Nov 22 2011

Guest Post: Hack Jam at Institute of Play

Guest Post

This post was written Leah Gilliam, Program Manager for Informal Learning at Institute of Play.
Art + Design Challenge Wednesdays is a weekly series developed by Institute of Play at the game-based learning school Quest to Learn. The program activates imaginations about everything from engineering and 3-D modeling to turntablism and green design.

One of the most popular workshops so far has been the November 9 visit from the Hackasaurus team where middle-schoolers discussed the importance of the web and how they too could make their voices and ideas heard via this medium.  The session started with an introduction to hacking as creative expression with kids hacking the Robot dance by inserting lots of chair sitting and relaxation poses.

When asked to identify some unique characteristics of the web, one of the most immediate and impassioned answers related to the web as a platform for discovery, where they can take on roles courtesy of games and virtual worlds like Minecraft. As the session progressed and participants explored different sites  and tweaked their code, a challenge was issued to hack an existing website to make it better represent their personal interests. Engaging their X-Ray Goggles, the youth immediately took matters into their own hands.

Since October, Lorenzo, a 10-year old ball of energy and ideas, has invented a sustainable water filter, messed around with the open-source programming environment Processing and modded a drawing app for the iPad.  He’s also a stalwart Quest to Learn Minecraft club member, and at the Hackasaurus workshop, he turned his sights to the Institute’s website and an image from an earlier Art and Design Challenge workshop. Within ten minutes, he had not only successfully re-coded the page to reflect his Minecraft obsession but had also shared his work with the website’s designer, Institute of Play’s Communications and Design Strategist, Bob Holling.

Institute of Play website BEFORE

Institute of Play website - AFTER

The icing on the hacked cake? Showing Lorenzo how to create a link in the email that masked his new URL with the URL of the Institute of Play—nicely played.

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