Saturday, June 4, 2011

TEDxKIDS@Brussels + Design Blocks

I'm back from TEDxKIDS@Brussels.  I did my first TEDx talk and ran two Modkit workshops for about thirty 10 year olds.  For the talk, I focused on the idea of Generation D: Digital. Democracy. DIY.  The talk started with the digital (personal computer) revolution and its roots in the hobbyist/hacker culture.  I then jumped to the democratization of the internet and how the internet helped democratize many domains such as commerce, publishing, fabrication, etc.  This all set the stage for the question:  If hackers (programmers) can help democratize all of these domains, what if hacking (programming) itself was democratized?  This is of course the motivation behind Modkit!

 From Hobby to Hollywood - Ed Baafi talks about the Apple I's move from homebrew to mainstream 

For the TEDxKIDS workshops, I only had about 45 minutes with each set of 14 kids, just enough time for an introduction to the Modkit environment and a proper "Hello World" exercise.  As many of you know, a typical Hello World exercise consists of printing "hello" to the screen or in the case of embedded systems (physical programming) it usually means blinking an LED on and off.  Of course, we started with the typical blinking "hello" using the built-in Arduino LED, but moved on to a more interesting (and appropriate) "Hello."  We used the new Modkit MotoProto Sheilds along with a servo motor and potentiometer knob.  I had the kids trace and cut out their hands on construction paper.  They then, taped the paper hands to the servo and programmed the potentiometer and servo so that they could make their paper hands wave "Hello."  They had a lot of fun!

Unfortunately I just found out about this, but our friend Evelyn Eastmond is raising money for her Design Blocks project on Kickstarter.  There's only a few hours left and she's not yet close to her goal, but we just pledged hoping for a last minute sprint.  Like Modkit, DesignBlocks takes the graphical programming ideas of projects like Scratch and aims to apply them to different domains. In this case the idea is to enable artistic expression, similar to the processing project.  If you see this in the next few hours, make sure to go pledge.  If not, go send Evelyn a comment and encourage her to repost the project.  That way we can all help her spread the word next time.


  1. When I first read this post, I wanted to watch the video but did not have a link.

    Link to Ed's TEDxKids video:

    and the Learn to teach, teach to learn that he describes in the video:,-Teach-2-Learn

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