A meeting of minds for scientists, technologists and artists
March 15-16, 2008: The First SciBarCamp
I helped organize SciBarCamp, the first of a series of spontaneous conferences including scientists, artists, and technologists. The first SciBarCamp took place at Hart House at the University of Toronto on the weekend of March 15-16, 2008, with an opening reception on the evening of March 14. The goal was to create connections between science, entrepreneurs and local businesses, and arts and culture. The themes were:
- The edge of science (eg, synthetic biology, quantum gravity, cognitive science)
- The edge of technology (eg, mobile web, ambient computing, nanotechnology, web 2.0)
- Science 2.0 (open access, changing models of publication and collaboration)
- Scientific literacy and public engagement (eg, one laptop per child project, policy and science, technology as legislation, science as culture, enfranchising the poor, the young, the old)
In the tradition of BarCamps, otherwise known as "unconferences", (see BarCamp.org for more information), the program was decided by the participants at the beginning of the meeting, in the opening reception. Some presentations and discussion topics were be proposed at the SciBarCamp website, but the bulk were decided upon on the opening night. The picture below shows some of the talk proposal sheets, which attendees were encouraged to fill out at any time during the event.
The talks were informal and interactive; to encourage this, speakers who wished to give PowerPoint presentations had twenty minutes to present, while those without will have forty or sixty minutes. Around half of the time was dedicated to small group discussions on topics suggested by the participants, but there were plenty of things going on--autonomous robots roving in their own room across the hall; a visit from a high-speed solar race car... The social events and meals made it easy to meet people from different fields and industries. Our venue, Hart House, is a congenial space with plenty of informal areas to work or talk. There was free wireless access throughout.
Our goals were:
- Igniting new projects, collaborations, business opportunities, and further events.
- Intellectual stimulation and good conversation.
- Integrating science into Toronto's cultural, entrepreneurial, and intellectual activities.
- Prototyping a model that can be easily duplicated elsewhere.
Attendance was free, but was capped at 120 people. The first SciBarCamp was a complete success, and a second, equally successful camp was held in the same venue on May 8-9, 2009.
If you're interested in attending a SciBarCamp or helping organize one, contact Jen Dodd (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your name and contact details. For general information about this unique un-conference, check out the www.SciBarCamp.org website.