Sunday, October 10, 2010

HacKidCon

This weekend I attended HacKidCon with my 5-year-old. Overall, it was a very well put-together con, and we would definitely attend again.

The favorite was the "Maker" session with Larry Pesce from PaulDotCom, in which the kids did a basic electronics project consisting of an LED "firefly" in a jar, then built a pneumatic marshmallow cannon. (I'd say the marshmallow cannon was probably the biggest hit of the weekend.) The session was clearly well-planned, and the execution was flawless.

Other high points included magician Mike Bent, building and racing Lego Derby, and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu session with instructors from Mass BJJ.

There was plenty of food, and more importantly coffee, so that worked out very well.

One interesting note was that there were a couple of Lego Mindstorms sets just sitting out in an unused area, and they ended up being a huge hit. It seemed like a bit of an afterthought, but it actually provided a much-needed diversion for the kids AND the adults.

Suggestions for next time:
  • Two days is probably a little much for the younger kids. By day 2 we were both tired and cranky, and ended up leaving in the early afternoon.
  • There should probably be some more physically-oriented activities to let the kids blow off steam. They created their own by tearing around the main hallway throwing footballs at each other, which was probably not ideal. The BJJ session was good, but it would be nice if there was something running throughout the day.
  • More unstructured "village"-type activities. I think some of the sessions would have worked better that way, especially considering that the kids all had parents with them for help. For example, if we could have dropped in, sat at a computer, and worked on some of the programming language activities with a manual and an instructor available for questions, I think it would have worked better.
  • Related: I don't think one can expect kids to sit in front of a pile of computers, robots, electronics, etc. and expect them to wait while they pay attention to some slides.
  • 45 minutes is about the longest a 5-year-old can sit and listen to a lecture, and even that is pushing it. I really don't think the standard conference talk format works well here, though I was surprised how interested the little one was in some of the topics related to online safety.
These aren't complaints, though. Overall, HacKid was very well-executed, and all the kids seemed to have a great time. I have to tip my hat to the organizers and sponsors for a job well done. See you next year!

2 comments:

Bugbear said...

Great wrap up on the con. I am looking forward to post mortem with Advisory board. Agree with a lot of comments regarding younger kids. Glad you liked the Mindstorms. ;)

Bugbear

Mara said...

We didn't have any problems with the two day format, but I'll agree that we spent a lot of time out in the hallway because our 5 year old just couldn't sit still and listen for that long. Overall, the whole con was a blast, and my son is already asking when we can go again!