Pete reports from Campus Party, São Paulo

Pete Lomas, the Raspberry Pi’s hardware designer and all-round good egg, has just been in São Paulo, Brazil, speaking at Campus Party. He sent me this report with a stern warning to edit it thoroughly. Thanks so much Pete – sounds like you had quite the trip!

A spot of housekeeping: I’m travelling all day Monday and some of Tuesday (a byzantine bit of ticket-price optimisation and the fitting in of meetings means that Eben and I have to take three planes and drive about 150 miles to get from California to Cambridge). I’ll be posting here on Tuesday only if I feel awake enough to make sense…

Over to Pete!

Crunch together a 76,000 m2 exhibition hall, 8000 campuseiros and an equivalent number of computers, 10 presentation stages, a 30Gb internet connection and a host of national and international speakers, and you have the week-long event that is Campus Party Brazil 2013. Next to all of this shenanigans, there’s another large hall full of tents for the campuseiros – not surprising given that the activities run from 10am until 10pm every day, followed by trips to the Sambadrome till the early hours (or so they tell me). It’s only a week until carnival starts here in São Paulo, and preparations are in full swing.

Mission Control

Tents ‘r’ Us

The size and scale of Campus Party and the host city of São Paulo take my breath away.  From the tallest building in the city centre, the urbanisation extends as far as the eye can see (and the rain clouds permit). I suppose you would expect this for a city of 18M people, but in person it goes far beyond your most febrile imaginings.

The atmosphere is just amazing; enthusiasm and excitement is bubbling up everywhere. I was going to say it was ‘electrifying’, but that’s taken care of by two sizeable generator sets providing power to the party. The main Anhembi campus feed cannot cope with the demands of Campus Party.

Serious power

The activities are an eclectic mix of teaching, modding, hacking, competitions and other events decided on largely by the campuseiros themselves.  Campus Party takes care of the high-level organisation, security, tents and keynotes; and also provides space for local companies to show their wares in a visitor area that has free admission for the general public.

Robot competition area

Games are much in evidence, with presentations from many of the key players, along with the Intel Extreme Masters tour qualifier for the World Championships Season 6, who I ended up competing with during my presentation – I lost by at least 90db!.

I’d been asked to give a talk about Raspberry Pi to this enormous audience, on one of the largest stages we’ve been invited to present from. (Video of the talk is at the bottom of the page.)

Life of Pi

After the talk I met up very briefly with a young Pi enthusiast and his family. He has made a robot with WiFi based on Pi. I would have loved to talk longer but press interviews had been lined up and I was keeping them waiting, not a good plan, or so I’m told by Liz!

Liz interjects: I am wounded! I actually make a point of getting our principals to spend as much time with members of the community as they can; unfortunately, this time Pete was dragged away by the organisers, who needed to keep things running smoothly and to schedule. WiFi robot family: please get in touch – you’ll find my email address on the Contacts page under the About link above. Pete was really impressed by what you’re doing, and we’d love to learn some more about it and perhaps feature it here on the blog.

Pi Robot

After a quick change, the family was properly kitted out!

An important feature (for me) is the classrooms where dedicated volunteers take groups of school children and give them a first touch of a computer class, or an overview of social media for the more advanced students. Over the week over 4000 children pass through, a remarkable achievement. Coupled with a meal and an hour or so of game-playing afterwards, the kids really seemed enjoy the whole experience.

One of the Campus Party classrooms between sessions

While most of the talks and events were PC-related, there was a really positive contribution from the Raspberry Pi community, with talks from John (maddog) Hall on educational use of Pi and XBMC.

Quite literally on the floor of the hall, I found Alex Ferreira (on the left) giving a tutorial on hardware modding and interfacing.

Alex teaching interfacing – he tried to do a part-ex – Pi for Arduino!

He broke off momentarily to show me one of his more spectacular case mods.

Extreme case-modding

Judging by the number of interviews I gave, plus the number of groups that stopped me on the floor to have a look at the Raspberry Pi, interest in Brazil is certainly growing.

One special interview was by Luciana, a upper school student from Sao Paulo.  She is using Raspberry Pi in her final-year project. She was tremendously enthusiastic, and some of her questions incisive.  Although her project is still to be fully debugged, she remained completely upbeat that she would get there.

