Young Coders 2 Digi-Makers: Disruptors ThoughtWorks & CoderDojo’s “Maker Party” Adds Atoms-To-Bits

Don’t bother disrupting Today. Disrupt Tomorrow…ALL Tomorrows…targeting a spectrum of individual, community and societal futures. For the betterment of everyone’s future prospects…including your own!

Disrupt Tomorrow by empowering Children—via the enchantment of their hearts and minds with tech (STEM) and techreative (STE{A}M) wonderments.

(STEM is the au courant acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering & Math. The “A” in STE{A}M stands for Art & Design. Pax Steve Jobs—paradigm-dancer—who made Design the new black of incredibly disruptive and wildly successful digital products.)

AND, transform these Children into Lifelong Disruptors of the status quo. These adults of Tomorrow then become powerful change-agents—the success-engines of outlier teams, intrapreneurships and competitive commercial cabals (aka Startups). Lifelong Disruptors deliver the future Middle Class jobs for the new adults—neo-workplace-primed—all children must become.

Some organizations naturally get the idea, inspiration and implementation of (near) future disruption in this, our Tech-Driven Age. This accelerating epoch is driven by digital hyper-power, planet-networked communication, Big Data/Clouds, the rebirth of hardware “robotized” AND bottom-up empowerment.

Think of today’s most-disruptive game-changer of choice. That is the cheap and ubiquitous, cloud-linked, sensor-informed superteleputer. This device speaks your language—literally—be it poetry, algorithms, a Babel of tongues or babies babbling in HD video.

You know this device as the Smartphone
in your purse or pocket.

Just eight-years-old, the Sphone is already “Game-Over” for so many business models…present and prospective. AND, “Game-On” for so many ’Preneurs intent on commercial or common-good disruption—in the marketplace of thoughts impelled by dreams of difference-making.

Prescient executive stewards at some organizations naturally conceive of children as portals to their concern’s envisioned and desired future.

In our New York City, two such organizations have allied together to better the aligned future of their target communities—and everyone else!—via Child Disruptors. These are ThoughtWorks NY and CoderDojo NYC—two worldwide organizational networks. (Ahh, analog thought and digital code: two sides of the same creative coin…in neologisms that smack of the Zeitgeist in their mashups.)

[Wonder about the Coder Zeitgeist? Check the wide-spectrum, broad-audience, runaway success of Bloomberg Businessweek’s 38,000 word (!!) double-issue magazine article “What IS Code?” The newsstand sales of the hardcopy “ish” are the largest of the year. The online iteration—a special multimedia and interactive version live four weeks ago—has delivered more traffic than any other article since the Bloomberg site initially went live. Code IS the Zeitgeist.]

In short, TWorks offers enterprise-level, software-code development via 3,000 plus employees from 30 offices in 13 countries. And, CDojo operates through local volunteer-mentors guiding 7 to 17 YO kids at code-informed STEM play through 400 chapters in 40 countries.

The two New York-based iterations of the planetary TWorks and CDojo networks are collaborating to better the world’s future via the tech-education of children.

ThoughtWorks NY is staffed by “strong believers in the power of software and technology as tools of social change…We are a software company and a community of passionate, purpose-led individuals. We think disruptively to deliver technology to address our clients’ toughest challenges—all while seeking to revolutionize the IT industry AND create positive social betterment.”

Here in New York, TWorks is possessed of a large and protean/adjustable high-rise office layout southeast of Penn Station. In this instant “hacking space,” ThoughtWorks venue-hosts CoderDojo’s NYC Chapter on a monthly basis.

CoderDojo NYC provides open access for exploring, developing and teaching Web, game and app development skills to the young. Non-profit CDojo’s mission is to create a fun and collaborative environment to explore STEM. Through coder/constructor play, youth can build memorable experiences with mentors to help ignite passion for technology at an early age. CoderDojo NYC enjoys a 50:50 gender ratio, ethnic diversity and effective service-delivery to over 1,200 Metro-NY families.

In the typical monthly meeting at TWorks, CDojo volunteers mentor its Child Coders at various “Learning Stations.” This usually includes learner-chosen work in CoderDojo’s four basic coder/creator/constructor modules. These include:

Web Page Development: via guided instruction in HTML, CSS and Javascript in Thimble (Ages 9-17);

Scratch: MIT-developed, visual programming by creating stories, games and animations (Ages 7-12);

littleBits: building and playing with electronic modules that snap together magnetically (Ages 8-10); and

Arduino: creating digital/analog projects with an electronic prototyping platform and hardware (Ages 13-17).

