It started in Atlanta (as these things do), spread to San Francisco, then to Boston and Tokyo, and seeds are beginning to germinate in other cities too…
2015 saw the rise of a new kind of collaboration in the computational design community, and yet another indication that Dynamo is coming into its own as an industry tool. You have seen evidence of these clandestine meetings on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Some of your friends might even be insiders themselves! Dynamo user groups are becoming vibrant places of professional idea sharing and learning.
If you have one near you, go. If you don’t have a group near you, keep reading for ideas on how to start one.
At the San Francisco group’s January meeting, a group of students presented their final project from last semester’s first-ever Revit + Dynamo class at the California College of the Arts. (In full disclosure, I co-taught the class with a colleague, Patrick Tierney!) It sparked one of the best discussions I’ve had the pleasure to be part of recently about how we as practitioners and educators should use, present, and teach computational design and building information modeling. The group has become a regular highlight in the second week of the month for me, and I hope other readers will find and/or start something as fulfilling.
I had the chance to interview some of the early movers and shakers in this world of Dynamo user groups, and I have collected some of their insight here. It is striking to me how differently each group is structured and how richly diverse each group has already become.
|Atlanta Dynamo User Group
The spark that inspired the Atlanta Dynamo workshop was a day-long Dynamo workshop held at Georgia Tech in December of 2014, just after that year’s Autodesk University conference. The workshop had a handful of attendees from each of about 10 local firms, and afterward there was a shared desire to form a group that would help everyone share information and learn useful applications for Dynamo in the AEC industry. Ben Osborne took the lead in organizing the group, and the group continues to meet and set their own agenda. The group meets about once per month, usually in the early evenings at a host office, and it’s organized primarily through the LinkedIn group.
|San Francisco Dynamo User Group (SFDUG)
The San Francisco Dynamo User Group was certainly inspired by the successful start of the group in Atlanta. It was apparent at one point last summer that there was a steadily growing Dynamo user base in the Bay Area. I ran into César Escalante and Brok Howard at HOK one day, and once César suggested that we should start a group here, we had our first meeting a few weeks later! The San Francisco group meets like clockwork on the second Wednesday of each month, usually in the evenings, but occasionally midday if, say, a remote guest speaker from Oslo doesn’t want to present at 3 AM his time. Meetings are announced via the group’s blog, Twitter account, and email distribution list.
Recordings from recent meetings can be found here:
- January 2016: Courtney Howard (CannonDesign) and César Escalante (HOK) “Dynamo at AU 2015” and Denita Irsjad, Trenton Jewett, and Anh Vo (California College of the Arts) “Dynamo at CCA, Student Project”
- November 2015: Håvard Vasshaug (Snøhetta) “Dynamo for Architectural and Structural Projects”
- October 2015: Colin McCrone (Autodesk) “Practical Revit” and Adam Sheather (YTL) “Getting Navis DynaWorking!”
- September 2015: Glenn Katz (Standford University) “Optimization with Dynamo” and Mohammad Asl (Autodesk) “Intro to Optimo”
- August 2015: Colin McCrone (Autodesk) “Survey of Dynamo Packages” and César Escalante (HOK) “Weaving Facade”
Boston Society of Architects (BSA)
The Dynamo user group in Boston wins the contest for the best name and the best logo. (In case you missed it, “Dynamo-litia” is a riff on Boston’s venerated “militia” who rode into the history books at the Battles of Lexington and Concord.) The group is modeled as a spin-off from the Revit User Group of the Boston Society of Architects, which is one of the oldest and largest chapters of the AIA. Meetings occur midday to cater to local professionals downtown. The mission, at least initially, is to update participants with new advancements in the Dynamo world, to help educate professionals to take advantage of useful workflows involving Dynamo, and to generally share information. Meetings are advertised through Twitter.
Recordings from recent meetings can be found here:
|Dynamo Hands-On Tokyo
The Dynamo user group in Tokyo has been organized to help promote both computational design and BIM in the Tokyo AEC community. Primarily driven by a group of “Dynamo evangelists,” they organize local workshops and help support localized information on Dynamo in Japanese. The Facebook group is a great source of information for Japanese professionals.
