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Hackfort: Decoding Treefort's Tech Branch


As technology infiltrates every corner of our lives, our relationship with our gadgets appears increasingly adversarial. Social media steals our information, phones cost a month's rent and email triggers headaches. It begs the question: Why did we create all of this in the first place?

Luckily, Hackfort will descend on Jack's Urban Meeting Place (JUMP) from Thursday, March 21, through Saturday, March 23, to help people remember what they love about technology.

This isn't just another tech conference.

"Hackfort's not about the really technical, nitty-gritty developer engineer stuff," said Hackfort Marketing Director Mike Taylor. "It's more open to people who are excited about technology."

Hackfort's focus on the culture around tech meshes perfectly with Treefort's larger emphasis on inclusion and community.

"It's an all-ages event, and that is unusual," said Chelsea Smith, Hackfort's community and events manager. "We're not just appealing to one demographic with Treefort. It's a gathering place for anybody who loves to celebrate arts and culture."

Boasting more than 30 events in three days, it's not an exaggeration to say Hackfort has something for every visitor. Between events, people can visit Hackfort's Expo Hall to play games with their friends and experience the latest innovations up close.

Here are just a few of the highlights (find a full schedule here):

  • Matthew Wordell

Thursday (1-7:30 p.m.)

At 3 p.m. in JUMP's Inspire Studio, Scott Campbell will tell the story of building his premium illuminated headwear brand LUMATIV, and you might be able to snag a custom light-up Treefort hat that you can rock for the rest of the fest. Then at 4 p.m. in the JUMP Room, advertising legend Chad Rea will teach how to unleash your creativity and avoid being a "dull, unoriginal hack."

Friday (10 a.m.-7 p.m.)

At 11 a.m. in JUMP's Inspire Studio, robotics engineer and Stanford instructor Mikey Siegel will use technology to hack human consciousness and enhance the mind.

Later, at 4 p.m. in the JUMP Room, groundbreaking Sandpoint-based company Solar Roadways will reveal a future where roads, parking lots and driveways are constructed with solar panels. Co-founders Scott and Julie Brusaw will show off their newest solar panels and talk about the company's journey from raising a record-breaking $2.1 million on Indiegogo to transforming the future of energy.

Saturday (10 a.m.-4 p.m.)

On Saturday, Hackfort is pulling out all the stops for kids and families with a series of fun events for people of all ages. At 11 a.m. in JUMP's Loft Room, Dennis Garcia and Darren McCain from Hardware Asylum will pour liquid nitrogen into a custom computer rig to cool down the CPU and ratchet up so much processing power it would cause a computer to catch fire.

Kids will love two exciting workshops at 2 p.m.: learning problem solving with LEGOs during "LEGO Serious Play" in JUMP's Loft Room and creating their own board games with Osama Dorias, a senior game designer at Warner Brothers Games Montreal, in the Inspire Studio.

At 3 p.m., watch an epic varsity eSports match between Boise State University and University of Oregon's League of Legends teams. For those not familiar with eSports, Saturday's event will be the perfect introduction to high-level video game competition. In 2017, Boise State designated eSports as an official varsity sport.

"You have to see eSports live to really get it," said Boise State eSports Director Dr. Chris Haskell. "All of the enthusiasm that people feel for the Broncos in other fields of play, [it's] guaranteed they'll feel for these students as they try to take down one of the biggest, baddest schools around."

  • Glenn Landberg

More Than a Festival

The team behind Hackfort hopes to expand far beyond this three-day festival. Alongside regular meetups, Hackfort director Sean Wakeley plans to host live shows online where people can discuss important topics in tech and "just do fun geeky stuff."

"Because our market is growing, the opportunities for the tech community here are huge right now," said Wakeley. "We want to celebrate nerds, we want to celebrate the culture and have fun."

That spirit of celebration sets Hackfort apart. While the biggest forces in tech face a reckoning over privacy, misinformation, and artificial intelligence, Hackfort feels like technology reclaimed by the people, uniting a passionate community around the entertaining and inspiring elements of innovation.

"Literally, this event is everything I love," said Wakeley. "At the end of the day when Hackfort packs up, I'm going straight to a music stage somewhere with my friends. I couldn't be more excited about that."

Bonus: President Barack Obama mentioned Hackfort in a speech when he visited Boise in
2015, and Hackfort Marketing Director Mike Taylor has turned the commander in
chief’s praise into an anthem. Listen to Hackfort’s new and glorious theme
music below.