Hack Sioux Falls Final Projects (Fall 2018)

Fifteen kids, seven meet-ups, zero shorted boards, seven blown LEDs, one burnt finger, and two months of fun. That sums up our second Hack Sioux Falls project hosted by Code Bootcamp School. And it was a ton of fun.

When I first launched this project in April, 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?

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This Hack Sioux Falls project was Christmas themed, and the kids build a “tamper-proof Christmas presents” Kind of like what a spy would use to know if someone messed with their presents. This video explains the project:

I wrote previously about the lessons learned from the first Hack Sioux Falls project and how I wanted to adjust the format and theme. Instead of leaving the challenge open-ended, I defined a base project for all of the kids to follow — a tamper-proof Christmas present — and then challenged the kids to explore around that project to come up with their own ideas.

Just like our first event, the ages ranged from about 4th grade through high-school and very few had any electronics experience. We did have a few returning kids from our earlier events, which helped.

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:

Kyra wrote some custom code to keep track of each time the box
was tampered with. A very cool addition.
Cael built his tamper-proof box out of Legos and gave it a fancy name.
Miles added a passcode to disable the alarm! Very impressive add-on.
Chase added an LED on the outside of his box to tell if it has been triggered.
Everett’s wanted to trick his younger brother who keeps getting into his stuff.
Patric designed added an external LED and separate timer delay.
Payton used an LED to tell if the box has been lightly tampered before the alarm sounds.
Willem is showing off the Christmas tree solder kit that all of
the kids made as part of Hack Sioux Falls.
Kellen demonstrates his box to protect his remote control.

Samantha, Kory, and Jill also completed their projects but did not want to shoot a final video. Everyone did an amazing job, give them a quick watch 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 of kids loved writing coding more than the electronics.
  • Parent participation really improves the overall success. We had a number of parents get REALLY involved this time and it was a lot of fun. I would like to find a way to engage more of the parents.
  • Again this time, our soldering workshop was a huge hit. I bought some pretty elaborate Christmas tree kits from China and I honestly didn’t think we’d get them all working, but we did.
  • Having a pre-selected project and theme really did help. This is how I’ll continue to host this event. (If you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them.)
  • 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.
  • I brought coffee… The parents appreciated that.

Next Phase

We are planning the next Hack Sioux Falls event right now, tickets are on sale at http://hacksiouxfalls.com/. The start date will be in March 2019 and last about 6-weeks.

I have not decided what the next event challenge will be but will announce something in late January. Some ideas include learning about the Internet of Things (IoT), automated robots, communication techniques, and maybe even some animatronics. I have a ton of ideas and the more community support we receive, the more we can explore.

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

First Bank & Trust

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.

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