Teaching A New Generation

This is a special guest blog post by Alex Gibson of NodeBots NZ.  You can follow him on Twitter at @PrototypeAlex.

Two weekends ago, I was invited to take part in the 2015 Maker Party Wellington.  Maker Party is an annual campaign created by Mozilla to teach the culture, mechanics and citizenship of the Web through thousands of community-run events around the world. It was a very successful event, run by, and alongside amazing people, and I’d like to share my experience before, during and after this one of a kind occasion.

Pop Up Science

To begin with, I had no idea what a Maker Party consisted of, nor what it was about. It turns out it’s a very big event, with hundreds of adults and children, people of all ages, making their way through various stalls of science and technology; learning all about the web, programming, crafts, scientific experimentation, electronics and even music creation and visualisation. The amount of technology showcased at the Maker Party was truly awesome.

As a brief aside, outside of my day job as a computer programmer for a company called Atomic, I run NodeBots New Zealand.  NodeBots is a platform created to help teach robotics and electronics to adults and children with the help of JavaScript (the programming language of the web), and this is exactly what I had agreed to present at the Maker Party.

Two boys battle sumobots using computer programming.The stall I ran showcased two 2-wheeled robots, that users control to compete in a sumo fight, which if you haven’t seen before, is when contestants fight to push one another out of a circle. With that as the goal, we taught how electronic servos work to spin the wheels, all the way through to how the logic statements in JavaScript work to drive the robot. I’d also thrown in some eye catching components into it, such as NeoPixel googles and robotic claws, both of which worked a treat.

Blinded By Science

The kids loved it, the younger ones played with the sumobots in a command driven way, which teaches the very beginnings of logic, the older children and adults were taught how to write the code needed to drive the sumobots straight into battle. One 8 year old in particular, escaped out of the program I’d written to control the sumobots, and started re-writing my code to allow the robot to simulate a dance.  To see this from a child as young as 7 fills me with hope that the new generation will go places I could never even dream of.

Remixing Visuals

Other than the amazing feeling of teaching eager minds about science and technology, meeting the other like minded people running their own stalls is incredible, it’s amazing that there’s so many of us doing it yet this was the first time we’d all met one another. Making those connections alone is enough to make it a successful event, but added with the fact we’re inspiring the youth to get excited about science makes the Mozilla Maker Party and indispensable event in modern day culture.

If you see another Maker Party pop up in your town, do make the effort to drop down, you won’t be disappointed.

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