After School, New York City Youth Design Technology for a Better World
6.19.12 | Young people in grades 6-12 in the New York City area gathered on June 2 to show off their technology and media projects at the 4th annual Emoti-Con! Festival, competing for prizes in innovation and potential for social impact.
Projects on display included everything from a Sonar Infrared SmartChair to a multimedia documentary about the stop-and-frisk policies of the New York City Police Department.
The festival showcased unique technology and media projects developed in informal learning settings, including afterschool programs. The event is designed to help celebrate learning with technology, and give kids a chance to get inspired by their peers and meet professionals in the field.
Held at Parsons The New School for Design, the festival was organized by a small group of partner organizations from the Hive Learning Network NYC: Global Kids, MOUSE, New York Public Libraries, and Parsons.
The HIVE Network links educators at 30 cultural and learning institutions, helping them conceive and create programs that integrate their specialties—natural history, filmmaking, and art, to name a few— with creative, digital projects.
The network combines hands-on learning with digital media and cultural expertise, with the hope that the lessons educators and technologists learn from this experiment can eventually find their way into classrooms.
In an interview with Spotlight last year, HIVE’s director, Chris Lawrence, said it’s exciting to see the doors opening in kids’ minds when they begin to understand the power technology holds to go beyond broadcasting.
“When they realize that they can create those mechanisms that push the content out—that they have a conceptual understanding about how things work in our lives—that’s a powerful spark,” Lawrence said.
Attendees also heard from a team of professionals in the field, including software engineers, new media journalists, and game designers who acted as judges for the event and presented on their own career trajectories.
Merlin DeForest and Axel Lucero, sixth graders from New York’s Quest to Learn School, took home the “Most Entertaining” award for their game “Run.” DeForest and Lucero created the space-themed puzzle game using the programs Arduino and Scratch, which they learned at Q2L’s after school program, Short Circuit.
“We’ve been doing a lot with the Arduino, which is an open source microcontroller platform.” Don Miller, an informal learning developer at Q2L’s parent organization, Institute of Play said in a blog post. “That means the students can create small programs that control lights, speakers, and allow for input from various sensors and switches. This allows for more complex circuits that can do bigger and better things. It was our work with Arduino that led to the custom game controller that Axel and Merlin built for Run.”
The award for “Best Pitch and Crowd Favorite” was given to a group of high school students for “The Dining Band,” a location- and temperature-sensor wrist band designed to help the blind or visually impaired with eating. The winning students—Zainab Oni, Jose Parra, Omar Abreu, Omar Nasr, Winston La, Youssef Saab, and Edvinas Pavliukoit—are participants at MOUSE, a youth development organization that provides technology and leadership training to underserved students.
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