The Shack Speaks Dork – Dorkbot Austin: 2011

This is post 1 of 7 in the SXSW 2011 series



Dorkbot is all about people doing strange things with electricity. It says so right on the top of their site. If you can imagine a science fair for grownups, you’ll have an idea of what a Dorkbot event is like. It’s basically people coming together to show off the projects they’ve been working on in their garages, basements and bedrooms over the past year. And this year The Shack is joining in on the fun as a major sponsor of Dorkbot Austin at SXSW Interactive on March 11. I was so stoked when I heard about it that I jumped at the chance to contact Dustin Younse, Dorkbot Austin’s leader, to find out more.


Staying true to the Austin, Texas, mentality of doing things a little different, Dorkbot Austin has its own approach.


“We try to cast as wide a net as possible, only asking that the projects have something to do with electricity, which brings in a wide variety of projects, from hardcore robotics to unique musical instruments and everything in between,” says Younse. “We have visual artists and electronic musicians and electrical engineers and information theory academics who all attend the meetings and interact with each other and offer suggestions and ask for help.”


The recent explosion of readily available, consumer-level programmable electronics and the ever-increasing popularity of just making stuff have made Dorkbot a destination for the amateur crowd.


“Things like the Arduino project have allowed people with very low levels of technical knowledge to put together impressive small-scale interactive projects without requiring a background in electrical engineering,” says Younse. “We have lots of Web developers and graphic designers and silicon-level software engineers, but at least as many liberal arts students and artists and musicians.”


This year, Dorkbot will also be sharing the stage with Ignite Austin, a group that brings together artists, technologists, thinkers and personalities to give bite-sized presentations about something that interests them or they think is cool.


“Cross pollination between disciplines is one of the most disruptive forces,” says Younse. “And it can drive tremendous creativity if given a chance.”


With all this tech fun, RadioShack isn’t going to just sit on the sidelines. As part of the Dorkbot sponsorship, The Shack gave two Dorkbot presenters each a gift card and challenged them to create something using RadioShack parts. Mickey Delp is building a complete analog synthesizer and Craig Newswanger is building a pinball-style artillery game with a magnetic ball cannon. Wow.


Check back here soon for more Dorkbot Austin updates and details on the two RadioShack builders’ progress. And if you’re in Austin, tell the governor I said hello, eat some food-truck deliciousness for me, and we’ll see you soon.

This is post 1 of 7 in the SXSW 2011 series


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