SparkFun takes over Washington D.C.

One of my favorite parts of being part of the SparkFun world is the opportunities we make as a company to contribute to our greater community. SparkFun operates in many scientific, technological, creative and artisanal spheres as a provider of electronics materials and education, and there’s something deeply rewarding about watching folks use our products to create things we would never have imagined.

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That element of inspiration that comes from starting with a set of parts and pieces and using them to solve a problem – big or small – and making something work is an experience we strive to provide everyday at SparkFun. But the potential for innovation, creation and inspiration can’t be confined to the four walls of our office in Colorado – it belongs in the workshops, classrooms, exhibits and factories our products find their permanent homes in.

So that’s how we ended up in Washington, D.C., in April. Every two years, USASEF (USA Science & Engineering Festival) opens its doors to the public in our capital city as part of the collective national effort to inspire the next generation of innovators.

Our space was located in the RobotFest pavilion, a segment of the show floor dedicated to robotics. While SparkFun is best known at shows like this for teaching soldering in our booth, we knew this year that we needed a way to provide a distinctly fun and inspiring SparkFun experience to as many people as possible.

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And when I say “as many people as possible,” I mean finding a way to introduce the 350,000 show attendees to SparkFun. We had a great time showing off some awesome SparkFun projects built by our creative technologists, including our Cloud Clouds, Simon Trampolines, Edibot, and FliR Camera.

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At USASEF, we taught over a thousand kids how to make a closed circuit using a tutorial we developed in-house. Using a classic paper circuits project as the base, we created a badge version with an illustrated robot character we call “Otto.”

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This is the same tutorial we then took with us to Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest in early May, a show in our local community celebrating makers and inventors right here in Colorado. The contrast from USASEF is striking – in D.C., we were among Lockheed Martin, the FDA, the Air Force and the Smithsonian. But in Longmont, Colo., we were among folks hooking their sump pumps up to the Internet of Things, First Robotics Teams exhibiting their competing ‘bots, or a new drone racing league recruiting teams.

And that contrast is why we send our SparkFun team to events all over the world, all year long. We see events as the crossroads of our community – a chance to interact face-to-face with the people that turn parts into inventions and products into projects, who are part of the same community of thinkers that push the boundaries that take us from learning how to make a circuit to learning how to land on Mars.

Next up: Denver Mini-Maker Faire, June 11-12. See you there!

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