Education

Mixing the maker movement with social good, HacKIDemia’s workshops bring math, science, & more to poor kids

One problem children in poorer areas face is access to education: They miss school because it doesn’t exist; they lack proper adult supervision to make sure they attend classes; or they must work to help their own families make ends meet.

That’s the problem that HacKIDemia is addressing, bolstering local education efforts across the five continents. At the crossroads between the maker movement, education, technology, and social good, this little-known Berlin-based organization sets up and conducts STEAM (for science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) workshops specifically designed for children.

Founded by Stefania Druga, an ex-Googler and a Singularity University fellow, the organization focuses on nodes run by locals that don’t require anyone from the organization to be onsite.

Druga says she was inspired early on by both her parents (a teacher and an electronics engineer), watching and then making things herself. Her “a ha!” moment came during a trip to Cambodia, where she was working with 100 children of all ages over a few months. “I discovered that best recipe for knowledge sharing is to teach older children to teach younger ones,” Druga said. “For them, their older peers are role models and speak the same ‘language,’ therefore there is no barrier.”

HacKIDemia’s latest flagship project is called Afrimakers. Like all of the organization’s other projects, it is built in three phases. First, teams of local mentors identify which crucial problems the children face (water or food quality, access to information, energy, or more). The second step consists of looking at available local resources and, based on that information, conceptualizing and prototyping a solution. The third step is the hands-on workshop itself: Mentors guide teams of 20 kids to build their own prototypes of the solution.

Here’s an example: a paper circuit bow workshop:

The mentors are groups of older people, often students, reaching out to Druga for help. They are trained to become self-sufficient and, in turn, guide the younger generations and train the future mentors.

Although the projects’ heavy use of local resources makes them somewhat sustainable, HacKIDemia faces a clear challenge: funding. So far, the organization has been relying mainly on sponsorships. The Afrimakers project is the organization’s first test run at crowdsourcing (using Indiegogo in this case). It seems likely that HacKIDemia will be looking to raise funds to be able to keep emulating and empowering children to learn complex and abstract concepts by making things.

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