Tag Archives: #MakerParty

Mozilla’s Maker Parties Teach Web to the World

The invasive Japanese knotweed has become a tricky ecological problem in Pennsylvania. But at the Pittsburgh Maker Party on August 2, Albert Pantone showed kids how to mix the pesky weed with cotton and soda ash, eventually transforming it into handmade paper.

The Pittsburgh Maker Party brought a dozen organizations together at the Society for Contemporary Craft and let more than 200 kids and parents get their hands dirty making seed bombs, creating mobile apps, or shooting marshmallows in the air with a bike pump.

It was only one of more than 2,000 Mozilla Maker Parties held in 368 cities around the globe since mid-July, which aim to “teach the web on a global scale through hands-on learning and making.” The events range in participants, size, activities, and resources available. What they have in common is the goal of equipping people with digital literacy and web skills so they can understand and help mold the web, not just consume it.

To do that, the events often teach partygoers Mozilla’s Webmaker tools like Thimble, which lets users write HTML and CSS on the left of the screen and instantly preview their work on the right. Another tool, X-Ray Goggles, let people peek behind any website and check its code. At the Pittsburgh maker party, the Remake Learning Digital Corps helped kids in attendance “hack” the New York Times’ website and replace the headlines with their own.

In Cape Town, South Africa, Teen girls learned to code with HTML and CSS. Then, they design websites for local community organizations.
 “In English, ‘learning’ can sound like as passive a verb as they come, yet learning is the most all-encompassing, mind-devouring, time-consuming, and dare I say intoxicating experience one may have,” Ani Martinez, head of the Remake Learning Digital Corps, wrote last month in a post about the maker party. “That’s what gives Maker Parties their vibe and why they are such the success they’ve become.”

The maker parties’ success also stems from how easily organizers can share detailed event reports, tweets, and videos with other makers around the world. The posts inspire ideas for future parties and are nearly perfect examples of the body of collective knowledge that makes the internet so powerful.

Here’s a handful of other amazing Maker Parties that taught people about the web, its inner workings, and the power of using it to create:

  • The Brooklyn College Community Partnership hosted a nine-day open house in the first drop-in teen makerspace in Brooklyn. The days were packed with 3D modeling, inventing contraptions that could save people on a deserted island, and debating what should go into a maker manifesto. At the end of the event, kids and educators reimagined their makerspace and built intricate prototypes of a dream space that included hydroponic gardens and a bamboo lounge.
  • The Code4CT program teaches teen girls in Cape Town, South Africa, how to code with HTML and CSS. Then, they design websites for local community organizations. At the Code4CT Maker Party, the girls each brought a friend and passed their new skills on to her.
  • The internet connection dropped out at the Maker Party in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. But the party continued offline as participants discussed how the web functions, voiced their concerns about privacy, and brainstormed other problems—like scams and malware—they find online.
  • At Coworking Monterrey in Mexico, youth got to 3D print their own Maker Party logos and crowns, and they even saw how it might be possible to 3D print a person. They took some great photos in the process.
  • The village of Gangadevipally, India, has no internet connectivity. That didn’t stop Meraj Imran from bringing a Maker Party to the village on a motorcycle to teach awareness about the web to rural families. He used charts to describe HTML tags and 3D prototypes to demonstrate how the internet works.
  • In San Francisco, volunteers and employees of nonprofits got free HTML training to make their websites and newsletters more effective through Aspiration’s Maker Party.
  • At MozFest East Africa in Kampala, Uganda, more than 30 Mozilla Webmaker mentors taught more than 200 kids how to “hack” with Webmaker tools. Mark Surman, the executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, recently wrote about the party in Uganda and explained the challenge of teaching web literacy with both depthand scale.

“We’ll see more people rolling up their sleeves to help people learn by making,” Surman wrote. “And more people organizing themselves in new ways that could massively grow the number of people teaching the web. If we can make happen this summer, much bigger things lay on the path ahead.”

Summer Camps for Maker Kids

What’s better than sitting on the couch playing Minecraft all summer? How about going behind the scenes at Mojang, the game’s developer, in Sweden and getting an inside look at how Minecraft is put together?

That’s just one of the cool activities on tap for kids participating in this year’s Maker Camp, a free, six-week summer camp hosted by Google and MAKE Magazine. It’s offered online and at participating sites around the world.

Held July 7 to August 15, Maker Camp joins kids ages 13 to 18 with scientists, makers, artists, and techies via virtual field trips and hands-on projects. Daily Google+ hangouts, held at 11 a.m. (PST), offer participants incredible learning opportunities. Kids can explore film sound effects with a designer from Skywalker Sound, a division of Lucasfilm, Ltd. They can also visit a robotic zoo of the future with robotics engineers and learn claymation from folks at Aardman Animations (famous for producing the “Wallace & Gromit” series).

Field trips take students behind the scenes at places such as the LEGO headquarters and IDEA House in Denmark, Disneyland’s Fantasmic! pyrotechnics show, and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Imagine the cost of sending your kid to only one of those places this summer.

Each hangout is paired with two daily activities: one basic and one more advanced. For example, after learning about space from Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin and watching the James Webb Space Telescope assembled live, students may make their own milk jug rocket launcher or soda bottle rocket LED fireworks—hands-on projects requiring mostly basic household tools. The full 2014 schedule is available online.

With a similar aim of getting kids to explore and engage in projects out of the classroom, Pittsburgh’s City of Learning invites local students to take advantage of citywide learning opportunities and earn digital badges along the way.


Photo/ Ben Filio

Incoming freshman to Holy Family Academy in Emsworth built their own desks this summer. As part of a three-week summer orientation camp, students spent a day at the Greater Pennsylvania Regional Council of Carpenters Training Center where they learned the basics of carpentry.

Marques Duncan, age 13, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that before he took part in the program, he was planning to go into the military after graduation. Now he may look for a carpentry apprenticeship instead. “I’m so glad I did it,” he told the Post-Gazette. “I’m really proud of myself. Every time I see it, I can think of what I learned here and keep using it.”

The project was funded in part by the Hive Fund for Connected Learning at the Sprout Fund, with additional expenses covered by private donors. Connected Learning is a theory of learning that links teens’ interests, peers, and academics to spur deeper learning in and out of class, because in today’s online world, learning never stops.

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is in on the action with Camp MAKESHOP. Held August 18 to 22, the camp gives students ages 10 to 12 a place to tinker and get their hands dirty using electronics, playing with circuitry, woodworking, and sewing.

Kids ages 4 to 14 can geek out about science at the Carnegie Science Center. Campers experiment with roller coasters, design robots, build bridges, learn about science careers, and tackle other enriching activities at these week-long camps.

Or kids can head over to TechShop, a community workshop and studio for the Pittsburgh maker community. The space, larger than 16,000 square feet, includes everything aspiring makers need, from design software to high-tech tools and equipment.

We’ll be celebrating making and web literacy at a Maker Party this Saturday Aug. 1 with activities and learning stations from the Digital Corps, Pittsburgh City of Learning, and Hive Pittsburgh. When it comes to preparing kids for 21st-century challenges, these activities may even rival spending the summer at the pool.