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Tech Trek: How Trick or Treating for Geeks Turned to 6,000 People and a 10-Day Journey Through Future Tech

Laura Cowan

By Laura Cowan

Laura K. Cowan is a tech editor and journalist whose work has focused on promoting sustainability initiatives for automotive, green tech, and conscious living media outlets.

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    Tech Trek signs at Grizzly Peak, where the restaurant along with half a dozen others downtown had discounts and freebies.

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    Tech Trek walking signs. The Trek went all over downtown Ann Arbor. Not enough time.

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    The DocNetwork team, Rory, Nigel, and Dominic, play Connect Four, which was astonishingly loud in the echoing room.

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    Alfa Jango guys said they grew a lot in the last year, bringing on several new team members. An interview soon.

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    DaySmart, which was included in the Tech Talk this morning, at their booth.

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    Wacker Chemical produces components of all kinds of household products.

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    The Wacker guys demonstrating their products.

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    Easy bike rides transported attendees.

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    The traffic was awful. Enough said.

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    Netscout folks at Bar Louie.

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    Beth and Sanna of Netscout helped at the booth as well as planning the hackathon.

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    A man rides an electric scooter down Mobility Row, which was filled with electric cars.

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    The Quantum Signal vehicle.

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    Quantum does a lot of virtual testing.

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    Toyota booth on Mobility Row.

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    May Mobility is a fixture at Tech Trek for their self-driving shuttles.

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    We would love to see more tangible tech to draw the crowds. Mobility Row pulled out the stops.

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    The Lincoln with self-driving tech, possibly the same we spotted at TU Automotive this week?

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    The First National Building, where people were well fed and cooled off from the sun.

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    Lots of signage.

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    Doc Network people talking with visitors.

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    Human Element speaks with visitors.

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    There were some visitors we saw everywhere at the Tech Trek. Case in point: the gentleman in the red shirt.

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    Human Element is also hiring for multiple positions.

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    A saxophonist sets up on Maynard and Liberty in the middle of Tech Trek.

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    The first people lining up for the hackathon at ITHAKA at the end of Tech Trek.

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    Marcus of Nexient offers drinks at the hackathon check-in.

"I'm having so much fun," a boy tells his mom. We're on Liberty, and the green Tech Trek backpacks are so ubiquitous that an extra 500 people registered on site to visit the local tech companies who opened their doors around downtown Ann Arbor for Tech Trek for a total of 2101 attendees. Kids and job seekers abound for this event that started just 5 years ago and now has ballooned to 10 days of tech-related conferences and events. We sit here at the hackathon check-in not sure what just happened. Eight conferences in a week. Thousands of followup interviews to pursue. All in Ann Arbor. Except some of these people were visiting from South Korea this week for tech summits, Belgium, Montreal, Paris, Italy, Silicon Valley--to hear the speakers, yes, but often to open their own offices in Ann Arbor to get in on the tech growth, engineering expertise, and collaborative startup culture growing here year over year.

Nearly 4,000 people registered this year for Tech Trek, down from the 6,000 registered last year but only 200 off the number who actually attended. Cronicle Press had a table in the First National Building, where we were well fed with Dominoes pizza and beer from a local brewery. But we barely manned the table. The real action was over on Mobility Row where Toyota, Honda, Quantum Signal, May Mobility, Voxel51 and many more had self-driving and car-sharing tech on display. And the drones on Liberty, the saxophonist who set up, were the icing on the cake. Besides the man with the fabulous mustache. We hardly had time to go beyond SPARK Central on Liberty and visit a few streets of booths. This year's event was massive, spread all over downtown. Our complaints about Ann Arbor tech not being visible are waning fast.

Tech Trek, a2tech360, Ann Arbor tech events

"We test a lot of our self-driving tech virtually," says Quantum Signal, "because it's a lot cheaper to crash a computer than a car."

Companies like DocNetwork and Human Element were hiring, as are countless others. We can't list them all, so we recommend if you're looking for work in Ann Arbor tech, you visit the Ann Arbor SPARK a2tech360 page to look at sponsors at least, to see who was around this week. We met Michael Ploof of Tinker Tech from Ypsi, where they do maker events. Web designers, entrepreneurs out seeing what everyone else in town was doing. For now, we leave you with a short photo gallery of the afternoon's events. But like many other tech week events, we wanted to go behind the scenes where people can't get tickets, don't have time, or won't be able to connect at a more comfortable pace with the people of Ann Arbor tech to hear what they're really about. We will be following up with hundreds of tech folks from Tech Trek just like the other folks we met at other events this week, so the real story is what comes out of tech week: hundreds, if not thousands, of interviews. Thanks for a great week, Ann Arbor tech. We're at the hackathon, and we have to go.

a2tech360, ann arbor tech, tech trek

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