A safe place for pint-size geeks

A safe place for pint-size geeks

Youngsters with a penchant for programming and robotics need not fear being pushed around at GeekCon’s junior edition

A pint-sized hacker works on a drone at last year's Geekcon Kids (Photo credit: Courtesy)
A pint-sized hacker works on a drone at last year's Geekcon Kids (Photo credit: Courtesy)

In the Start-Up Nation, it’s no crime to be a geek – even if you’re a kid. To encourage young Israelis to take their place among the country’s ranks of innovators, there’s GeekCon Kids, the youngsters’ version of the annual GeekCon festival, dedicated to using tech to develop new and innovative ideas both useful and useless.

At the event, which is to take place on Friday in Tel Aviv, kids will create innovative projects in such areas as mobile software, robotics, avionics and mechanics. Projects in past GeekCon Kid events (this year’s is the third one to be held in Israel) have included construction of a “Robot-Child”, a Pesach Haggadah made from a Playmobile, a robot that can spread chocolate spread on matzos, a paddleboard made out of water bottles, and more.

GeekCon Kids takes its cue from its older sibling, the GeekConX festival, where 200 of Israel’s top innovators, geeks, entrepreneurs, makers and designers gather for 52 hours to create new tech projects. This year’s GeekConX, held in September, saw projects like the “Graffiti Blitz,” a drone outfitted with a graffiti stencil and a spray paint can (the drone, said its creators, “does the deed and comes back to base”); Spider Soccer, which features a pair of soccer-playing spider bots that can also scale metal walls; and a “fish operated vehicle,” to correct, says its creator, the discrimination faced by fish, which “have the right to move freely in the air.” Details on the device were few, but it appeared from photos and specs to be a self-propelling system that will allow fish to jump from one fishbowl to another.

On the other hand, observers said, there were several projects that appeared to have real commercial potential — with a bit of work, of course. Among them: a water balloon launcher, consisting of a carbon dioxide-powered rifle that automatically fills and fires water balloons. “A Walk in YouTube” could be used as a virtual reality engine, as videos are projected on walls and ceilings with a person’s location in the room triggering specific videos. And the “Bathorama,” a faucet connected to a Kinect device that responds to hand gestures to regulate the flow of water (hot/cold, strong flow/weak flow), is an example of Internet of Things technology that is actually already on the market.

There was even a politically-oriented project among the GeekCon offerings — the UNRWA Autonomous Baby Carriage, complete with firing missiles and inspired, its creators said, by a combination of Hamas’s penchant for using human shields to fire rockets at Israel and its “borrowing” of UN facilities to conduct attacks during Operation Protective Edge this past summer.

The projects coming out of GeekCon Kids aren’t expected to be as sophisticated. But you never know, said Gilli Cegla, a serial entrepreneur who is one of the event’s organizers; kids have a way of surprising you.

“GeekCon Kids is part of the GeekCon tradition for the next generations and will hopefully become a tradition of its own,” said Cegla. “It’s our way of promoting hands-on innovation, creativity and technological entrepreneurship with the future generations. We hope those kids will become the future entrepreneurs, so Israel remains the start-up nation in the future as well.”

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