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Geek-A-Palooza "is a different kind of gathering that combines networking with a fun, relaxing atmosphere." I found this to be completely true as a first-time attendee! The Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) 2018 event hosted approximately 150 people on May 3 at the Oak Ridge Country Club in Hopkins, Minnesota.
This event provided an opportunity for local electronics geeks from every industry segment to gather for a professional social event that included great music, food, drinks, games, raffle prizes, and booths. It was a chance for me to reconnect with familiar faces, make new network connections, and learn about various companies, programs, and technologies.
One of the highlights was meeting three alumni from my alma mater (St. Cloud State University). While talking with an engineer who stopped by the I-Connect007 booth, I asked him where he went to school and found out we graduated from the same college. He then told me his boss was also an SCSU alum and proceeded to introduce me to him, and his boss in turn introduced both of us to another alum who was nearby. We quickly turned into an SCSU huddle! The progression of introductions proved to be unexpected, fun, and memorable.
In addition, Geek-A-Palooza MSP 2018 featured three special guests: representatives from FIRST LEGO League, the University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project, and Midwest Drone Racing. FIRST LEGO League “challenges kids to think like scientists and engineers” through team-based tournaments, programs, and events for K–12 students. Their booth included a demonstration of a drivable robot that wagged its tail as it moved!
The University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project, founded by a group of undergraduate students from the U of M College of Science and Engineering in 1990, is one of the oldest and most decorated solar car teams in the United States. This project “teaches members about engineering and management in a complete product development environment.” One engineering student described how the team is divided into specific groups, each with their own specialty, and competes in various races—including a 3,000-km event across Australia. Their most recent vehicle (Eos II) was on display outside the venue.
Midwest Drone Racing hosts drone racing and drone education events. One such event teaches junior high students how to safely fly drones. Their booth included several large and small drones. One of the smallest drones had a camera that could live-stream video onto a TV. Attendees had the opportunity to put on a pair of goggles and experience what the drone was seeing during flight.
Little did I know all that I would come to experience as a first-time attendee of Geek-A-Palooza MSP 2018. The networking event proved successful, especially with the surprise of meeting numerous alumni from my own college. The strong focus on educational events for students of all ages—from elementary school to college—shows that many organizations are considering how to encourage and develop future engineers and electronics professionals. The three special guests served as a testament to the impact of hands-on teaching and learning that many hope will reach the next generation and propel them to action and innovation within the industry.
Want to learn more about Geek-A-Palooza? Check out their website and highlight video:
Kiersten Rohde is an editor for I-Connect007.