Last year I attended the first Devoxx4Kids in Gent (Belgium). It is a day where programmers introduce children aged 10 to 14 to programming. That day we used Scratch (a fun online programming framework), Lego Mindstorms and a Mars rover (with emulation). And it was a blast!
Once I returned and edited this video and showed it to my colleagues we quickly came to the conclusion: We need to organize a Dutch version!
Edwin (a JPoint colleague) and I tried a couple of contacts and found a willing foe in the form of the University of Amsterdam. They saw the potential and were kind enough to offer us rooms, laptops, Lego Mindstorms and a completely organized lunch! We in turn hired two students to assist with the sessions and took care of subscription, marketing and the technical know-how. It doesn’t take a lot of organizational skills to organize a Devoxx4Kids session.
Last saturday was the moment of truth, in the morning kids and parents started to arrive at the university. We did a quick introduction, flew around with (off the shelf) quadcopter to start off with the wow-factor and then we went into the sessions. In Belgium all the parents left the kids, but this time most parents accompanied the children into the session rooms. In retrospect this wasn’t very good and next time we should banish parents from the sessions. The sessions we organized:
- Lego Mindstorms
- Arduino (my own session)
The kids were split up into three groups and rotated over all the sessions. Every session was 90 minutes, in retrospect this is a bit long. Most kids got tired and a bit bored after about 45 to 60 minutes. The last track of the day the kids were a lot more distracted. For future Devoxx4Kids events I’d rather do short fun 45 minute sessions instead of complete in depth 90 minute sessions.
Kids learn quickly… even faster than adults! I tried my Arduino session on a couple of adults and they took about 75 minutes to complete all the tasks. The kids did it in record time, we had to improvise and set them a new challenge on the fly. They first made a blinking LED, then hooked up a piezo buzzer to play some music, then they created a ‘musical instrument’ with a photoresistor and the piezo buzzer. Finally (improvised on-the-fly) we made them create a traffic light with three colored LEDs! The quick learning was also noticed in the other sessions.
Our Devoxx4Kids was completely sold out in just 2 hours, so there is a lot of demand for events involving kids and programming. We are going to brainstorm this Wednesday on how we can do more on this front. Keep organizing Devoxx4Kids for 40 kids at the time? Or are there other options? How can we make it pay for itself instead of being fully voluntary…? All ideas are welcome, leave a comment/tweet/email!
Are you not yet convinced you should organize a Devoxx4Kids in your neighbourhood/country? Just watch the video I made during our event:
p.s. Having pictures and video help to tell the story. This video from Devoxx4Kids 2012 in Belgium helped us to get the University of Amsterdam involved!