Maker Party meets PyconCA

This was originally posted by Karen Smith, Community and Design Researcher, on the Hive NYC blog.

PyCon Canada (PyconCA) was held in Toronto on August 9th to 13th, 2013.  Hive Toronto participated by running full day Maker Party events for youth on both the Saturday and Sunday. The PyconCA Maker Party was programmed and facilitated by Regnard Raquedan, a Toronto-based Mozilla Rep (or ReMo) and staffed by numerous enthusiastic volunteers including Ashley Jane Lewis and Bryan Poetz.


Over twenty youth attended to learn how to use Thimble, Popcorn and X-Ray Goggles to remix and hack. The youths’ hacks were featured daily in short presentations to all conference attendees before the closing keynotes.

Public Lab balloon

Image of Dana Bauer of Public Lab courtesy of Ashley Jane Lewis

In addition to the youth presentations, there were also other great interactions between the Maker Party youth and the conference attendees. Triggered by some questions from youth about programming, we invited developers and enthusiasts to speak with the youth. Developers volunteered to visit the Maker Party room during the conference to share their experiences. Here is a brief snapshot of some of what happened during the impromptu mentoring that was organized:

  • Max Thayer reprised his conference presentation on Twitter vs NLTK and the youth enjoyed learning about a real world Python project.
  • Lynn Root, PyLady extraordinaire shared her experiences of learning coding and getting women engaged in learning to code. She gave the youth killer tips about how to get started with Python!
  • Brooklyn-based Swift introduced the youth to a Python library called BreakfastSerial he built to use with arduinos.  His blinking lights demo was a hit!
  • Karen Brennan, one of the conference keynotes, a Professor of Education at Harvard, and all-around Scratch expert, visited the Maker Party and played icebreakers with the youth.

Future Hive events taking place at conferences may wish to follow the model of bringing in mentors from the conference to engage youth.  This idea was a real hit!