Pete is interviewed by Luciana

It was particularly satisfying to have positive discussions with Campus Party team about featuring Raspberry Pi in their London event in September, announced by John Doddrell, the British Consulate General, here in São Paulo.  Exact dates and venue are to be announced soon.

Giving John Doddrell a quick rundown of the features of Raspberry Pi

I’ve demonstrated the Pi so often this week,  I can do it with my eyes closed!

So thanks to everyone at Campus Party that gave Raspberry Pi and myself such a warm welcome, and to the UK in Brazil team for inviting us over. I’m sure we’ll be back soon.

Liz again: Thank you Pete! Next time we send you to Brazil, let’s try to make sure you get some free time as well – I hear those beachside caipirinhas are quite something! 

Video of Pete’s talk is below. He says he wishes it’d been edited down; I think it’s perfect. 

14 comments

Nicolas vellon avatar

Lucky brazilians! Cheers from Buenos Aires

Daniel avatar

jejejeje! ¿por qué no viniste?

surely the campus party was amazing, but Pete’s presence was just perfect! a bunch of friends became interested and we’ll be hacking with pi as soon as the mail package arrives! ^^

Nicolás Vellón avatar

Daniel, ¿De dónde sos?

tzj avatar

Sweet YouTube image :D

tzj avatar

And case mod for that matter!

Montekuri avatar

I’m very sad that I couldn’t go to the Campus Party.

David Guest avatar

What a wonderful talk. .It is most inspiring….

What a pair of brilliant men, Eben and Peter…

Alexandre avatar

Pete I am very grateful!

I hope next year valar more about PI for people Campu Party in Brazil.

It was a great honor to have had the opportunity to talk with you! This year I was a speaker and sought to encourage maximum people to be creative, I managed.

Undoubtedly reve hope you and hand you a present casemod “Doctor Who” Pi “I hope you like’m already studying.: P

Jim Manley avatar

There was supposed to be a Campus Party organized event called “Silicon Valley Tech Festival” in 2011 or 2012, but the web page (http://www.campus-party.org/USA_Home.html) apparently hasn’t been updated since 2011. Given that I’d never heard of it, I’m not surprised it never happened, and there are already a number of hackfests held annually in the Valley that are hosted by Google, Yahoo!, and others. Then, there’s the Maker Faire in May each year as well as professional tech conferences happening year-round from San Francisco to San Jose and everywhere in between. The SV Tech Festival page talks about “imagine South-by-Southwest (SxSW), Burning Man, Maker Faire … all together” but that seems to belie the level of hype promoted by the Campus Party organization. There have been a lot of complaints by Campus Party attendees that the sponsors exert an overbearing amount of control over attendees’ activities, the presentations are given in such proximity that they drown each other out in the large open venues (you can hear nearby presenters over Pete’s mike during his presentation), VIPs get all of the benefits, etc.

It sounds as if someone from outside the U.S. attended events like SxSW, Burning Man, Maker Faire, giant gaming LAN parties in places like Las Vegas, hackfests, etc., and decided to try to mimic them only in name, but not in spirit, becoming corporate-sponsored PR events where VIPs can be paraded in front of young people who don’t know what the aforementioned events are really all about. I’m glad that Pete was invited and allowed to make a presentation about the Foundation and the Pi for nearly an hour, but given that most attendees were PC users who were already well-invested in that platform, I have to wonder if the message was getting through to a significant number of the intended demographic of educators and students who generally can’t afford to attend such events.

Perhaps it’s a case of “There’s no such thing as bad PR”, and we have seen lots of interest in the forum from places like Brazil, which could be a gateway to the underprivileged in South and Central America that was not on the Foundation’s radar initially. I just get a bad feeling when I see heavy-duty conference promoters looking for a way to make a buck jumping on any bandwagon that’s attracting attention, particularly a non-profit foundation and primarily volunteer movement such as that which has grown up around the Pi. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see if the educational message can overcome the self-promotional conference medium.

Alexandre avatar

I’ma hope that next year at Campus Party, sit down, and gather a large number of people and can build my comment as “Robo PI” and encourage more people to seek learning about IP.

Campus Party is a great event, but as soon as I sat down with a group and give met Pete, who knows what most runners can have surprises.

