Stefania Druga is a maker, curious person and continuous learner. Or, how she would say: she is a learning architect. Her motto which is actually Hackidemia’s mission as well: inspire the kids for a better tomorrow and give them the tools to build it. We got to talk to her about her profession, mission and how the idea of Hackidemia came about.
Which profession do you have?
That’s hard to say as it doesn’t fit just in one box. I studied Instructional design in France, Spain and Portugal, worked on search quality for Google and was the education project advisor at Singularity University. Now I am working on Hackidemia foundation together with a group of very inspiring people. If I was to chose two words I would say Learning Architect.
Stefania, how did all this idea of Hackidemia come about? Did you have any formal training in your field – or did you teach yourself?
I would have to say: both. On the one hand, I have a European Master’s degree in Instructional Design followed by many internships and projects around the world. For example, I undertook some training for teachers in Peru, set up a Fablab in Cambodia for 100 kids or advised and coached 86 students from 30 countries at NASA/Singularity University.
When have you been starting to program?
When I was at Google and started to take evening trainings. I like mainly programming hardware.
Which talent do one need to get the skills?
You just need to be curious and not be afraid of what you don’t know.
Which kind of mental activity is a requirement to learn programming/ hardware making?
You need to play, ask questions, start a project and figure out how to make it work one step at a time and learn how to learn from everyone around you.
You teach programming and electronics to kids. Please tell us more about the idea, concept and also your vision with Hackidemia.
The vision of Hackidemia is to enable and empower children to become makers and not consumers. We believe that children could solve problems in their local or global community through play, empathy and design. First they learn how to program or solder and after they pick a meaningful project they want to work on together with their friends in their community: make a solar panner, improve air quality, improve recycling solutions, make an app that monitors people happiness, etc
When should children start to learn programming and making/crafting?
Learning by doing and by playing comes natural to children as they have an innate curiosity. With Hackidemia hands-on workshops we try to encourage and develop that curiosity and give them tools to transform their dreams into reality. The sooner they start the better. No age limit.
And what should parents do?
Parents can participate in the workshops together with their children and continue to work on making/science projects at home. We encourage parents to ask questions that lead to answers and not give the answer directly to their children and to work on projects with a learner approach because their children can also teach them many things.
But what, if parents do not have any access to programmers or coding schools?
There are many tutorials and instructions they can follow online (www.hackidemia.com/workshops) and they can kickstart a local Hackidemia event where our mentors could come and teach them how to get started. We also encourage them to pair with other families and share learnings and questions.
You are very idealistic – you could work in a big company, earning a lot of money – but you prefer to live more a bohemian life – or am I wrong?
I wouldn’t describe my life as bohemian because I work day and night and dealing with a global community of mentors working with children is a huge responsibility We managed to train 300 mentors and 3500 children in 8 months so all the effort is delivering it’s fruits and now the community is growing by itself as we published an organizer kit so anyone could set-up a local Hackidemia.
I do this because I want my life and work to be meaningful and because I enjoy very much to work with children. There’s nothing more rewarding than the spark I see in their eyes when they understood something new.
Are there national differences referring programming skills respectively learning programming. Are there children who are better educated? Or parents who are more behind teaching coding and hacking?
At Hackidemia we talk mainly about learning and curiosity and every child is very curious and eager to learn if the learning experience is customized to his personality.
Initially Tech parents will introduce their children more to coding and hacking but little by little all parents understand that technology is part of our future and children need to understand it and learn to customize it from an early age.
Are there children, where you can identify a special talent for programming or the other way around - children who are not so gifted?
For me all children are extremely gifted and I am just trying to understand what makes them thick and how I can unleash their potential. They really like to work on real projects and having their opinion and ideas heard and they learn extremely fast. I just thing we should pay more attention to what they say, how they imagine the future and give them all the options for learning and freedom of choice.
Are there stars in the makers and hacker scene, who you like or who you idolize?
I don’t believe in idols :). There are many people that I appreciate because they work hard and they are humble: Dan Barry, former astronaut who builds robots and teaches young people how to do it, Mitch Altman because he supported so much the hackerspaces and taught hundreds of people how to solder all over the world, Denisa Kera because she constantly tries to bring the academia research and the maker/hacker cultures closer.
You are a cosmopolitan – is everybody like this in your scene? Is it right to say “scene”?
I am a curious person, I respect cultural differences and people. I don’t know what cosmopolitan means in this context but I think all makers are curious people who like to learn and share their knowledge.
Which websites are a must for you and why?
Wikipedia – beautiful proof of collective intelligence.
Instructables – great collection of makers projects.
Khan Academy – amazing video tutorial available for everyone world wide.
If you had three free wishes….
I would make people more empathic, curious and playful.
Convince parents to give their children more freedom and listen to them more
Bring people closer to nature so they can learn how to respect it more.
About what or who do you wanna read in our blog?
Young makers, people that make incremental/systemic changes, moral and ethics in the tech/maker scene, sustainable technological progress.
If I forgot something important to ask – do not hesitate to complete my questions…
I thinks when we make a project together we truly get to know each other more and that enables us to become more empathic and work on solving big challenges together.
If you want to get involved in any way with Hackidemia, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to do-it-together – and we need your help!
More information on Hackidemia: http://www.hackidemia.com/