In mid-June, TWorks and CDojo collaborated on a further expansion of CDojo’s mostly digital-coding/constructing core of instruction for kids and teens. The “partners” decided to throw a “Maker Party.”

The plan was to create a special Saturday expansion—of their usual work-week Learning Stations workshop—on 13 June. The goal was to introduce and demonstrate both classic and leading-edge Maker/Digital-Fabrication disciplines. These would be chosen to complement CDojo’s mostly digital offerings.

All making is a kind of play. A creative synergy of mind and hand at the nexus of truth and beauty. In making (and coding), every Maker (and Coder) is a child-at-play.

Making—and the Maker Movement of today—prides itself on DIY (Do It Yourself) and DIWO (Do It With Others) or DIT (Do It Together) “tinkering.” Today’s “Maker” springs mostly from community “grassroots.” Now, modern Making has evolved directly from hobbyists, crafters, artisans, inventors, citizen scientists and other by-hand/hands-on disciples of non-corporate advance.

That said, the Movement is now most often project-based and tech-driven. (E.g., Maker Media, Inc. estimated that more than one-third of all their exhibitors at World Maker Faire NY 2014 had integrated 3D Printing into their offerings.) Further, Making has become more and more pervasive—and influential—in the today’s tech world.

Hence, both ThoughtWorks and CoderDojo—in collaborating on their June Maker Party event—are proactive and forward-thinking in the world’s wider marketplace of key ideas. And, they are strengthening their “cred” by co-aligning efforts to orient their Coder community to another source of common-good disruption—the Maker Movement.

Empowered and empowering Maker projects today can easily include and/or combine major elements of:

  • Digital computing and devices,
  • Industrial design (via CAD: Computer-Aided Design),
  • Sophisticated electronics (e.g., Arduino microcontrollers),
  • 3D Printing (3DP) and scanning,
  • CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining mills,
  • Bio-tech & synthetic biology,
  • Healthcare technology,
  • Nurse-driven “bedside” Makery,
  • Neuroscience,
  • AI (Artificial Intelligence),
  • VR (Virtual Reality),
  • Leading-edge robotics,
  • Metal-fabrication (via CAM: Computer-Aided Manufacturing),
  • LEGO-system constructs and/or
  • Woodworking, digitally enhanced.

Modern Making was mid-wifed by “Make:” Magazine—founded by O’Reilly Media—with its first bimonthly issue (actual hard-copy!) of January 2005. (Yes, that’s “Make:”—with a trailing colon—as if to say “Make: Anything & Everything.” Clever branding/positioning!)

“Make:” was the first vehicle that managed to coalesce the very diverse and disparate communities of “making.” In a real sense, the magazine—informed by O’Reilly’s technology focus—created the “digi-driven” Maker Movement as we now know it.

“Make:” is now published by the O’Reilly spin-off Maker Media, Inc. (MMI) of San Francisco. Maker Media is led—and inspired—by former O’Reilly exec, evangelist and intrapreneur Dale Dougherty. Dale’s enlightened (and enlightening) common-good worldview informs “Make:”—and the other proliferating extensions of MMI’s service-empire for Makers.

Mr. Dougherty’s “aw-shucks,” unalloyed exuberance and Big-Kid-at-Play bonhomie meshes sweetly with the inherent wonderment of Maker discovery. Like Colonel Sanders or Frank Perdue, Dale embodies the Maker Movement brand.

One VERY innovative and successful MMI “child” grownup now dwarfs the founding publication “Make:”. That is the MMI Maker Faires worldwide-empire of tradeshows—both corporate-run and those franchised to local Maker groups, public/private partnerships and/or non-profits. As MMI states about its all-inclusive Faires: “Anything that’s [Maker] cool is fair game!”

In 2014, MMI corporate and it Faire franchisees staged 135 Maker Faires around the globe. From the 100K+ plus attendee Founding Faire in the Bay Area to the first Mini Maker Faire at a hospital (in Brooklyn!) to the first Maker Faire at the White House.

Other MMI Maker “children” include: (an award-garnering Web site in support of the Maker Movement in all its variety); Maker Shed (eCommerce supplier of Maker resources); MakerCon (conferences for professional Makers—Bay Area & NYC); and Maker Ed, MMI’s “Making in Education” initiatives (tagline: “Every Child a Maker”).

Like TWorks and CDojo’s Maker Party, MMI’s Maker Ed is targeting the future’s disruptors: children and the young (in age or heart). MMI CEO & President Dale Dougherty also sees disruption as a natural—and important and positive—output of education. Thus, he’s championing Maker education programs—and MMI is providing resources and infrastructure to support those programs. Especially with the bits-to-atoms empowerment of neo-making—as supercharged by today’s technology. 

