Kids Hack Day

Inspired by the global hackerspace movement and (software) hack days, Kids Hack Day is a 1-day event held in various locations around the world, where children and adults come together to “hack” and make new uses of every day items.

This incredibly charming video from the Kids Hack Day kickoff event in Moscow on May 25 shows you what it’s all about. (And, we are tickled to see our own WaterColorBot and EggBot making little appearances as well.)

Call for Reimagined Science Kits

The SPARK (Science Play and Research Kit) Competition is requesting submissions for what they are calling “Reimagining the Chemistry Set of the 21st Century.”

To be clear, we’re interested in science beyond chemistry. We borrow this term to capture the spirit and magic of what the classic chemistry set spawned in the 1940s – 60s. We’re looking for ideas that can engage kids as young as 8 and inspire people who are 88. We’re looking for ideas that encourage kids to explore, create, build and question. We’re looking for ideas that honor kids’ curiosity about how things work.

We’ve delved into that spirit with our posts on Vintage Chemistry Manuals and Vintage Chemistry Sets. We also see it in our community in groups like Public Lab, with projects like Thermal Photography. It is exciting to see this contest trying to promote that spark of curiosity. Submissions are due in January, and we’re looking forward to seeing the winners when they’re announced in February. In the meantime, we would like to hear what you want to see in science kits for the future.

Help Fund the Hacker Scouts Oakland Lab


Our friends at Hacker Scouts have just launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund their move into a new, dedicated space in Oakland.

If funded your support will give our families access to equipment such as 3D printers and laser cutters and fund low cost classes in everything from robotics to woodworking to programming, and together we will fulfill a larger mission of providing a new kind of education to as many kids as we can.

We’ve backed the project, and we’re also honored that they have invited us to participate in one of their pledge rewards, a VIP Maker Dinner with the Hacker Scouts founders and other prominent makers in the Bay Area.

Head over to their campaign to learn more about the materials, tools and site upgrades they’re fundraising for and how they’ll be benefitting the local community as well as the larger maker community.

Field Trips: Atmel Headquarters

Sylvia

Super Awesome Sylvia and I were invited to attend Bring Your Kids to Work Day at Atmel recently. (Atmel, of course, is the company that makes the microcontrollers found inside Arduino products and in many of our own projects and kits.) We were there to help provide tangible, interesting, and playful examples of how Atmel chips can be used. And of course, we weren’t going to miss an opportunity to visit Atmel headquarters!

Photo courtesy of Atmel

The biggest hit with the kids were the Octolively interactive LED modules (sporting the Atmel ATmega164P). When the kids waved their hands over them, the LEDs would light up and ripple. Some of the kids would start out by poking and grabbing at the LEDs until they lit up, but as soon as I told them it would work “even without touching it” their eyes would get big, and they’d wave their hands over the top, enthralled.

Some of the other things we brought were our handheld game, the Meggy Jr RGB (with the ATmega328P); a Bulbdial Clock (Atmega328P again), which points rings of LEDs at different heights down at a central point to create shadow hands of different lengths; our giant Alpha Clock Five (ATMega644A); and the Larson Scanner (ATtiny2313A), which lights up nine red LEDs to make a scanning robot eye.

Photo courtesy of Atmel

Another project that captured the kids’ attention was a Keepon by BeatBots. Other demonstrations included a quadcopter and a hacked hexabot.

Photo courtesy of Atmel

We got to have lunch in the bright sun in the courtyard with Avary Kent, who was demonstrating the PuzzleBox, a brain-controlled helicopter.

Photo courtesy of Atmel

Sylvia got to give the PuzzleBox a try, triggering it to fly as soon as she concentrated hard enough.

Workbench

After lunch, we got to tour of a couple of labs. This workbench was well stocked with a Metcal soldering iron (our favorite) and lots of tools and supplies.

Workbench

Apparently the poor Pleo on this bench needed some repair.

Chip testing machine

This machine is for inspecting and testing chips after they have been removed from their housing.

We got to go into the RF anechoic chamber, and watch as our cell phones stopped receiving any signals.

Horsing around

We also had some time to hang out and horse around with friends new and old. Our friend Paul Rako seemed to be having as much fun as the kids.

Photo courtesy of Atmel

Thanks to Paul and Atmel for inviting us to visit!

Kitty’s Morning Tea

Kitty’s Morning Tea: Kinetic Theory of Matter for Kids, by Christine Liu, is a remarkably charming book and physics lesson for young children.  It’s a short twelve-pages about tea, molecules, and kinetic energy that you can read (in its entirety) above, in a digital edition released by the author.   We love seeing science-themed educational materials for youngsters— and this is no exception.

Christine and friends are running an (already funded) campaign on Kickstarter to print the book and get it into the hands of children, and you can get your own printed copy as one of the rewards.  It’s also available in a Kindle edition, free for the short remaining duration of their campaign.

Young Makers at the Exploratorium

We’re thrilled to be heading back to the Exploratorium this Saturday for the first Young Makers event put on by Make, the Exploratorium, TechShop, and Pixar.

Here’s a little bit about the program from Make’s writeup: “It’s a first experiment in a new program we call Young Makers, in which we intend to create an infrastructure to nurture kids who want to learn by making, beyond what they can do with construction kits. We hope to fulfill a dire need: satisfying a little bit of what shop classes used to do before they, lamentably, started getting booted out of schools.”

We hope to see you there this Saturday between 11 am and 3 pm. There will be BristleBot building going on, as well as BlinkyBug building with our friend Ken Murphy. Ken also has an exhibit called A History of the Sky that is at the Exploratorium through the end of the month and is definitely worth seeing. If you can’t make it this weekend, they’ve got a great line-up of folks for the last Saturday of each month leading up to Maker Faire:


February 27th: Wearables & Soft Circuitry — Adrian Freed

March 27th: Make Your Own Kind of Music — Walter Kitundu and Krys Bobrowski

April 24th: Motors & Mechanisms — Brad Prether and Ernie Fosselius

Update: Dale Dougherty posted an article about the event here.