Ryan Mitra first signed on to a computer at the tender age of 7. And the Palo Alto middle schooler hasn't looked back since. In fact, the self-described geek wants to up his skills, learning some basic and advanced hacking techniques.
He'll get that chance Saturday, May 28th when youth from around the Bay Area converge on The Tech Museum for the first-ever "Hack the Future," a daylong program designed to introduce and encourage middle and high school geeks in the exciting, inventive world of technology.
"I consider myself seventy percent tech savvy because there is always more to learn," says Ryan, 11. "I just started figuring out some hacks and programs, but I need and want to learn more."
The event will be marked by a series of tech-citing projects, lightning talks and experiments on gaming to code writing - all set against the laissez-faire backdrop of colorful bean bags and plenty of pizza. Local pioneering engineer and computer scientist Allan Alcorn, best known as the designer of the wildly popular 1970s video arcade game Pong, will be on hand to share his remarkable story and to help guide students' tech creations.
"Hack the Future" is fashioned on the ever-popular SuperHappyDevHouse model, where the wunderkinds who fancy creation over computer cracking talk tech, swap blue-sky ideas and collaborate to come up with "the next big thing." After all, it was against a similar geek backdrop in the mid-70s that the germs of ideas were planted for today's tech titans Apple Computer and Microsoft.
The idea to gather youngsters for an all-day techie confab was a no-brainer, says Joe Mathes, startup engineer and "Hack" co-creator. "This is the first chance many kids will have to enter the exciting, advancing field of technology. Programming is literacy. To be great, you have to start when you're young, and you have to learn it from a native speaker," Mathes says. "So, as professionals on the cutting edge, we wanted to teach what we know straight from the front lines."
For Willie Yee, 12, the event is like Christmas in May; it's the reason he signed up so quickly. "I like programming," says the San Jose 7th grader. "But I really want to learn more complex commands for some programming languages."
And if Mathes has his way, he'd like to keep delivering presents. He has big plans to make "Hack the Future" a recurring event, one that might even spawn a hacker space for youth around the Bay Area, across the country and abroad.
"I expect we'll take some kids who have the creative spark to start hacking the future, and we'll show them how to continue teaching themselves through the rest of their lives," he says.
Eds: Here's a selected schedule
11:00 a.m.: Hackers arrive
11:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.: Hacking/learning to hack (split into three areas that Hackers can move between)
11:30 a.m. - noon: Introductory explanation & welcome, inspirational talk on hacking
1:00 p.m.: Pizza!
1:30 p.m.: Beat Al Alcorn at Pong!
4:30 p.m.: Lightning Talks to show off work
For more information, visit: http://www.thetech.org/whats_new/
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About The Tech Museum
The Tech Museum is a hands-on science and technology institution designed to engage people of all ages and backgrounds in experiences that educate, inform, provoke thought, and inspire action. Ensconced in the heart of Silicon Valley, the museum captures the spirit of the region through innovative content and programs such The Tech Challenge, our annual team design competition for youth, and the internationally renowned The Tech Awards, which recognizes technology to benefit humanity. Daily, The Tech Museum celebrates the present and encourages the development of pioneering ideas for a more promising future.