The Houston Raspberry Pi User Meetup is a community of coders who believe in the power of technology and empowering people to use coding to solve problems in their local communities. We sat down with meetup organizer, Wanjun Zhang, to discuss the importance of meetups and how a collaborative tech community can help you experience technology in a whole new light.
What's your day job?
I’m an educator at Code Park, a non-profit organization that provides creative coding classes to underserved youth in the Greater Houston Area.
Why did you decide to organize a meetup group?
I created the Houston Raspberry Pi Users Group around the idea that *anyone* can learn about computer science through fun and practical projects with the Raspberry Pi, the tiny $30 computer. Moreover, I wanted to be part of a collaborative tech community where artists and coders alike build fun things and learn from each other.
How has the meetup community impacted you?
Professionally, I honed public speaking and people skills. I also learned a lot about creating a positive and creative learning environment and was able to bring that energy into Code Park workshops. Personally, I met and made friends with awesome folks who shared similar interests in everything from calligraphy to photography to machine-learning for cat herding.
Why do you think its important for people to participate in meetup communities?
Meetups are like the accelerators of your hobbies and interests. It’s a neat way to experience technologies you wish to explore. You immediately become looped-in on the latest happenings with experts and leaders in that particular field. If you are already sure about your interests, start your own meetup or go to an existing one to connect with people who share your enthusiasm.
What's your advice for someone interested in developing their own meetup group?
Like any community-building, think about what it takes to provide a valuable experience for everyone involved. Beyond that, think through logistics. What is the purpose of your Meetup? Is it more casual or structured? Mostly importantly, are you going to feed people?
Who comes to your meetup?
A mix of people of different professions and backgrounds. Our members range from high school teachers to entrepreneurs making physical IOT devices to vintage arcade cabinet builders. Our leadership team is half women and that, to a good extent, reflected in the membership as well.
How can people get involved?
Come check us out! We meet twice a month. Show and Tell is every second Wednesday of the month, members show off their projects and give talks and tutorials. Tinker Time is every 4th Wednesday of the month, we work on our projects together. And follow Houston Raspi and Code Park on Twitter!