After a lot of driving I have safely returned from Hack to the Future in Preston. It was certainly well worth the trip to experience the energy and excitement of over 300 kids and 130 volunteers, speakers, parents and teachers gathering together to enthuse and learn about the world of computer technology. As I have mentioned, more than once, everyone needs to understand the technical revolution they are in the middle off. The implications of not doing so for industry, commerce, entertainment and life in general is just too huge to explain. What this gathering showed was that the facets of technology to get involved in, to use and explore are many and varied. It is not a question of just becoming a programmer and sitting in front of a keyboard. There are many more opportunities out there to fit peoples individual creative talents as they grow and evolve.
I think I would have been there anyway, but with my Cool Stuff Collective super g33k hat (or rather tshirt) on and the subjects I covered in the 38 or so shows this diversity of interests and skills, plus some linking together of the arc of what I talked about on kids TV fitted rather will with aims of the gathering.
Teknoteacher (seen below) was the spark for Hack to the future and then a great rallying of many key organisers and doers piled into.
Being an unconference the agenda formed on the day and a put my talk up twice on the board. Once in the main auditorium and once in a class room setting. The latter worked better for various reasons and ended up in a packed room. However it is always good to be able to share some of this stuff and I was pleased that at least half of each audience had seen the show.
I was also really pleased when I mentioned Forza4, Skylanders and Minecraft that the audience in general already knew the basics of what it was I was talking about, which meant I could explain the much further reaching impact of things like 3d printers when taking in the context of these sorts of gaming platforms.
I also cut a lot out of the talks as there is a more full hour+ version but we were working to 30-40 mins.
Meeting and talking to many people from all over the place was great too. I am sure out paths will cross at future events related to this subject too.
It was great it was a saturday with volunteers, but we all know that this sort of passion for the future and for science, with this sort of diverse options to fit with the interests and abilities of the community needs to be wired into education from the earliest days. There were a lot of very cool teachers at the event, passionate about making these changes. They were fellow evangelists but I am sure they also suffer the evangelist curse that the people in control over their time or budget have no idea why these people are doing what they are doing, until they have finished doing it when its so patently obvious they assume it was their idea in the first place. If it makes the changes happen its great but its a tough rough before, during and after.
Many of the talks had kids completely captivated, there were a lot of practical hands on things like soldering and coding going on too.
Freakyclown was doing a brilliant job of multiple talks on his pretty extreme ethical hacking and pointing out that they really should all get into tech in order to protect us all from the bad guys. Which he did by pointing out that he spent the first part of his career getting in trouble and using his powers for the dark side. As with many grey hats they have to have been there in order to have made the choices and gathered the skills to do what they do. If you get a chance to see him speak, or need to really understand whats going on out there persuade him to one of your events. Whatever you do for a living, whatever industry the things he talks about will affect your lives.
The presentation I talked through was pretty much the same as the vienna one last week (or most of the ones I do at the moment) in slides but the conversation and tone went to some different triggers. Mainly telling kids to keep playing games because experiencing them and using all the features of them start to turn you into a maker and builder. With Minecraft being a typical example.
Eyebeams was kind enough to post a quick interview we did capturing why the event was important.
ProactivePaul also posted a handy 5 minute montage of the entire day. It happens at 2:20 to have my screen as I sparked up Opensim and showed who we created and distribute objects and code directly in virtual environment. (I couldn’t do the live demo in the auditorium session but could in the classroom)
There was a massive raffle at the end for everyone kids and helpers alike. My name got pulled out of the hat and so I now have another Arduino board which is fantastic 🙂
The closing keynote was the very eloquent Dr Tom Crick, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at CMU; Leader of @CompAtSch in Wales. He tied it all up by reminding everyone just ow important computers are, how they impact every aspect of your life and how the traditional geek image is not really that accurate anymore. (Something I try and play with as G33k on the TV, claiming geek back and showing its about sharing and showing the technology not just insular technobabble and lacking social skills).
It was also good to be travelling up with Andy Piper just after his big resignation from IBM after 10+ years. A fellow eightbar originator we share a lot of the same ideals, ideas and history in the expanding tech world. Andy was coopered into being crew at the event as well as organise and run the Nanode session which is a derivative of Arduino.
Here he is moving quickly to explain something on the charts before setting about making some very cool flashing lights
My slides were a variant of this
We have been starting to make sure we collect the pieces from the talks on Lanyrd