dorkbot san francisco

People doing strange things with electricity

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Review of #dorkbotSF 57 from the RE/Search Newsletter 103.
6. GUEST REVIEWS - Andy Lambert: My first San Francisco DorkBot [curated by SRL's Karen Marcelo] experience took place Wed March 30, 2011 at the Palace of Fine Arts' Exploratorium, and I can't think of a more fitting venue. The vague notion I had of what DorkBot was all about—a symposium for excited techies to showcase their latest creations—evoked images of a playground for adults, which is precisely what the Exploratorium seemed to provide at first entrance. The workshop, especially, catered to this playground theme, with wires spaghettied out of bits of circuitry and little motors whirring away.

As the event got underway, the audience was invited to discard the food and drink bans plastered to the doors of the little auditorium, and to indulge in grilled cheese sandwiches and whatever alcohol had been smuggled in. This nonchalance on behalf of our curator set the tone for the remainder of the evening, and all that followed inspired a childlike wonderment that further instilled the notion that adults could still play. To play and still be taken seriously--how refreshing!

A few of the Exploratorium's own were first to take the stage, where they proceeded to explain some recent and future exhibits. The most exciting of these was a project that used sensors similar to those found in modern cell phones to measure the degree of zero gravity and inertia experienced by skateboarders. Next, an Art Institute instructor provided an informed, beautifully-illustrated lecture on the development of film animation and computer art, and its proported ability to synthesize all former mediums, with a subsequent screening of the speaker's short films. By far the highlight of the evening, however, was a West Oakland artists' collective presenting a high-voltage sculpture embodying their conception of a 50s rocketship engine. After an engrossing talk describing a fantastic charade at last year's Burning Man festival, the group fired up the device, with its brilliant electrical arcs, to an enthralled crowd, for its final public performance.

DorkBot strikes me as the sort of event that varies wildly in content and concept from month to month, but if my initial encounter is any indication, it's something not to be missed. It was good to feel amazed, and not frightened, by the rapid progress of technology.