Hands on fun at HacKid 2014

Last weekend, families and tech industry leaders descended on The Tech Museum of innovation in San Jose, California, for HacKid 2014. We had a great turnout for the event – reaching capacity through advanced ticket sales with over 200 attendees, including parents with children ages 5-17. We were thrilled to again see such great cultural and gender diversity across presenters and participants, with nearly 50% of attendees and 40% of our presenters represented by females.

We had families travel all the way from Hawaii, Tennessee, Ottawa, Toronto, Utah, Chicago and New York to participate!

With a focus STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) enablement, we started HacKid in 2010 in Boston to provide kids and their parents with hands on workshops and activities to raise awareness, excitement and understanding of technology, gaming, mathematics, safety, privacy, networking, security and engineering and their impact on society and culture. Continuing our commitment to bring technology to everyone, we offered numerous educational scholarships for those who would otherwise not be able to attend.

It’s been exciting to work with colleagues and volunteers to organize events like HacKid because it’s a way to give back and demonstrate how the security and technology community is a close-knit group, and we have a blast putting together educational programs to stimulate young, bright minds. It also truly illustrates the spirit of hacking: finding innovative ways to make, break and use things to create a better world.

While the attendees may not have realized it, many of the sessions were lead by notable luminaries, industry experts and researchers. We also had some amazing kids leading sessions as they taught other kids their skills.

The agenda included nearly 30 multidisciplinary sessions each day with a mix of both interactive talks as well as hands-on labs. Popular sessions included “Bring your son or your daughter – it’s time to learn to solder,” “Fun with Crypto(graphy),” “The Science of Locks – improving security by learning how to break it,” “How-to R2D2 – An intro to robotics,” and “If Harry Potter Could Code – Advanced programming in Python the Slytherin Way,” as well as squishy circuit electronics, Raspberry Pi and Minecraft, food hacking, 3D printing, robotics, trebuchet building, and a computer controlled Lego Derby competition.

We also covered internet safety, staying safe online, dealing with cyber bullies, physical self defense, online gaming safety and a session on how the internet works, helping parents communicate and interact with their kids, especially as parents (even the most tech or security savvy) come to the realization that their kids will soon surpass their knowledge, if they haven’t already.

It was thrilling to see the event come together, and we had a ton of fun interacting with the kids and families.

I’d like to give a quick shoutout and thanks to our corporate sponsors, Juniper Networks, Kaspersky Labs, Wickr and No Starch Press, and our many private donors. Most importantly, I’d like to recognize the many individual and family volunteers who gave their time to setup, proctor and mentor the kids and parents across the two days.

The future is bright – and we look forward to organizing more of these events.

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