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HacKIDemia

by Kate Meersschaert

September 09, 2013

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HacKIDemia is a mobile invention lab that enables future changemakers to access and create a hands-on STEAM education that will enable them to solve specific challenges by developing and testing creative solutions and physical artifacts. (from the Hackidemia site)

Curiosity, Empathy and Play
With a focus on fostering "curiosity, empathy and play" and combining science, technology, storytelling and art HacKIDemia is helping the next generation of "autonomous" thinkers discover the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Fine Arts and Math) fields. Through the group’s mobile "maker" workshops, toolkits, mentor training and support of local grassroots entrepreneurship efforts, HacKIDemia is going above and beyond what most "maker" programs offer by attempting to engage a wide range of stakeholders in not only the traditional STEM subjects, but also the fine arts and crafts. HacKIDemia is also uniquely focused on helping young children to discover STEAM fields ranging from 3D printing, micro-electronics, programming, robotics, crafting, biotech and even physics.

While technically more of a "casual learning opportunity" meant to supplement formal learning outside of the school day, HacKIDemia provides compelling resources and training opportunities for educators and schools to allow them to integrate the program into their regular or after-hours schedule. This seems like a logical partnership given recent interest in "Fab Labs" or other in-school "maker" programs and might provide a possible bridge from "after-school" to "in-class." Speaking of Fab Labs, the program employs many tenets of 3D printing in their programming as they explain on their site, "We will introduce kids to new ways of learning abstract and complex concepts by using rapid prototyping technologies designed for novices to get their hands dirty by designing tangible interfaces, interactive toolkits, toys, and new educational templates for class activities." Moving beyond merely experiencing these technologies, participants, parents and mentors are asked to take an active role in creating the program’s curriculum to become "creators" and not just "users" of technology. Perhaps in this way, HacKIDemia is helping participants to ultimately be the ones to write the script for how these technologies might be used and evolve to meet future learning needs.

Making Project-based Learning
Beyond an emphasis on learner-driven activities that exemplify the "maker ethos," HacKIDemia also places an emphasis on Project-based Learning. The group cites the following statistic on their site, "Students who participate in science clubs and competitions at least a few times a year are 50% more likely to select a STEAM-related career plan once in college than those not participating in such activities." And it is through these STEAM-based participatory projects that the group hopes to inspire young children (especially girls and those from underserved populations) to pursue and excel in these subjects, which will only become more central to the workplace of the future. A recent Startup Weekend "Moonshot Pitch" contest held at the group’s Berlin headquarters and co-hosted/judged by two young girls and an internet legend, seems to sum-up this emphasis on hands-on learning, "If you have ever wondered about how the world will look like in the future, you are the right person invited to team up with other designers, geeks, entrepreneurs, makers, hackers and others to spend a creative and challenging afternoon developing and pitching your group’s world changing moonshot venture idea to Vint Cerf." Despite what the group describes as "workshops in a box," HacKIDemia is truly an "outside the box" organization likely to be a part of the conversation helping to shape the learning landscape of the future.

Image: From the HacKIDemia site.