(Photo via Twitter)
The inaugural TechTalk Jr., a kid-friendly version of Rob Nicholson’s TechTalk events hosted in Sussex County, featured the kind of role models the downstate tech advocate believes are so valuable when engaging kids in technology: other kids.
The event, which took place at the Milton Library on Tuesday, Jan. 10, showed the 20 some parents and kids the example of Rohan Kanchana, the 13-year-old Newark Charter student who won the Congressional App Challenge last month with his Geography App.
Phil Hagen, principal consultant with Lewes Technology Consulting, gave a presentation on coding with his daughter where they showed some of the projects she worked on when she was 10 years old.
— Delaware Libraries (@DELibraries) January 10, 2017
“Age is irrelevant when it comes to doing really cool stuff,” said Nicholson, director of business development at SecureNetMD, which provided resources to the event. “We wanted to highlight and show the kids individuals who could possibly serve as motivation to really explore some of the different tech programs and initiatives that are available.”
Having parents sit down with their kids to talk about STEM is another key initiative for TechTalk Jr., where both age groups can appreciate the topics out there, like diagrams of the satellites circling the Earth. (The event’s theme this time focused on space and geography.)
Then there are the fun activities like the “Peanut Butter and Jelly” game led by Shaun Tyndall, founder and director of dev shop Inclind. The premise was simple enough — ask and get answers to “How do you make a PB&J sandwich?” — but the results turned out to be, well, messy. When told to spread peanut butter on bread, Tyndall dunked his hand in the jar to use as his spreader.
“It was a catastrophe,” Nicholson joked.
The activity was meant to teach kids about the basics of communicating what they want and how a computer computes it. Case in point: be specific with your directions.
— Phil Hagen (@PhilHagen) January 10, 2017
This series spawned from the conversations he and other attendees had at previous TechTalks, where he said 80 percent of the conversation kept going back to how they could get kids involved in the tech discussion. The ensuing months that went into planning the TechTalk Jr. events, which involved the input of Delaware Libraries, was a practice in what Nicholson hopes will be a continuing “plug and play” effort — libraries and parents/volunteers compensating for each other’s gaps in trying to bring more kids into tech.
Nicholson also plans on implementing some “local flavor.” For example, holding an event at the Lewes Public Library will give access to the University of Delaware’s Earth, Ocean and Environment department.
For now, Nicholson wants to improve on the most troubling aspect of this past event for the next TechTalk Jr. currently slated for March at the Greenwood Library: snacks and refreshments for those “hangry” kids.