Free Digital Workshops in Brooklyn/Harlem, Teach Kids How to Build Robots and Apps
AIGA, the professional association for design, launched a series of free tech and design workshops for teenagers. The first Inspire/Make program in Harlem drew inspiration from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Participants created drawing machines, Android apps and posters based off a previous field trip to the museum.
The three workshops, “Making a Mobile App,” “Be a Graphic Designer” and “Electronics Prototyping with littleBits” catered to high school students, with the latter also open to young children.
Though there are similar programs available for students, many come at a cost. Providing free workshops is key to giving teens access to the skills necessary for their future, said Carla Echevarria, an AIGA board member.
“We thought it would be good to expose these kids to cultural institutions and getting them to think about design and art at an early age,” Echevarria told Us. “It’s a good idea to start them off even before they get to college so kids can start to understand that this is fun and not intimidating.”
The prototyping workshop on Sunday received help from LEGO-like electronics company littleBits. Children as young as six used colorful wires, triggers and sensors to create their own drawing machines that respond to motion or sound.
In an age where iPads are more commonplace than traditional toys, parents at the workshops stressed the importance of learning what goes into making everyday technology
“One mother said it’s not enough for the technology to be there, it has to be understood.
One mother said it’s not enough for the technology to be there, it has to be understood.”
“It’s nice to introduce my son to advanced things like this,” Hyewon Yum said. “It’s his first time using littleBits –- I think I found his next birthday present.”
Using MIT’s App Inventor, high school students in the mobile app workshop merged art with algorithms. Participants chose their three favorite art pieces to create fully functional Android apps, complete with music and sound. In under three hours, students had to solve structural design issues. The third workshop focused on teaching the fundamentals of InDesign to create a poster for the museum.
The program aims to give back to the community and focusing on teens will help develop the next generation of builders and designers, said Stacey Panousopoulos, AIGA’s New York chapter manager.
“College students are already on some sort of path. They have some idea where they’re geared,” she explained. “We felt teens were one of those groups a little bit untouched, but also so many after school programs and nonprofits can benefit from having a design community give back.”
The next series, in collaboration with the Brooklyn Public Library, will show participants how to make their own iBook using archived text.