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Interview with Alessandro Ranellucci, from maker to curator of Maker Faire Rome 2023

A few questions for Ranellucci on the work of Arduino, the search for future makers and artificial intelligence

The story of Alessandro Ranellucci is what dreams are made of. He started as a maker and found success, and eventually arrived at where he is today: Head of Arduino BU Product, Business & Open Source Ecosystem and content curator of the most important event in innovation, Maker Faire Rome. We asked him a few questions to learn about the behind the scenes of this major event!

Since its inception, Maker Faire Rome has always been a space where you can hear success stories and get to know the people and companies that have brought about important changes in the world of innovation. Over the years, this event has found its strength in the people who populate it, in the ideas that shape it and the projects that animate it every year, thanks to the makers – scientists, inventors, artists or simple multitalented figures who look beyond the present to design new solutions for the future.

One of these is the story of someone who went from being a maker to being the content curator for Maker Faire Rome: Alessandro Ranellucci, now Head of Arduino BU Products, Business & Open Source Ecosystem and curator for Maker Faire Rome.


Who is Alessandro Ranellucci?

Alessandro Ranellucci is a senior technology leader with a deep passion for innovation, open source, electronics, and govtech. His multifaceted career is made up of extensive experience in software and systems engineering as well as product ideation and management. Today he is a senior manager who combines technology with ambitious business goals, examining emerging technologies and products in their deepest technical details and market context. His incredible skills in software development come from many years of working on complex projects, and his passion for writing code has made him particularly active in open source for more than 20 years. One of his greatest achievements was the development of the open source Slic3r suite, which has since become the most widely used software in the world of 3D printing and digital fabrication. Alessandro Ranellucci is also involved in interaction design, university teaching, and technological outreach. He has extensive experience in managing events on the issues he is most passionate about, with his role as curator of Maker Faire Rome – The European Edition, for which he bolstered the maker movement. He was appointed director of the Make In Italy Foundation, supporting the network of Italian FabLabs, and in 2017 he served on a task force charged with public sector digital transformation under Diego Piacentini. In 2020, Alessandro took an executive role at Arduino, with P&L responsibilities and a global vision spanning technology, R&D, and go-to-market approach. His eclectic career and unique skills in technology and open source make him an extraordinary professional, always looking for exciting challenges and opportunities to contribute to innovation and exchange within the technology community.


Arduino, an important partner for Maker Faire Rome

Arduino is a company that designs, manufactures and supports electronic devices and software, enabling their use by people all over the world through products that are simple, powerful and suitable to meet the needs of all kinds of users. Arduino has always actively participated in Maker Faire Rome, serving this year as a gold partner of the event, which attracts thousands of people and enthusiasts from around the world every year. During this edition, Arduino offered enthusiasts the opportunity to share their creations and admire extraordinary projects inside the Arduino Village, a space where visitors were able to explore the world of microcomputers and technological creativity through a series of innovations and guided activities including with the presence of co-founder, Massimo Banzi.

This is an opportunity to discover the latest trends in the maker world and to appreciate the ingenuity of the community. Some of the projects that stood out were a re-creation of the Space Wars arcade game, made with just a few components and an Arduino Nano ESP32, a robotic bartender called Barbot, who can mix custom cocktails, and the remote-controlled ENROV vehicle, operated remotely with a Nano ESP32.

In addition, Arduino offered educational entertainment with point-based memory games based on the Arduino UNO R4 to test visitors’ memory and concentration skills while offering them the chance to compete thanks to the Arduino Cloud. Arduino’s participation, like every year, proved to be an extraordinary opportunity for all enthusiasts who had the opportunity to meet the industry leader up close.


Alessandro Ranellucci: what does it mean to curate an event like Maker Faire Rome

Alessandro Ranellucci has extensive experience in technology event management, especially through his role as curator of Maker Faire Rome, actively contributing to the promotion of the maker movement. As co-curator, he was responsible for designing the event, defining the topics, scouting new content, evaluating applications (about 1,200 each year), inviting speakers, supervising experts working on specific areas, supervising/supporting all internal teams, providing specific expertise on everything related to content, and dialoguing with the media. He also designed the digital workflows for managing all the data and processes of such a large event (applications, speakers, contracts, sponsors, badges, guest accommodations, etc.), leveraging his Bobuild platform and building a single integrated database. We met with him at the fair, where he spoke several times on the main stage and attended all three days of the event, talking with makers and guests between the pavilions. We took the opportunity to ask him a few questions:


The journey from maker to curator of Maker Faire Rome

“Well, I started dealing with the content of Maker Faire Rome when I was still a maker, so as an enthusiast. My personal story starts more than 11 years ago, like Maker Faire Rome’s, dealing with 3D printing. In my case, I had done a software project to improve 3D printers, which were just emerging at the time, and I found myself, quite accidentally, as the author of the software that today moves a good part of the world’s printers that exist of course with all the innovations that my work follows. Beyond my story, this put me in touch with a budding world of people who were passionate about experimentation, technology, the makers who were beginning to be known around the world, and so this was a great opportunity to work together with the Rome Chamber of Commerce, which at the time had the idea of bringing this very strange format to Rome to build the narrative of this undergrowth of innovators who didn’t even know each other. We would go and find them and they would say, ‘But am I really a maker? What do you mean?’ and we would explain, ‘Look yes, you are a maker. Come, trust us to build a new narrative.’”


Before it was the 3D printer. Now what do you believe will be the most indispensable technology and what role will it have in daily life?

“There has been a major succession of technologies in recent years. The first few years, the strongest image was 3D printers, these little factories that could make objects from a tabletop. Over the years this has gone on with electronics, robotics and, today, we would say with artificial intelligence. This is the newest addition to the maker toolbox. At Maker Faire Rome, in all projects, in all sectors, from agriculture to aerospace, from sports to cybersecurity, we talk about how artificial intelligence is already changing today and will continue to change even the daily lives of all of us, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.”


Who are the makers? What are the most wanted characteristics when selecting present and future makers?

“What are makers to us? In the early years, they were those who built tangible objects with innovative value using certain technologies such as Arduino electronics, 3D printing, and open source. Over the years, we too have done so. Building Maker Faire Rome has broadened horizons. Makers themselves have begun to set goals and then look up from the project, from their lab, to address broad themes. Makers today are innovators, and that’s how we describe them because they are actually people from very different backgrounds. We at Maker Faire Rome bring together hobbyists, groups of enthusiasts who do projects in their spare time along with startups, big companies, universities, and research centers. It doesn’t matter who you are, it matters what you do, what you put on the table. So there you have it, that’s the spirit we portray, people building bits and pieces of the future by overcoming traditional disciplinary barriers, even those of educational backgrounds. We find that there are more and more makers every year and often they are the ones who were visitors in previous years and came out of the fair experience with the drive to change something for the better in this world.”


Maker Faire Rome – The European Edition has been committed since its very first editions to make innovation accessible and usable to all, with the aim of not leaving anyone behind. Its blog is always updated and full of opportunities and inspiration for makers, makers, startups, SMEs and all the curious ones who wish to enrich their knowledge and expand their business, in Italy and abroad.

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