MMI’s Maker Ed category includes: the Young Makers program (connects young people—ages 12 to 17—with adult mentors and fabricators); Makerspace (resources for Educators and Makers working to inspire young people); Tinkering (a book on after-school, out-of-school and home schooling programs); and Maker Camp 2015 (Summer-time Exploring, Making and Sharing—via online or in-person Camp).

The strategic tech-ed interests of ThoughtWorks, CoderDojo and Maker Media, Inc. are clearly aligned. All three are global players in segments and in their commonweal impact. Thought leaders and social-impact execs from these three organizations should be meeting to amalgamate their common worldview and common-good goals.

To help provide the most exciting Maker Movement resources for the Maker Party, ThoughtWorks sought input from sources familiar with various Metro-NYC Maker communities. (I was one of those resource experts. I was immediately enthusiastic about the Maker Party concept, knew most of the leading Maker players from my “NYC3DP journo” role and gladly helped with identification, outreach and introductions.)

Maker Party Saturday, June 13, was a warm and sunny early-Summer day. With 1,200 families in the CoderDoJo NYC Community—and that Community’s familiarity with the TWorks’ venue—the turn-out of Coder Kids and their family members was early and large. I estimate that 75 children—with a least one accompanying adult family-member per kid—were badged-up and ready to join-in the Party well before the appointed hour.

The participants were—like New York City—ethnically ecumenical in every shape and shade. If there was a demographic leaning, it was toward Asian Americans.

To maintain the appropriate (belly-button high) perspective, I brought my six-year-old Grandson Grey. Or—better said—Grey tolerated my tag-along.

In such “professional event” situations, Grey is my unabashed Cub Reporter cum Junior Photographer. He carries his own business card—with that title—representing my 3DP Media organization. He’s helped me “cover” the last three World Maker Faires here in New York City. He gets involved in everything wholeheartedly. He takes excellent photos. And, eases my entrée to everyone at any event. Of course, Grey was a natural at the Maker Party…

The Party kicked off with CDojo Co-Founder Rebecca Garcia providing an orientation to the day’s doings. She then introduced each Maker Party exhibitor/resource in turn. These Coders and Makers each then presented a short intro of their own from their individual Learning Stations around the room. And, then the Games began in a kind of self-directed chaos.

Good hosts Jared Hatch (TWorks’ official “Connector” by title) and Jen Brandt (Maker Party Project Coordinator) joined in and mixed it up in essential—but self-effacing—support roles. 

The list of Maker Party exhibitors staffing various “Learning Stations” was rich: 

Web Page Development (HTML, CSS & Javascript in Thimble): CoderDojo NYC Mentor Radha;

Scratch: learning visual coding, CoderDojo NYC Mentor Libby Horacek;

littleBits: building electronic circuits, Sara Chipps of JewelBots and Melissa Pallay, CoderDojo NYC Mentor;

LEGO Mindstorms: creating LEGO phonographs, Maureen Reilly,;

Makey Makey & Arduino: Banana Piano & electronic prototyping, Kelady Kenkel,;

3D Printing: hands-on 3DP how-to, Aaron Roy, Learn 3D Printing Brooklyn; 

Genspace NY: bacterial painting, slime mold, strawberry DNA extraction, Oliver Medvedik,;

Oculus (Virtual Reality) & Kinnect (Augmented Reality): Andre Jordan;; 

Hack Manhattan: crafting with tech materials, Matt Lipschutz, Co-Organizer.

The “Games” continued for a good three hours of pre-planned pandemonium. (My Grandson Grey—on his own volition—scurried from Station to Station to try and absorb it all.)

The Maker Party was just that: a party! But, one in celebration of mind and hand and the Future—via the best of new hardware technologies appropriate to the education and “positive disruption” of young coders and makers.

Today, we enjoy (or decry!) self-empowering tools and tropes and memes from pocket superteleputer (your Smartphone) to DIY/DIT/DIL/DIG (that’s Do-It-Yourself, -Together, -Locally &/or -Globally) to the wonky wonders of major organizations collaborating for Tomorrow. Now, digi-tech of all stripes is disrupting—and democratizing—many personal, social and commercial sectors. And, the greatest of these disrupters is probably the Bits-2-Atoms of 3DP and BioSci.


Kudos to the “disrupting” players, teachers and mentors at ThoughtWorks NY and CoderDojo NYC—and the common-good concepts that energize their teamwork for that Tomorrow. Or, the better Tomorrows discovered by the Children they have gently “disrupted” via tech empowerment.

C’mon Back!


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