I am about to start packing before leaving India to go back home. I have spent three weeks as a visiting researcher at IIITB (International Institute of Information Technology – Bangalore) located at Electronics City, just in front of Infosys. During these three weeks I have got to see a version of India a little different from the one many Europeans have. I didn’t come as a tourist, I came to meet professors, researchers, hackers, coders, etc. I also came to write a chapter of my PhD about how to characterize Arduino users (more on this in some months).
During the time here I have been looking at technology, development, entrepreneurship, education … I was a keynote at HCI India – a conference about the importance of human factors when designing technology -, but also had a presentation at Jaaga – the cultural space in central Bangalore -, Srishti School of Arts, Design and Technology, and at Indian Coffee House in Delhi.
Everywhere I went I found people interested in open source technologies, Arduino, Android, Processing, Linux … On April 12th I made a lecture at Srishti School of Arts, and entered in contact with Anders, former student to Tom Igoe, that runs the Toy Lab. The Master students presented their work in the courses they make with Victor Viña with whom I have been meeting before in Barcelona and Malmo. From a conceptual point of view, the Srishti students are very similar to any other design students in Europe, US, or Korea, which are places where I have been teaching at, so are they when it comes to play with technology.
When it comes to the Arduino community in Bangalore, thanks to Kiran Jonnalagadda (also known as the Hasgeek Guy) who arranged a talk on April 15th at Jaaga, I got introduced to a lot of nice people making projects in their spare time using Arduino. From wiimote controlled robots, to Android-to-Arduino connections, passing by irrigation systems (the cool thing about this last project is that the guy with the idea, Sriram, is just 12 years old).
I have to thank Freeman Murray for his hospitality, and all his crew and visiting artists at Jaaga. They will be moving location soon, hopefully to a place with less coconut trees, I was attacked by one just at Jaaga’s entrance
Early in the morning of April 16th I took a flight to Delhi were Priya, Miss 9circuits, introduced me to her team there and guided me through the local electronics market. I learned that IIT-Delhi has a group of students called Technocracy dedicated to arrange talks and workshops around robotics, electronics, science in general. I also got to know that 9circuits ambition is creating a hackerspace to channel those energies beyond the university. They are moving to a much bigger space and will be having more than 5 interns working with them in just a couple of weeks. The core team at 9c is 3 people, but at an informal gathering at Indian Coffee House I could count up to 7 people! They are concentrating in building community at local level and want to bring open source tools to education centers around their area.
Back to Bangalore, on April 19th I was invited to visit Ram and his people at Tenet. They have a fairly big location from where they arrange workshops for colleges, design new PCBs (they do have a fairly large collection of shields coming out soon), and host students needing a nice workspace with internet connection where to build their projects. I think they have a pretty good vision when it comes to encouraging the new undergrads and grads into creating new designs. I liked their fish robot, it is not diving yet, but the videos are really promising.
Prayas, an artist and professor at Srishti, brought me out on April 20th to visit Delhi’s electronics market. It is funny that I am staying at an area called Electronics City, where the only thing I cannot find is a place where to buy resistors. The e-market is about 50min by taxi from the e-city. Together with Prayas I went to the couple of locations where it is possible to purchase Arduino boards directly at a shop. Probably because of how central the market is, it happens to be so much better maintained than the one in Delhi. It is there were I found about the different Arduino compatible boards I spoke about in this article.
I had plans to visit even more locations, included the National Institute of Design in Bangalore, but my leg is not looking good after the accident with the coconut tree. However, Ram, Priya, and some others have started to look into arranging a workshop tour to Bombai, Delhi, and Bangalore (and maybe somewhere else) for the end of August. It would be great to come and get to know more people in the community here. There is a lot going on, and things are evolving really quick.
And now I should probably just get my luggage ready. Before I leave, I found this in my HDD, a picture of the Arduino USB board I used back in 2005 when I came to India for the first time, I was lecturing about prototyping back then, when the project was barely 3 months old … and my only board had a nasty hardware failure (the USB connector was inverted)