ReInvent your Neighborhood at Makers and Co Festival Amsterdam

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As part of a series of workshops engaging children in the art of social design, we held a session called ‘Reinvent your Neighborhood’ at the Makers & Co Festival in Amsterdam. The aim of Unexpect is to both to teach children new skills as much as to share the amazing inventions and designs children can create.
The 13 children, all of whom are members of the Weekend Academie in Slotervaart, ranged in age from 9 to 12. We kicked off with a creative energzier to get to know each other before introducing the topic of the workshop and getting down to mapping the different groups of people who might live in the neighbourhood including themselves and what their needs might be.

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Mapping people and challenges in the neighbourhood.

The children named challenges such as old ladies with heavy shopping crossing the road slowly, the police who couldn’t catch the robbers due to slow cars, mothers wondering when their children would come home at night and boys who couldn’t play football because there was dog poo on the grass.

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For inspiration we checked out a number of recent inventions such as Google Glass, 3D printers, Sugru (one of my favorites), and Smart Highways from Roosegaarde Studio. Then the children choose one topic to work on and set out to imagine a solution.

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LittleBits

For protoyping we worked with LittleBits, while they are attraction in themselves, they are also quite an effective rapid prototyping tool. Some children preferred to just draw their ideas or work with clay, carton, straws or of course a combination. Thinking with your hands!

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So what did they make?
My two favorite inventions probably would be the sound warning system for the dogs to keep them off the football field, for which the boys also made a prototype (using the littlebits sound senor and noise output). The other invention was for the mother worried about her children out late, through a repurposed phone, they could send coded light signals, red meaning ‘You need to come home now’ and green for ‘I am on my way’.

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Other inventions included a park bench on wheels for the old ladies, an air canon for rubbish and a ‘friend house’ for children with no friends.

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Showing their work

Thanks to Harriet Robijn my co-facilitator, the children of the weekend Academie and Mira de Graaf and Diana Krabbendam our hosts at the Makers & Co Festival.

Check out our Flickr Set of the workshop. http://www.flickr.com/photos/91070382@N02/
Photographs by ACHT film & fotografie

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LittleBits @ Maker Faire Amsterdam

LittleBits, the brainchild of Ayah Bdeir, an alumna of the MIT Media Lab, is a library of Electronics dubbed as ‘LEGOs for the iPad generation.’ They are pieces of an electronics  which snap together with magnets to create a working circuit, they have a simple color coding, blue for power, green for output and pink for sensors. You can make all kinds of fun things with them. I had just ordered an extended kit as a prototype tool for the new school I am working on called DNS, when I saw the call to take part in the Amsterdam Maker Festival and thought lets join in. And see what children would want to do with LittleBits.

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They look very friendly.

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Putting together the LittleBits, light, slider, motor.

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Attaching things to the motor to see what happens.

On LittleBits:
It wasn’t really a workshop, we just played together and tried things out, some adults were totally glued as were some children, and kept trying different ways to make things turn bleep and light up.
The LittleBits are easy to work with and everyone young and old found them user friendly, on the down side, they are less adjustable than you would want them to be, as in the motion sensor would need to be in a really quiet room to work, the LED light when connected to a sound sensor mainly responds to high tones and stays on for a couple of seconds before going out and you can’t adjust that.
Another point of concern is the strength of the battery which wore down very quickly and the strength of the fan which wouldn’t really blow a sandwich plastic bag up, maybe only for feathers?

On Amsterdam Maker Festival:
This was a try out version, they put the whole thing together in 5 weeks so fair play. It was held in a perfect location, a former factory in Amsterdam North and there were a number of engaging children’s exhibits to interact with, so excellent for kids. I hope when the full version comes, next May 23rd and 24th, 2014 they will also attract the adult Maker scene for example people like Fred Abels, Plakken en Knippen from the Hague, the Dutch DIY Bio group etc. Looking forward!

See here for the flickr set of photos, from Saturday the 7th of September at Maker Faire Amsterdam

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