A Peek into the Vibrant Tapestry of NERD Summit 2024


NERD Summit, born from the New England Regional Developers (NERD) community, has blossomed into a cornerstone event for tech enthusiasts and professionals in the region. Founded with the vision of fostering inclusivity and community building within the tech industry, the summit has expanded its scope. From its humble beginnings as a networking platform, it has evolved into a dynamic event offering diverse opportunities for learning, collaboration, and engagement.

NERD Summit has grown into a renowned tech event celebrated for its diverse sessions, workshops, and discussions tailored to various interests within the industry. Its dedication to fostering a supportive learning atmosphere has attracted a broad spectrum of participants and nurtured a vibrant community of tech enthusiasts. This year, the NERD Summit will be held from March 8th to March 9th, 2024, under the leadership of Kelly Albrecht and Richard Hood (Rick Hood).

In 2023, the NERD Summit successfully transitioned from virtual gatherings to in-person events. The event brought together tech professionals and enthusiasts alike, offering an array of informative talks, workshops, and networking opportunities. This gathering showcased the spirit of innovation and camaraderie within the tech community, solidifying NERD Summit's standing as a premier tech event in New England.

NERD Summit 2023

This year's summit will be hosted at the Murray D. Lincoln Campus Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. Among the anticipated highlights are two keynote speakers, David Weinberger and Jessica Cobb, who will set the stage for insightful discussions. Attendees can also look forward to a diverse array of sessions covering various tech topics, ranging from "Jobs for NERDS" to "Let’s Chat about ChatGPT" and "Testing."

The event features four exceptional workshops, comprising three half-day sessions and one full-day session. The full-day workshop, titled "AI-Enhanced Coding: A Practical Workshop for All Levels," caters to a wide range of attendees, from beginners to advanced coders. Additionally, there is a half-day workshop focused on the basics of microcontrollers, utilizing the Raspberry Pi Pico. For attendees seeking a more interactive and family-friendly experience, two half-day workshops, "Inventure: Make It Glow" And "Inventure: Terra-Forming," are available. These sessions are designed to be engaging for "kids of all ages," whether they attend solo or with parents. Jessica Cobb, the keynote speaker for Saturday's event, will also conduct both workshops.

In a recent conversation, we asked organiser Rick Hood for insights into what attendees can expect from this year's event.

Rick Hood

Rick is quite nostalgic about previous years' NERD Summit. 

"I think last year was one of the best summits ever. I particularly had fun with the live coding sessions, which is where music and visuals are created with code on the fly."

Rick highlighted some standout events from last year's NERD Summit, including the Saturday keynote on "Creativity under Constraint," where attendees explored the concept using a small set of LEGOs. He also emphasized the Raspberry Pi Pico training session led by Stephen Cross as another example of "fun tech" that goes beyond conventional tech education, adding an element of enjoyment and uniqueness to the learning experience.

In assessing this year's anticipated turnout for the NERD Summit, organizer Rick Hood reflects on previous successes and current registration numbers.

"We had 243 registrations in 2023, which was amazing for our first in-person year after COVID," 

notes an organizer. 

"We are hoping to get around the same this year, but things are slower this year and we are not sure why.

By the time of this conversation the NERD Summit 2024 had received 160 registrations, and the organizers do expect a potential turnout of 200 participants. 

The organizers express a need for more submissions and unique topics focusing on various aspects of Drupal. In Rick's opinion, one unique session in this year's NERD Summit is "Using a Progressive Web App to Teach My Son Absolute Pitch," and he expects more such sessions.

Rick Hood at NERD Summit 2023

"This year's session submissions were down 40% from last year. We are not quite sure why."

Rick notes that finalizing selections is challenging due to the reduced quantity and variety of submissions. They also faced a problem filling all the time slots, so they are considering the possibility of transitioning to a one-day event next year due to the shortfall.

Addressing the one thing they look forward to as part of the organizing team, Rick Hood expresses satisfaction in witnessing the event's successful execution. "It feels good when it all comes together," he remarks.

"Then at the end of the event, I’m wiped out but feeling like it was an accomplishment and happy that people seemed to really enjoy it." 

This sentiment encapsulates the fulfilment derived from the culmination of the NERD Summit's efforts, highlighting the collective sense of achievement among organizers.

As mentioned, NERD Summit 2024 features two keynote speakers, each addressing a different aspect of technology and its impact on society. David Weinberger will deliver the first keynote, "Knowledge without Understanding: The Light Cast by Our AI Nightmares," and Jessica Cobb will present the second keynote, "The Inventure Mindset: Future-fitness on the Frontier."

I had the opportunity to chat with Jessica Cobb, an international emerging technologist and the founder of Mission Control Lab. She shared insights into her upcoming session and her involvement in the Drupal community.

In her session, Cobb will explore the concept of the "inventure mindset," a fusion of invention and adventure that propels individuals towards future fitness amidst changes. With a blend of invention and adventure, Cobb's session promises to navigate the uncertain terrain of emerging technologies, offering attendees a unique perspective on embracing the unknown.

Jessica Cobb

Cobb delves into the essence of the "Inventure Mindset," emphasizing its significance in our approach to the future. She asserts, 

"How we approach the uncertain means everything. From I to AI, it’s not the top of the mountain, result of a product or business that causes transformational, global impact – it’s what is cultivated along the way." 

When asked about why it is important to showcase such topics during events like the NERD Summit, Cobb had an interesting reply highlighting the profound opportunity for growth and fulfilment within the realm of technology.

"Adapting and connecting to the unknown, curiously, creatively, and collaboratively is where, as developers, we get to field our purpose, wield our values and yield meaning," 

She also emphasizes the invaluable nature of in-person events as platforms for exchanging ideas, resources, and enthusiasm among like-minded individuals. She reflects on her own experiences, noting that her most fruitful endeavours have emerged from serendipitous encounters, underscoring the importance of active participation and engagement in such settings.

Offering advice to aspiring professionals venturing into emerging technologies, Cobb encourages them to actively engage with megatrends and explore patterns, probes, and endpoints megatrends from institutes like these: https://www.zukunftsinstitut.de/zukunftsthemen/die-megatrend-map. She believes that understanding and participating in these megatrends fosters a sense of connection to something greater and contributes to shaping the future.

Reflecting on her inspiration drawn from the Drupal community, Cobb acknowledges that,

"Communities make our connection to humankind and our relationship to the planet, possible. The Drupal community is full of cultural anthropologists, storytellers, and technologists sculpting the darkness of the future and creating the pathways that lead us through uncharted, exciting territories."

May the inventure begin!"

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