ForwardFest (copy)

People mill about the Monona Terrace Center during an entrepreneurship competition at the 2016 Forward Festival.

PHOTO BY ERIK LORENZSONN

There’s plenty for entrepreneurs and tech wizards to get out of Forward Festival, Madison’s annual eight-day startup and technology festival that started Thursday. Networking, business development and niche topics like trademark law and product design feature heavily in this year’s lineup of independently organized events.

But there’s also something for yoga fiends, artists, activists, civic enthusiasts, kids — pretty much anyone, really.

“What we try to do is to make (the events) as open, as accessible as possible,” said Laura Strong, one of the organizers of the festival and an executive with Propagate Health.

Strong said social good is an unintentional theme for this year’s festival. The Social Good Summit features entrepreneurs pitching enterprises meant to improve the community, for example, while Chat + Chomp + Plan is a discussion about what inclusion means in the tech community.

Other prominent events like Makeshift, which brings visual arts and food to Olbrich Park, are under the Forward Festival umbrella.

There’s plenty more that could be a draw for Madisonians at large, a lot of which is free to check out. Here’s a rundown of six notable events:

Exploring Silvertech

Tech is often perceived to be the domain of the young and savvy, but there’s a growing movement of entrepreneurs looking to serve older people through innovation. A Madison chapter of Aging 2.0, a national group devoted to the so-called “longevity market,” is hosting a mini-conference on the ways technology can help the elderly. The event will touch on anything from apps to health care tools to physical therapy innovations.

Exploring Silvertech is on Monday at 9:30 a.m. at the Capitol Lakes Retirement Community. Tickets are $10, which covers a lunch.

Technology and Regional Planning

The name of this event may seem a bit dry, but the interactive presentation set up in American Family Insurance’s Dream Bank off the Square is anything but. It lets visitors use immersive tech and design tools for re-imagining the Dane County landscape. One station includes a Sim City-style computer game, another lets visitors design neighborhoods using physical building blocks.

Technology and Regional Planning will be open on Monday from 2 to 5 p.m. at 1 N. Pinckney St. The event is free.

Pressure Chamber

There are plenty of pitching events throughout Forward Festival. For anyone who wants a true high-pressure competition, the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s Pressure Chamber — organized as part of the chamber’s broader neXXpo startup convention — is the ticket. Five startups will go head to head for a chance to win a chance to go with the chamber’s delegation to Silicon Valley and meet with potential financiers.

Pressure Chamber and neXXpo are on Monday at 3:30 p.m. at the Overture Center, 201 State St. Tickets are $30 for non-Chamber members ($10 for members).

Kid’s STEAM Programming

The main family-centric event of the festival focuses on STEAM — the marriage of science, technology, engineering and math with the arts. The all-day event features Meeper BOTS, a Whitewater-made product that lets children build robotic cars out of LEGO-like parts, and CEOs of Tomorrow, a Madison-based nonprofit that helps youth design their own companies.

Kid’s STEAM Programming is Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Memorial Union on 800 Langdon Street. The event is free.

Yoga and Mindfulness

Breathe for Change is a burgeoning Madison startup with a mission of teaching educators how to do yoga. Prior to one of the main events of the festival — the Forward Summit — the group’s trainers experts will also hold an early-morning open class on meditation and yoga. The only catch: You’ll have to bring your own mat, although the instructors will have a few extras to spare.

The free class is Tuesday at 7:30 a.m., and will be on the first-floor deck of the Memorial Union, 800 Langdon Street.

Bunker Labs #dronearound

When it comes to the high-tech landscape, drones have become a big buzzword. For good reason — many entrepreneurs and researchers have been using the aerial vehicles for some fascinating applications, from traffic pattern research to media production. This event from the veterans’ entrepreneurship incubator Bunker Labs gives attendees a chance to actually fly a drone and to give three local drone-centric companies exposure.

Bunker Labs #dronearound is Thursday from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at University Research Park, 505 Rosa Road. The event is free, with a suggested donation to Bunker Labs.

Propagate 

Erik Lorenzsonn is the Capital Times' tech and culture reporter. He joined the team in 2016, after having served as an online editor for Wisconsin Public Radio and having written for publications like The Progressive Magazine and The Poughkeepsie Journal.