Hack Sioux Falls Final Projects (Fall 2019)

Eleven kids, ten meet-ups, one shorted board, a dozen blown LEDs, zero burnt finger, one story on KDLT, and two months of fun & creativity. That sums up our fourth Hack Sioux Falls project hosted by Code Bootcamp School.

When I first launched this project last year, I had no idea what to expect or what the kids would find interesting, but my idea was simple…

What would happen if we encouraged kids to build something cool using electronics, microcontrollers, sensors, and LEDs?

This Hack Sioux Falls project was different than our previous three events – we challenged the kids to create a spooky, Halloween-themed circuit – and man, did they deliver. This video explains the project

Video explaining the Hack Sioux Falls challenge

Previously I wrote about the lessons learned from the first Hack Sioux Falls project and then what worked great for our second Hack Sioux Falls, I feel that this fourth project went very smooth. Having a specific goal and design in mind helped the kids focus their creativity, and as you’ll see, they were all very creative.

Just like our previous events, the ages ranged from about 3rd grade through high-school and very few had any electronics experience. We did have a few returning kids from our earlier events, which helped.

One major change we made for this event was to use something called PictoBlox. It is a block-based programming tool that auto-generates Arduino code, avoiding the need to write code in C++. The coding aspect has always been the most difficult part for the kids, and PictoBlox was a huge improvement.

Hack Sioux Falls touches on every aspect of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education during our event. Students learned basic electrical engineering, electronic circuits, how micro-controllers work, wrote some C/C++ code, learned how to solder, and we even did a little math — that last one was tough. How many camps touch on every aspect of STEM? None that I have seen.

In addition to hands-on projects, the students learned basic presentation and communication skills while they created a video of their project. They got to explain what they built, the challenges they overcame, and their excitement of what they learned.

Here are some of the kids explaining their final projects, complete with videos:

Dylan and his dad had an amazing time. While the audio didn’t work for the video, it was working earlier in the day and was awesome.
Ellie had a ton of ideas, this was her final version and it turned out great.
Everett came up with this idea and just ran with it! While he had a little help with the programming, he did all of the construction work himself.
Grant and his dad spend a lot of time getting that head to spin just right. Great job you two!
Ian and Avienda teamed up to build the first Pumpkin-Bat-Cat hybrid! They worked together and did an amazing job.
Sam’s spooky eyes turned out great. She had a lot of challenges that she overcame and learned a ton about mechanical engineering. Great job Sam!
Trey successfully scared his mom with his project, which is definitely a win at Hack Sioux Falls! Great job, and I loved your lessons learned.
Willem took a simple skeleton and turned it into a useful and creative solution. Oh, and he scared his mom multiple times in the process – WIN! Excellent job!

Cael and Jillian also completed their projects but were not able to shoot their final videoes. Everyone did an amazing job — watch their videos and like them on YouTube. The videos are only 30-seconds to a minute long.

New Lessons Learned

Each time I run an event, I learn more about what works & what doesn’t. I wanted to share a few observations and how I’ll adjust future Hack Sioux Falls events.

  • Every kid will love something different about the event. I thought everyone would struggle with the code but a few kids loved writing coding more than the electronics.
  • Parent participation really improves the overall success. We had a lot of parents get REALLY involved this time and it was a lot of fun. One change I made was adding a ticket type just for parents. I would like to find a way to engage more of the parents.
  • This time I designed my own cirucit board for the soldering workshop, which was a huge success. The quality was much better than the cheap kits I have been purchasing, I will continue to design my own kits.
  • After the first two group workshops, I immediately split the kids into smaller groups of kids with specific 30-minute blocks to work on their projects. This worked really well. It meant more time for me, but a much better experience for the kids, and parents.

Next Phase

We are planning the next Hack Sioux Falls event right now, tickets will be on sale soon at http://hacksiouxfalls.com/. The start date will sometime in March 2020 and last about 6-weeks.

I have a good idea about what my next challenge will be and it will be announced in late January.


Our Hack Sioux Falls events have some amazing sponsors, they stepped up on an unproven, unclear project and really supported our efforts.

I’d like to specifically thank all of the volunteers and parents that stepped in to help. Many of them joined us for many events.