Unofficial Propeller Expo Northeast Wrap-Up

August 24, 2009

Animated EL Wire MLKThis past Saturday, August 22nd, HackPGH went to the free Unofficial Propeller Expo Northeast (UPENE)! Dedicated to the Parallax Propeller microcontroller, UPENE provides a place for Propeller hackers to meet with others like them to share demos, projects, kits, hacks, stories, and free stuff!

Organized by the magnanimous Jeff Ledger, UPENE is the third Unofficial Propeller Expo, following UPEW in California earlier this year. While the first Unofficial Propeller Expo was truly unofficial, its early success has led Parallax to take on a larger role, providing sponsorship, goodies, and sending the creators of the Propeller to mingle with the community!

A HackPGH crew consisting of Matt Stultz, Joshua Smith, and Marty McGuire woke up before dawn to leave Pittsburgh, headed for Norwalk, OH.  We arrived a little after 9am, while things were still being set up, and found Propeller enthusiasts setting up demos for everything from autonomous robots, to MIDI and interactive art installations, to custom video games, and even an Apple I replica. All of the demonstrators were happy to discuss how their projects work, how they were made, and some even had kits for sale.

In addition to sharing their projects and expertise, UPENE had a great atmosphere of sharing free stuff! A central Freebie Table provided lots of cool components and discussion throughout the day. Parallax provided an awesome gift pack including a Propeller Proto Board USB, with components to build out demos for TV, mouse, keyboard, and more!

UPENE was also a venue for some excellent lightning talks, for folks to share their projects, advertise their kits, or just talk about technology they like. We saw talks about custom Propeller-based seismological equipment from Penn State, a full on-board Propeller development kit called Sphinx, an intro and demo for the Propeller System Module, and a demo for ShapeLock. Jeff, the organizer, offered us the opportunity to talk about HackPittsburgh, and Matt was happy to oblige. We talked about the experience of starting a hackerspace and where to find resources, and (hopefully) answered some excellent questions from the audience.  Thanks to everyone who sat through our talk!

Our lack of sleep left us feeling pretty drained, so we ended up leaving about 2pm, missing the last 6 hours of the event. Next time we’ll sleep in a little more, show up a little later, and stay for more of the event.  Overall we had an excellent time, learned a ton about the Propeller and how to use it for some amazing projects, met some incredibly smart and indecently nice people, and came home with a bunch of free stuff for our trouble. We’d like to thank Jeff so much for organizing this great event, and Parallax for their support (and free stuff)!

If you’d like to see more about our trip, check out Marty’s HackPGH UPENE Flickr Set, and always keep an eye on the HackPGH Flickr Pool!

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