So you made the decision to run a Devoxx4Kids event, you’ve got your venue, you’ve got your volunteers and you’ve got people signed up. Now what? Well that’s what we’re going to talk about in the final installment on the Tech Fun Field Day event in Chicago. Just getting to this point is a great feeling that you’ve done something good, but in the end like most things you’re remembered for your execution. So read on for some lessons learned from running the event.
For the day of the event it’s always good to arrive a few hours early to make sure everything is set. I arrived to the Loyola to find the doors locked! Fortunately, we had contact information for Campus Security and the Professor that registered the room for us. If you can, involve these folks in your event to ensure that you have someone on the “inside” if problems arise. Even better, visit the venue before hand so that you can get a lay of the land. While you are there figure out where to place signs and fine tune directions. If you get lost, believe me, so will your attendees.
1) Visit the venue before hand. Make sure to have all the right contact info prior to the event. Key things are building access and wifi.
After the rooms were setup attendees started to arrive, however we were still short a few instructors. We also noticed that most of the attendees were showing up right before the start of the conference and at least one had not brought a laptop. Some of the parents attending were not the ones that signed up the attendee so they were very confused on the sessions and the requirements. This caused a bit of a rush before the start of the conference.
2) There is no such thing as spam when it comes to communicating to parents and volunteers. Send out reminder emails on a bi-weekly basis with install instructions, parking details, and session information. Parents are busy people and will appreciate the additional reminders.
We started the sessions a little later to accommodate the rush. The kids were really excited and we got down to business. A couple of issues arose during the first sessions. First we had a number of kids that didn’t complete the Minecraft installation. Our Minecraft instructors worked through lunch to iron out all the install issues and had a smashing second session. We addressed this issue in later sessions by sending additional emails and by holding install workshops prior to events. Second we had non-conductive playdough that was well … conducting! Our instructors made quick work of this one by separating them with another non-conductive material … loose leaf paper. Finally we were given a beautiful sunny day so I took the Lego Mindstorm group outside and discovered that the light sensor calibrations for linetracing were thrown completely out of whack by our gorgeous day. To the kids dismay we corrected this one by moving inside. The key to overcoming all of these was energy, improvising, and keeping the class moving. It’s like any technical demo, things will go wrong. Like the coaching greats say, “It’s not about what happens to you but how your respond to it.”.
3) Things will go wrong. Don’t stress. Have fun with it.
Overall with the help of the Chicago developer community we were able to have a successful first event. Was it perfect? Of course not. Did we have fun? Yes! We also had a number of kids that walked away with a desire to learn more. And that’s what Devoxx4Kids is about. In Illinois, of the kids that took the AP tests in high school, less than 1% were in Computer Science. We need to do a better job inspiring our kids to not just be consumers of technology, but also producers of it. Creating a world with better technical citizens benefits all of us and Devoxx4Kids can be the gateway into a number of organizations such as FIRST and VEX, as well as driving the need for formal computer science education in our schools. I’d like to thank all of our volunteers for their support and I look forward to hosting additional events this year!
|Dr Ronald Greenburg|
– Bob Paulin, Devoxx4Kids Chicago Organizer
– Tim Steele, Devoxx4Kids Chicago Organizer