by: Kenneth Moon
“Technology” means “the science of craft” but “tech” means using STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) to solve problems. Tech offers the innovative thinking that Fort Smith needs to survive the next century. “Tech” probably isn’t something you think about when you hear “Fort Smith,” but over the last few years the tech scene has been taking root in garages across the River Valley, and now those roots are starting to sprout.
Growing up in Fort Smith, I was interested in the maker movement, a community of technology-based DIY-ers , but never had the opportunity to meet those makers. So I joined the Navy as an Information Systems Technician and spent almost a decade traveling the world and learning tech.
I developed an obsession for technology and learned the value of diversity of thought, culture, and race. When I left the Navy and returned here, I wanted to help foster the maker spirit in my hometown, to create something I didn’t have growing up in Fort Smith. Little did I know that something had already started.
Led by Eli McRae, there was a vibrant, growing community of ardent hackers, programmers, makers, and other DIY-ers in Fort Smith. Our group believes in openness, decentralization, and the hacker mindset. By sharing education and information, we have a mission to improve Fort Smith through tech. Our community prototyped a makerspace at Future School outfitted with 3D printers, robotics, and computers.
Students created a Near Field Communication (NFC) security access system from scratch to secure spaces with NFC chipped access badges. They created sculptures and mechanical gears using 3D printers. They hacked on servers and networking equipment normally reserved for corporate enterprise IT systems. And although the Future School was forced to close this prototype due to a lack of space, the legacy will live on through the student’s future creations. We hope to reintroduce it as a public community makerspace.
If you can code, you can create the future. Free Code Camp is a free, self-paced online coding curriculum focusing on web development. It encourages local chapters to collaborate and use their skills to code for non-profits. Fort Smith’s chapter has helped a local church’s website and hopes for more volunteer coding as we grow.
We believe in openness and decentralization. Embodying these values is a technology called Bitcoin. It is a type of internet money that is not controlled by any centralized third party or government. We use it and want others in the community to have the opportunity to participate in this new global economy. Existing entirely in a digital space, acquiring Bitcoin can be cumbersome. We hope to alleviate that in early 2018 by setting up the first Bitcoin ATM in Arkansas, right here in Fort Smith.
Fort Smith’s 2600 has been a home for the like-minded to discuss hacking and new technologies on the first Friday of the month for the past 11 years. Together, they have discovered exploits on poor configurations of local WIFI and determined how to correct those exploits.
They have explored vulnerabilities in coupon barcodes allowing anyone to define the presented value. They hosted demonstrations on encryption processes to secure data. And sometimes they just pick locks. As strange as it sounds, the world is a safer place because of these hackers’ efforts. We hope to educate ourselves and others to think unconventionally in order to find and secure problems before the bad guys find them.
FS2600 wants to invite the public to Shell on the Border, Fort Smith’s premier cyber security capture-the-flag tournament. A Capture-the-Flag tournament is a race to hack all sorts of puzzles—from computers to brain teasers. This event will feature multiple teams in a battle of technical wit competing to take home a customized trophy of glory. The event is for the entire community—not just keyboard masters. You can learn more about the event at shellontheborder.com
If you’re interested in cyber security, come hang out with us. There will be micro-workshops available on basic hacking, Bitcoin, and hands-on lock picking. If you enjoy it, we can find you a place in the growing tech community. We hope when future generations of Arkansas think “tech,” they think of Fort Smith.
Kenneth Moon is a Certified Ethical Hacker and 8 year US Navy Veteran. He has worked in information technology in Dubai, Japan, Kuwait, and Spain. When he returned home to Fort Smith, Arkansas, Kenneth founded Frontier Labs with the mission of leveraging crypto-currency, 3d printing, programming, and hacking to rekindle the innovative spirit that built this frontier town. His personal website is kennethmoon.co.