Beer and Robots at SXSW: IEEE SA’s Next Generation Networking


Dean Kamen IEEE First Meetup SXSW 2012

Dean Kamen with First Volunteers and Students

As highlighted previously, IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA)  was proud to host prolific inventor, Dean Kamen of DEKA Research & Development and Nobumichi Tosa, of Maywa Denki, at this year’s SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. Both Kamen and Tosa served as outstanding representatives for the IEEE SA, and both presentations generated packed houses and standing ovations.

IEEE SA’s March 12th SXSW Meetup Reception  – otherwise known as the “Beer & Bots Meetup” – celebrated Kamen’s non-profit: FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). FIRST is a global program dedicated to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills

First Volunteers IEEE SXSW Beer & Bots Meetup

Jess Jenkowitz, Claude Barker, Norman Morgan, Bob Metcalfe, Patrick Felty & FIRST Robot

through robotics competitions. The program also inspires innovation and helps foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.

IEEE SA provided refreshments in a relaxed setting in which attendees lined up outside the doors to personally meet Kamen and Tosa. Jon Dudas, President of FIRST attended, along with Regional Executives. FIRST Coaches, Mentors and Student Members were also positioned within the Meetup Pavillion with FIRST competition robots on display. Also in attendance were White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, Kumar Garg, distinguished Professor Bob Metcalfe and senior executives from Time Warner, Dell, Network Solutions and a host of other companies.

Together, IEEE SA and FIRST stressed the importance of  actively engaging and mentoring the next-generation of technology leaders. The stories that emerged in clusters of conversation were inspiring, emotional and unforgettable. The mother of one FIRST student credited the program with turning around her troubled teen. “His school started a FIRST program, and all of a sudden, he had friends, he had interests, good grades and career direction,” she said, her eyes rimmed with tears, “I couldn’t be more thankful for FIRST  and I am surprised and delighted to find them here at SXSW.”   The gratitude and appreciation for the program expressed by FIRST volunteers and students providing moving insight into the passion FIRST coaches and students have for the program. Here is some insight offered by Norman Morgan, FIRST Chief for Team 2468.  In this video, he is accompanied by two of his students, Claude Barker and Jeff Pflueger.


Beer & Bots Meetup SXSW 2012

We were delighted to hear this type of feedback on the FIRST program from Norm’s students, and to gauge some budding interest in the IEEE SA. At the reception, IEEE SA also ran into some surprising IEEE Members like self professed “Evil Genius” William Hurley, (AKA “Whurley”) of Chaotic Moon Labs, who made a splash this year with his neuro-controlled “Board of Imagination” at CES. We also met Joe, a 35-year IEEE Member who stopped by to shake hands and offer kudos for IEEE’s engagement at SXSW. Here’s what Joe had to say about the IEEE SA’s presence at SXSW, in person:

While there has been extensive coverage of all of IEEE hosted events, Dylan Ratigan of MSNBC wrote a terrific article about Dean’s presence at SXSW, which includes this video, shot during the “Beer & Bots” Meetup.  This is just one example of the kind of dialog this mixer inspired. Here, Kamen weighs in on what he considers to be “the best kind of stimulus package” for the United States — and the globe.

During the Meetup, Nobumichi Tosa creatively engaged attendees with his “nonsense instruments”, letting attendees try their hand at the Otamatone.

Maywa Denki at SXSW 2012

Maywa Denki at SXSW 2012

It was a mere 30 minutes before taking the stage for his own Next Stage product demonstration, where with broken English and a terrific sense of humor, Tosa delighted and engaged attendees with witty storytelling and engineering prowess. The story of Mr. Tosa’s emergence as a performance artist and discussion on the nature of art, creativity and innovation are highlighted in the MSNBC interview titled Real Company, Fake Robots Perform at SXSW – MSNBC.

For any attendee, it would be impossible to deny the incredible diversity of attendees at the Beer & Bots audience, in terms of ethnicity, gender, profession, industry and interest.

Beer & Bots attendeee tries Maywa Denki "Otamatone"

Beer & Bots attendeee tries Maywa Denki “Otamatone”

“SXSW event attendees represent the new face of technology collaboration. They are definitely part of the IEEE SA’s target audience,” said Karen McCabe, Senior Director of Strategic Marketing and Product Development for IEEE Standards Association.

Christina Haberle, Website and Digital Marketing Manager for the IEEE SA summarized the activities as follows:  “Our efforts this year were a ‘toe in the water’ for us, as we seek to build IEEE awareness, reach and engage innovators, technologists, developers, designers and business leaders alike. We look forward to pursuing some of the great opportunities SXSW has produced for us, and to attending next year – potentially in an increased capacity.”

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