Hackiamos – We Sing, Dance, Hack, and Selfie! If this was your only impression of Guatemala, hopefully it will start to change how you think of this and other central american countries. Everywhere we went, the men, the women sang along with the radio for the fun songs that everyone knows, whenever possible, dancing is encouraged and of course you can’t let too much time go by without documenting it! So, selfie away Guatemalans!
This has been the most life changing trip. Guatever you think of Guatemala, it’s so much more and different and advanced than the world currently recognizes. From the thousand year-old Maya history to the lingering current political issues, the people stay resilient throughout and the center of innovation and contemporary hope is Galileo University. Students persevere and are more driven than any group of university students that I have met. The engineering departments still primarily populated by males, the group of students I worked with impressed me, surprised me, and were so welcoming for this amazing experience of F.I.T. 2015.
The person behind the whole event is the incomparable Oscar Rodas. Working on his Ph.D, part of a beautiful family of 4, and mover & shaker amongst the University. He brought everything together for the conference with keynote speakers, workshop leaders, a robotic competition, students to attend, and even bands to perform at a celebration following presentations of the students’ projects. Oscar, thank you for your dedication, leadership, passion, and for being the best host to the three Americans joining this momentous event.
Guatemala continues to face political issues, while we were present for F.I.T. there were several demonstrations with hundreds of thousands of people demanding that their president resign because he is the apex of corruption and has stolen millions of dollars from the country. It’s unacceptable and completely intense that the president has responded with simply, No. Meanwhile, just like in the states, the scene is saturated with advertisements for future candidates. Most billboards in Guatemala tout that they are not corrupt! Many places, you’ll see logos for the political parties, and across the street, the same logos with an X through them. So, tumultuous but active.
Not long ago in Guatemala, horrible atrocities happened across political lines, students were massacred for their beliefs that were different than those in control of the weapons. The right and wrong are completely blurred and coming out of that period of time, Guatemala has been stifled in advancement in all fields of science, engineering, medicine, and likely law. The current generation of 20 somethings is full of hope and spirit. The students at Galileo embody these new dreams to show the world how Guatemala is full of talent and citizens who want to live in a society of positivity using technology. It was my pleasure to be a teacher during F.I.T. and to help present a workshop at CECAP to help give skills to indigenous children and adults to be makers.
My workshop at Galileo University consisted of my usual! Overwhelm the students with a lot of intro information, give some basic Arduino sketches matched with basic Fritzing documents, try to inspire with some cool wearable tech designs by sharing ideas beyond just LEDs, and hit the ground running with prototyping. The only thing I forgot were my alligator clip shorties!! Very frustrating because I knew this would mean that prototyping wouldn’t be what I usually do and go a little slower. However, the students took the challenge to go Rogue and use the conductive thread in creative ways; tying knots around the Lilypad pads, sewing through paper with the conductive thread to make a prototype, using tape as an insulator to make complex designs – then redesigning in Fritzing. We experienced some mysteries for sure, like a simple button sketch where touching the thread made the light turn on and off…how could we be completing the circuit with just one touch of the finger? Confusing! Though all the students got to keep their prototypes, we also had judging and extra prizes for a few winners. Everyone was impressed by the team that used tape and conductive thread to make a smart bike wearable, Flechitas – turn signals! Leah Buechley would be proud that one of her original projects inspired these students to figure out how to make it themselves. We also had a very creative RGB LED watch! The hardest part of this hack was to demonstrate it in sped up time to show the judges! There were smart stuffed animals, an extreme X-mas sweater, a sports wearable to make you aware of your temperature to not get dehydrated, and more! So proud of my students, check out those photos and more on my Facebook page for Linino Woman!
Thank you to all the sponsors of the event, of University of Galileo’s lab, I hope you are as impressed as I am!
Facebook page of Lilypad projects from our workshop