretty interesting. Disapointed in myself that I missed the opportunity to throw things at Ben Nuttall, who was a few rows in front, as Carrie Anne deemed necessary to point out.

My last talk of the event was the panel session discussing the badges. If you’re unfamiliar, in 2012 EMF Camp volunteers decided to make a super awesome badge ready for 2014: the idea was ace, in practice…not quite as great, due to problems with sponsorship, hardware manufacture hitting a few roadblocks and various other issues which were covered in the talk. Nonetheless the badges provided everyone with a device to hack, with lots of hardware which would have otherwise cost a fair amount, and all software for both the badges and the server they intended to have working for the event was open sourced. Jonty, the main organiser, also announced that there would be a competition for the best hack, with the prize being tickets to EMF 2016 and the one day EMW (electromagnetic Wave…it’s held on a boat in London…get it?! Wave?!) event.

The overwhelming brilliance of the camp is that all of it is volunteer based, from the badges to the organisation to security on the gate – it’s as open source as it gets. I really enjoyed it and will definitely be going in 2016 assuming I’m in the country.

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One comment

  1. Glad you enjoyed it! Just wanted to say that while I’m one of the two founders of EMF (the other being my partner in crime Russ Garrett), we had an amazing number of people help us put the event together. I don’t deserve that much praise!

    Secondly: Speaking as a hull grad, lovely to have some compsci people attend! Try and persuade Rob Miles to come next time…

    Along with Jono, Wes and a couple of others I was also responsible for kicking off the current incarnation of Freeside in ~2004, before the compsci dept started getting funny about it. I don’t know if any of the current admins came to EMF this year – I should get in touch with them…

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