There are a few different models for how Dynamo user group meeting are run. The Atlanta group is more hands-on from what I gather from Twitter. Expect to find participants show up with their laptops after work to hash through questions and challenges. Presenters at the group are also known to produce and share really great learning content.
The San Francisco group generally has two speakers per meeting, one to present an educational topic and another to be the featured speaker, talking about a successful office workflow, a particular package, compelling work, etc. A sponsor, Ideate, provides food for the group, and participants are encouraged to help plan future meetings as part of the steering committee.
The Boston group’s meetings are well-structured, and the meeting recordings are quite content-rich as a result. There is a wealth of information that local professionals have to share about Dynamo in practice. You can usually find a Dynamo team member or two there as well since Boston is the home base of the U.S.-based Dynamo team.
And check out these beautiful faces from our friends in Tokyo!
Where are these groups headed now that they are established? In the responses to my questions about this, I heard some common themes. In the quest to keep the design industry moving forward, these groups mean to establish a lasting place of exchange—ideas, guest lectures, and cooperative solution finding. The groups each have an “evangelical” or educational mission as well, to enable other local professionals to venture into design computation.
|“I hope that the Dynamo-litia continues to gain momentum in Boston and flourish into a rich forum for sharing ideas and asking questions. In the spirit of open-source that led to Dynamo’s conception, I would like to see local offices share accomplishments and methodologies in an effort to maintain Boston’s position as a city at the forefront of design technology.” – Kyle Martin|
Honorable mentions by way of Dynamo User Groups are certainly owed to these groups, which are just several among many that have started to feature more Dynamo content. Perhaps the next Dynamo User Group will grow out of, or into, one of these communities!
- Paris Revit User Group
- The Northeast Ohio Revit User Group (Cleveland Rocks!)
- Los Angeles Revit User Group
Early Instigators (people like you!)
Here are a few names you’ll run across in the world of Dynamo User Groups. These guys and a much larger group of dedicated professionals helped start the groups going on now.
|Ben Osborne (Atlanta) is a guy who, like many of us, is a grown-up version of the kid who played with Legos way too much. Ben is a structural engineer, he’s passionate about BIM, and as he says, “Dynamo gives me the ability to fill in the gaps that Revit can’t.” Ben and his wife also just recently welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world. (We hope her first words won’t be “List.Map”.)|
|César Escalante (San Francisco) is a designer, architect, educator, collaborator, technology enthusiastic, with an insatiable curiosity who enjoys the act of discovering and sharing solutions. Dynamo-analogously, César identifies best with the wires between nodes because they create connections, exchange information, and—my addition—are fairly fundamental to have around.|
|Kyle Martin (Boston) is a real emerging technology evangelist in his own right. He has been using Dynamo for not much more than a year, having come to computational BIM without ever having especially identified with scripting previously. As he puts it, “in an effort to alleviate my suffering and ultimately gain back extra time for the project, I found refuge in Dynamo as an ideal solution for automating tasks and developing tools that could be used repeatedly across projects.”|
|Makoto Ohura (Tokyo) is a technical specialist at Autodesk Japan and author of AutoCAD VBA and AutoCAD customization books.|
Ben, César, Kyle, and Ohura share some advice for you, Dear Reader.
- Do your homework: The only way to learn to code with Dynamo is by doing it. Identify a design problem and tackle it. There will be a lot of trial and errors, missteps, and failed results, but nothing can replace the joy getting your first algorithm to work.
- Don’t do it alone: Establish partnerships with people that share your same level of passion about computational design and engage them to collaborate with you. Engage into the dynamo blog discussions for support and learn from the work done by others.
- Share your knowledge: I can’t appreciate enough how much knowledge I have gained from the experience that others have made available, for free. To quote the Dalai Lama: “Sharing Knowledge is the only way to achieve immortality”.
- Make time and find opportunities: Identifying a specific problem will provide a framework with which to search for answers and guide your workflow. Also, focus on the underlying principles of visual programming and embrace flexibility. There isn’t a universal Dynamo definition that responds to multiple problems, every task requires slight modifications and customizations to correspond to the unique conditions of your project.
- Don’t give up: and ask for help early and often.