[hackerspaces] More kids+hackerspaces stuff...

john arclight arclight at gmail.com
Fri May 15 17:01:07 CEST 2009

There used to be a place near me called the Youth Science Center.  They were
basically a hands-on museum operated by geeks.  I was in second grade when I
first started going.  The YSC was based in a disused classroom at a public
elementary school.  They sold all kinds of stuff like donated electronics,
lab glassware, etc.  They had a huge Tesla coil, and lots of other
experiments you could play with.

Their classes were things like building and launching model rockets, making
disappearing ink and shooting each other with it (some of it didn't
disappear, but nobody seemed to mind that much) and playing with fire.
There were a bunch of 8-bit TI-99/4a computers there which we taught
ourselves BASIC on.

One of the guys who volunteered there spent 2 years trying to get into the
NASA space program as the youngest astronaut.  I believe he made it into the
finalists for the Challenger 1984 mission that blew up.  The organizers were
engineers and scientists and such.

In any case, their basic policy was that you could hang out and do whatever
you wanted if you were responsible, regardless of age.  The younger kids
usually had parents present.

Sadly, they eventually lost their space, plus there was waning interest in
science from parents vs. after-school soccer and such.  This "club for mad
scientists" eventually closed.

Their other location, in a predominantly Asian neighborhood however, still
survives.  They are much more formal and education-oriented.

The lesson I took away from this is that it all comes down to the parents.
We were able to have this amazing experience because our parents saw the
value in exposing us to people like the amazing geeks who put in time there
and the interesting machines and semi-dangerous activities.  They had grown
up during the space-race and I believe still felt that science, math, and
general tinkering were important.

I think our neighborhood eventually changed and the newer parents didn't see
it that way.

The parents of the kids  at the other location had a different background,
but saw enough value in the museum to personally come up with the money to
keep it going.  If you have supportive parents, you can accomplish a lot.
If you have parents who don't have a good attitude, they are the ones who
most likely cause grief with uncontrolled kids, whining, etc.

In our group, there was a sort of core of the kids who were really
interested. We got to attend chemistry society meetings, geology digs, etc.
They knew that they could trust us to behave and that our parents wouldn't
complain if we came back dirty or ruined our clothes or whatever.

I was also on a Junior rifle shooting league when I was in 7-8th grade, and
it basically worked the same way.  If you give kids responsibility and trust
and their parents are behind it, you can do all kinds of amazing things.  If
you have crummy parents, it's really, really hard.

Sorry this was so long, but I thought it might shed some light on the
matter.  We allow people to bring their kids to our space, but we don't deal
with the general public so much and we trust the parents involved.

One last thing:  Here is the web site for the present-day YSC:


23b Shop Space

On Fri, May 15, 2009 at 3:39 AM, Dave Giancaspro
<dave.giancaspro at gmail.com>wrote:

> I was at a circuit bending workshop one time and a mom brought her son who
> was around 9 years old.  The kid comes up to me, after showing off one of a
> robot he bought in a thrift shop, and asks to use the soldering iron.  I
> immediately turned to the mom who gave me a nod.  He did what he needed to
> do and went on his merry way.
> The mom told me she and her husband were non-technical. She had no idea why
> her son what got her son interested in electronics.  She felt if that's what
> he was into she would get him out to places where he can get exposed to what
> he loved.
> Without a parent there that kid would have had no shot getting the
> soldering iron from me .  Lucky for him he had a mom who figured out how to
> raise a hacker.
> Dave
> On Fri, May 15, 2009 at 1:23 AM, Leigh Honeywell <leigh at hypatia.ca> wrote:
>> This discussion got a bit sidetracked.  I'd love to hear a bit about
>> what other spaces are doing with regards to kids and workshops - have
>> you had any kids do stuff like soldering in your space?  How has that
>> worked out?
>> -Leigh
>> _______________________________________________
>> Discuss mailing list
>> Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
>> http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss
> _______________________________________________
> Discuss mailing list
> Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
> http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.hackerspaces.org/pipermail/discuss/attachments/20090515/e9cdcc33/attachment-0001.htm 

More information about the Discuss mailing list