Last Saturday I attended my first Minnebar, a local BarCamp style event for technology geeks of all shapes and sizes here in the Twin Cities. My original goal was to attend a handful of sessions that focused around my professional discipline; analytics, data architecture, visualizations, that sort of thing. But the great thing about Minnebar is that sessions cover an incredibly wide range of topics. Everything from Agile financial modeling to mobile game development to one session on getting started in and modding Minecraft. The sky’s the limit when it comes to session topics which is just awesome.
So when the I saw a session about Teaching Kids to Code in the first time slot I figured I would check it out. Why not? There were plenty of other sessions related to my day-to-day profession and having two young girls of my own I’m always on the lookout for ways to engage them in technology and science since those are topics that we’re typically pretty bad, as a culture, at getting young girls interested in.
Attending that session changed the whole tenor of my day. And it did for me just what I think the people behind Minnebar and the barcamp concept in general want to happen to people attending these events; it inspired me.
After sitting in on the Teaching Kids (and other newbies) to Code session I decided that I wanted to focus the rest of my day taking in whatever I could that would help me learn ways to get my kids (and hopefully, by extension, other kids) interested in programming, engineering, data and all the other geeky things that I think are pretty cool.
So I learned about the CoderDojo project from Matt Gray (twitter | site) and Rebecca Schatz (twitter | site) along with a host of other programs to get kids into coding. I learned about creating interactive stories using arduino and some classic choose-your-own-adventure style writing from Jerry Belich (twitter | site). I was even able to attend a few sessions in my typical data-centric wheelhouse. One on Data Science given by my old employers NativeX (formerly W3i). And a session on D3 data visualizations by Kristina damnit-I-forgot-your-lastname (twitter).
Two of those sessions were ad-hoc sessions, a fantastic aspect of Minnebar that has people who may not have gotten a session submitted in time or just felt inspired during the day to sign up and host a session to do just that. It’s something you’d never see at more formal, for-pay conference. And the things I took away from those two ad-hoc session were every bit as valuable as things I’ve learned from expensive multi-day conferences.
All in all, it was a great day. I’d recommend attending any of the Minnestar events to anyone with an interest in technology who wants to find out just how awesome the Twin Cities tech community is.