Twenty kids, twenty-one meet-ups, nine completed projects, three shorted boards, one burnt finger, and four months of fun — that sums up the first ever Hack Sioux Falls project hosted by Code Bootcamp School.
When I launched this project in April, I had no idea what type of projects that the kids would come up with, the idea was simple — what would happen if we encouraged kids to build something cool using electronics, microcontrollers, and LEDs?
Over four months, we answered that question with multiple augmented RC cars, infinity mirrors, clocks, a polygraph machine, lightsaber, Dyson-like fan, Bluetooth controlled car, robotic grabber arm, and even an LED sign.
The ages ranged from 3rd grade through high-school senior, and none of the kids had any experience with electronics, except for two that took a one-day Arduino camp that I did two years ago. Plenty of parents joined us on the journey and along with a ton of volunteers.
Hack Sioux Falls touched on every aspect of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education during our four-month event. The students learned how to join metals with solder, learned about light rays reflecting through tinted glass, understood how microcontrollers worked, learned to build electronic circuits, and needed to do a lot of binary math — that last one was tough. How many camps can touch the entire STEM field?
In addition to hands-on projects, the students learned some basic presentation and communication skills while they created a video of their project by explaining what they built, the challenges overcome, and their excitement of what they learned.
Here is a walk-through of the final projects, complete with videos, and build guides:
Infinity Mirror With UltraSonic SensorsThis was my sample project for the kids
Using four ultrasonic sensors, the LEDs track you as you move around the mirror. Build guide available.
Breakin’ the LawDrake and Traden
This undercover police car will catch you by surprise with its remote Bluetooth controller. Build guide available.
Can you turn 60 individual LEDs into a marquee sign? Yup.
Infinity mirror clockLuke, Daniel, And Will
Never be late for school again with this infinity clock, if you can read an analog clock backward.
Bluetooth Controlled CarWillem
Let’s build a robot car. Using Legos. And Bluetooth. With a motor driver. Oh, and a phone app.
LED picture frameSarsih
This message will catch your eye with a rainbow light outline.
Light SaberEli and Adien
Cycling through the colors of each lightsaber from the franchise, this lightsaber will satisfy every fan.
Repurposing motors from Lego Mindstorm project, never waste your strength grabbing and moving things again. Build guide available.
Knowing if your brother is lying about eating the last cookie is an invaluable skill everyone needs.
Cop Car LightsRobbie
All cop cars need light bars, to make sure your friend’s radio controlled cars don’t break the law.
As with all first-time events, we’ve learned a ton and will be integrating these lessons into future Hack Sioux Falls events.
- 90-days was too long and there were too many dates to coordinate.
- Summer is busy for people, especially on weekends. We probably won’t try to host events on the weekend over summer.
- Our soldering workshop was a huge hit. We thought kids wouldn’t enjoy soldering or would struggle but it was the complete opposite. We got every kit work and they had a blast.
- Kids had a more difficult time that I thought coming up with project ideas. Not all kids, some thrived with the creativity. But that also meant that I needed to know how to build a dozen different projects.
- Preselecting a set number of projects and then having the kids choose from one of them is a better way to go. Frequently I would have to take a project home to figure out how to make it work, which caused a lot of delays.
- With 20 kids to coordinate all at once, it became too hectic. Splitting them up into smaller groups will much better.
We are planning the next Hack Sioux Falls event right now, registration will open in late September, and you can pre-register at http://hacksiouxfalls.com/. Once school is back in session and the kids get into their fall routine, we are going to host the next event.
As mentioned in our lessons learned, we will be defining specific project guidelines instead of keeping is open-ended. This will allow our participants to explore, create, build, customize, and learn throughout the event but within some constraints.
We have not decided exactly what the next event challenge will be but in upcoming challenges. We will be learning about the Internet of Things (IoT), automated robots, communication techniques, and maybe even some animatronics. We have a ton of ideas and the more community support we receive, the more we can explore.
The first Hack Sioux Falls event has some amazing sponsors, they stepped up on an unproven, unclear project and really supported our efforts. First Bank & Trust, Trexin, and Code Bootcamp of South Dakota.
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.