Open Sauce is the Future of Creator Conventions

open sauce
Photos courtesy of Open Sauce

On the last panel of the first day of Open Sauce 2024, a convention for STEM creators, YouTuber JacksFilms hosted a chaotic and legally dubious game show. “Not Jeopardy” had the same rules as its not namesake, just with lower stakes and clueless contestants with negative scores.

Inflatable planets hovered overhead as they slapped industrial-grade plastic drums to light up LEDs duct-taped to the front. It was a mess, unorganized, and hilarious — just like the rest of the convention.

Open Sauce just finished its second annual event. It’s a convention dedicated to engineers, mechanics, hack smiths, and the YouTubers that inspire them. 

Started last year by YouTuber William Osman as a way place to give creatives a place to shine, this year, the space was double the size and twice as chaotic. It took place at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, which normally hosts rodeos. But this was a different type of shit show. 

A robotic Furby monster from YouTubers Austin Bradley and Evan and Katelyn

Open Sauce had a lot of the usual aspects of an influencer convention. Con staples like overpriced food, merchandise, and the occasional cosplayer in a furry mask were unavoidable.  

Creators like Mark Rober, Adam Savage, and the Backyard Scientist hosted panels and discussions on two stages. They packed each room with discussions about video games, their favorite projects, and the future of space exploration. 

In some panels though, conversation wasn’t the only thing flowing — liquid nitrogen would often creep its fog over the crowd after explosive experiments.

During another panel for the podcast “The Yard,” kids rushed the stage after underwear was shot out of a YouTuber-made blunderbuss. It was as weird as it sounds. 

A Show Unlike Any Other

But what really set Open Sauce apart from VidCons or TwitchCons was the massive selection of creators showing off their booths.

500 individuals got space in four exhibition halls to show off whatever they could possibly imagine. There was a self-moving table, and a real-life Flappy Bird that you could control by flapping your arms. 

Each experiment was paired with others like it — the musical row was a cacophony of chaos, packed with a self-playing recorder and trippy music box. There were maker spaces, where anyone could come rent tools or gather knowledge about your next DIY project. And robotics clubs proved that the next generation can 3-D print almost anything.

There was even a museum full of experiments and projects from YouTubers themselves — like Michael Reeves’ Kart made of electric scooters and William Osman’s fire-spitting toy baby. 

Following the ethos of trial and error, not everything worked. A fried chicken vending machine start-up had an employee tinkering on its insides instead of actually serving food. A horoscope reader made out of an old Gameboy kept resetting before sharing my fortune.

But that rarely put a damper on the creators or their experiments, who were there just to show off their cool new project. Even if it didn’t work.

The convention itself even hit some snags. The first “industry” day — which closed its doors to fans and instead invited only industry insiders — started two hours late after it took longer than expected for the fire marshal to approve the safety of the event. Which makes sense, considering the totaled car honking and smoking at the con’s entrance. 

A broken down beeping car at the entrance of the con

The Future of Cons

At conventions, attending panels and siphoning money out of your wallet is the main activity. There are usually fan-hosted events, like cosplayer meet-ups or K-pop dance circles, but those are for a very specific niche. Open Sauce fixed that problem by having the attendees create the value and the content.

The panels were fun to watch. But what I’ll remember most is a go-kart derby built out of children’s play vehicles and Battlebot champions, paired with their mini counterparts which you could actually fight with (the big ones were too dangerous to even turn on.) The best part was wandering around, entranced by the sights and sounds of engineering and coding I could never even imagine doing.

Open Sauce really felt like the future of conventions, where influencers and fans coexist to create content for everyone to enjoy. A coral reef of trash, circuit boards, and robotic wheelchairs intertwined to create a truly fun atmosphere. Once it figures out the kinks (like getting a proper start time), there is industry-shifting potential.

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