The concept of Free / Open Source Software, already well understood by LCA attendees, is complemented by a rapidly growing community focused around Open Hardware and "maker culture". One of the drivers of the popularity of the Open Hardware community is easy access to cheap devices such as Arduino, which is a microcontroller development board originally intended for classroom use but now a popular building block in all sorts of wierd and wonderful hobbyist and professional projects. Previous LCAs have featured Open Hardware sessions including Arduino-related talks in various forms including as tutorials, paper presentations, and the Embedded Linux miniconf, and these sessions have always attracted a lot of interest from conference delegates.
Interest in Open Hardware is high among FOSS enthusiasts but there is also a barrier to entry with the perceived difficulty and dangers of dealing with hot soldering irons, unknown components and unfamiliar naming schemes. The Arduino Miniconf will use the Arduino microcontroller board as a stepping stone to help ease software developers into dealing with Open Hardware, starting with a hands-on assembly session at the start of the day when participants will have an opportunity to assemble an Arduino "shield" (expansion board) with the assistance of experienced developers. A special shield kit will be made available to participants at minimal cost that will include the PCB and all parts required to assemble it. Sources of cheap tools such as soldering irons and wire cutters have already been investigated.
The day will then work on to progressively more advanced topics in the form of presentations and demonstrations to ensure that even experienced Arduino developers will get value from participation.
Organisers' Google Group
The proposal for the Arduino Miniconf was a collaborative effort of a number of people, and all our organisation is being done "in the open" using a Google Group for discussion. If you're interested in helping out please see groups.google.com/group/arduino-miniconf-2010.