Starting with my favorite “track,” there were several presentations at HOPE that focused on how to make stuff – either from scratch or by repurposing other things in unusual ways. This included a lot of LEDs, microcontrollers, unusual food, and a scale model of a dodo skeleton.

I really enjoyed a talk by Limor Fried and Phillip Torrone called “Citizen Engineer – Consumer Electronics Hacking and Open Source Hardware.” They want to give everyone the materials and the knowledge to build their own weird stuff. Very inspiring, and makes me wish I had more time to play around with their kits – little packets containing circuit boards, LEDs and other key things so that you don’t have to go ripping your electronics apart to get the parts you need. They also have a series of how-to videos on their site, Citizen Engineer.

Next up was Mitch Altman, who talked about some of the cool things you can easily make with microcontrollers, including a device called TV-B-Gone which is a favorite device of a good friend of mine. If you like the idea of being able to covertly turn off TVs, but you don’t want to make one yourself, you can buy one ready made. (Just follow the link above for more info).

A talk called “Kitchen Hack Lab” by Gweeds was all about doing wild experiments with food – some of which worked and some of which were epically unsuccessful. The talk included a live demo of a successful experiment – celery rook cake with celery egg white topping. That last part was cooked on the spot using dry ice. It was dramatic and delicious. Gweeds finished off by showing us a food game based on the surrealist writing pastime, Exquisite Corpse. Play around with an online variation at Delicious Corpse. Then he described how this site is going to evolve into a semantic recipe creation engine, with visual recipe depiction. Insanely ambitious, but of course I loved the idea.

NYCResistor had a panel on their Brooklyn-based hacker collective. They host parties and events and teach classes on things like PHP, soldering, LEDs and knitting. Definitely have to check into that.

There were several others demonstrating their DIY sensibilities, including a throwies workshop by the Graffiti Research Lab (who also had some cool things on display on the vendor floor), but the quasi-track was brilliantly capped by Adam Savage (of Mythbusters) describing his obsessive mission to create a lifelike model of a dodo skeleton, once he realized that one could not be purchased. He essentially became a sculptor in order to do it, and he built the thing one bone at a time from reference photographs. Savage claimed, at the beginning of his talk, that he was not a hacker, but in my opinion, this kind of dedication to his pursuit of do-it-yourself definitely wins him a seat at the table.

Read more of my posts about The Last HOPE: