Technology Will Save Us at Teen Tech

Friday 11th December

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of representing Technology Will Save Us at the Teen Tech event in Stratford, London. We shared the floor with a host of impressive companies including Samsung, IBM, Barclays and the BBC. The purpose of Teen Tech is to get young people more interested in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), and we had a captive audience of 500 children from over 50 schools from all over London.

We ran a series of DIY Gamer Kit workshops at the event, using our version of the popular app ‘Flappy Bird’ to engage students in the creative uses of technology.

First off, we got the kids playing on the DIY Gamer. Once they were familiar with the Arduino console, we asked them to open the game’s code and to try and change the parameters of Flappy Bird – things like making the gaps bigger or the virtual bird fly faster. The thing that struck me was the way the kids immediately got immersed in the Gamer. Compared to the 4k HD ready screens in the Samsung stand next to ours, the Gamer’s monochrome 8 pixel by 8 pixel display is decidedly modest. Yet these digital natives understood straight away what the floating dot on the screen represented and how to interact with it.

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After we explained to the pupils how to upload their changes, they got more comfortable with the Gamer and started slowing down the speed of the bird, decreasing the pull of gravity and completely changing the game. Most of them grasped the way it was programmed straight away – even those with no prior programming experience. The kids loved sharing their inventions and cheats with each other. One student got all his friends to gather around and watch as he hacked the game so that he automatically accumulated the maximum points without having to touch the buttons.

It was great to see the kids share their experiences with one another and learn collaboratively, through play. The workshop was a great success, and will hopefully inspire the attendees to see technology as something they can actively create and be a part of rather than just passively consume.