How a TEDx organizer’s obsession with hacking led to a brand new programmable toy robot (and a bunch of hackathons for kids)

Participants at Kids Hack Day Stockholm work on a project (Photo: Kids Hack Day)

Participants at Kids Hack Day Stockholm work on a project (Photo: Kids Hack Day)

“You don’t have to know what a circuit is to make it work,” says seven-time TEDx organizer Carl Bärstad, “but if you can make it work, you take something and make something unexpected happen, that creates the motivation to continue exploring and making. It flips that switch [to say] ‘I can do anything.’”

Two years ago, with the help of TEDx organizers from across the globe, he launched Kids’ Hack Day — a series of day-long hackathons for young people dedicated to flipping that switch and encouraging kids to tap into a curiosity about the world through building and deconstructing stuff, whether that’s learning how a lightbulb works or crafting a keyboard out of fruit and a microcontroller.

Kids Hack Day is centered on one main belief, Bärstad says, and that is a need for “spaces in the world where kids can explore technology in a hands-on manner … express their creativity and go on an intellectual adventure.” And since the first event took place in Stockholm, the reach has been wide, with seven other TEDx organizers hosting their own Kids’ Hack Days — in Bogota, Vilinius, Tiznit, Tarfay, Sydney, San Jose and Kampala.

A participant at Kids Hack Day, San José, organized by Diana Zuleta and the TEDxPuraVida team (Photo: Diana Zuleta)

A participant at Kids Hack Day, San José, organized by Diana Zuleta and the TEDxPuraVida team (Photo: Diana Zuleta)

Carl Bärstad at a Kids Hack Day in Sydney, led by Jess Scully, curator of TEDxSydney

A group of kids take on a project at Kids Hack Day Tarfaya, led by TEDxTarfaya organizer El Wali El Alaoui

A group of kids take on a project at Kids Hack Day Tarfaya, led by TEDxTarfaya organizer El Wali El Alaoui

And now, the movement has grown. The events have led a new creation — a hackable toy robot called Quirkbot, developed out of a request from the Kids’ Hack Day community for a fun, simple and interesting tool for the events “that could combine programming, electronics and mechanics.”

The Quirkbot.

The Quirkbot circuit board (Photo: Quirkbot)

To learn more, read about the Quirkbot story on the TEDxVilinus blog, and watch Bärstad’s talk on the educational benefits of hacking below:

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