Pete Lomas avatar

Jim IMHO your right, “there is no such thing as bad publicity” but badly targeted possibly?Hopefully this wasn’t bad? As for targeting, we had plenty of coverage outside Campus Party in regional and national press with more to come. Little on TV as far as I am aware but it is difficult for a foreigner to track these things. Without the ‘hype’ of Campus Party I doubt we would have had much interest on our own – unless of course we had sent the dynamic duo AKA (Eben & Liz).

I had an opportunity whilst there to connect with people who are actively committed to our aims and are trying to get Pi into the wider educational community. They are extremely enthusiastic, but the problems surrounding high import duties unfortunately remain.

One could be disparaging about their first touch program for school children being just a ‘hook’ to get them interested in PC’s. However there was genuine interest in letting our lower cost and more open Raspberry Pi platform be part of that activity at future events, (in the free zone). In addition to my talk there were others on Raspberry Pi so the organisers were not just interested in ’headlining’ us.

I’m not aware of any other activity and access on this sort of scale in South America, for sure the US scene has matured and this would probably mitigate against such a paid up event in North America. But where facilities (power, Internet, food and security) are required to make it happen I’m not sure how else this would be achieved in Sao Paulo. Perhaps I’m being naive – but then I am an engineer electronics not social.

As for complaints from the campuseiros, OK the noise seems hard, but the reality for my talk was that they were mostly listening to the live translated feed on their PC’s with earphones or campus supplied headsets. Some apparently just tune in from their table top so don’t physically come to the talk. So I guess the live English was worst that the translated Portuguese, again hard for me to be the judge, it was certainly an unusual environment for me.

As for control of events I saw lots of side events that did not seem to be controlled to any extent. The large flashy booths were all in the free area outside the campus party itself. Yes there were ‘calls to arms’ for the various ‘programmed’ events but only the main sponsors had a presence in the main area and some of this was given over gratis for us to hold our press interviews on Raspberry Pi.

The offer to speak their actually came via the British Consulate as part of their UK in Brazil season, focused at this point on innovation – hence the shirt I was wearing. They kindly paid for the trip with Raspberry Pi being an example of British Innovation. It cost the foundation nothing. (OK my time and a few T-shirts).

I really do believe we can make a difference in the wider South American population and that we are able to achieve our educational goals for all Brazilians. As you say we will have to wait and see if this has brought us closer to achieving that. It’s outcomes that matter not inputs.

I sincerely hope we will get know what the campuseiros really thought, and that they will post here and tell us. I’m always willing to learn if we have done the right thing but I think it was an opportunity not to be missed.

Cheers

Pete

Alexandre avatar

Pete was a great honor to know and be able to talk with you personally. (even with my bad english).

I am a senior at Campus Party Brazil, which I will talk about is my point of view.

The Brazilian people are very creative, such an event in Brazil, still in its infancy. I dream of the day that participants will not be screaming or making noise, as occurs today is activity / promotion or something that stimulates this racket, as it is today.

We are learning that the Campus Party Brazil, is the right place for exchange of information / knowledge, as did the people who sat on the floor to hear me talk about robotics.

As was my lecture on casemod / undertake.

I know that parents are a politically difficult when it comes to importing everything is very expensive, but the Brazilian has will go behind, but at first for educational activities that may take a little longer. But without doubt today the difference in any school in the world is the introduction this fantastic universe of technology / robotics and undoubtedly the Raspberry Pi has a big focus in this area.

Again it was a great honor to meet him in person at Campus Party Brazil and as I said, I am big fan and Your Doctor Who, and please neha the CPBR in 2014 because I have a gift (casemod) to deliver to you!

I have begins pratics Raspberry Pi.

:D

Pete Lomas avatar

Alexandre – Alex is the case modder featured in the blog, his English is an order of magnitude better than my Portuguese. He is particularly interested in Robotics and using Pi to achieve this. It would also help to explain he is fanatical about Doctor Who and was carrying around a sonic screwdriver all week – almost a perfect replica. He is passionate about passing on his skills at modding and interfacing and it was a pleasure to meet him. He promised to make a special Pi Mod – cannot wait! 3D Pi?

Pete

Alexandre Ferreira avatar

Pete, Thanks a lot for everything.

Our 3D Printer Pi Wow!

Yes I can wait, just imagine the work that would make using a 3D Pi: D I’m glad at the thought!

No doubt it will always be a pleasure to share what I know and what I’ve been constantly trying to learn.

Be sure that in 2014 Doctor Who universe is well represented in some work and hopefully make them in PI.

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