We had so much fun with the 200 people who came out to the NASA Youth Space Challenge at the Royal Ontario Museum on Saturday! The kids designed so many amazing exoplanets, aliens, cubesats, music remixes and stories!

The NASA International Space Apps Challenge is a weekend long event for adults. Teams of programmers, designers and scientists come together to solve software and hardware development challenges. This year, the organizers of the Toronto event approached MakerKids to include a youth event to incorporate the core tenants of the Space Apps Challenge such as collaboration, open access to data, and creativity. We’re a member of the Mozilla Hive Network Toronto, and the Hive Director Kathryn brought in other member organizations to run stations.

Postcard from Planet Zanzar

The NASA Youth Space Challenge sold out in 2 days, and about 100 youth aged 7 to 15 and 100 parents, volunteers and mentors attended. Youth imagined what exoplanet aliens might look like with the help of planetary scientists on-hand from the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration, and created them with the 123D Creature iPad app developed by Autodesk. Members of the Autodesk development team were at the event to teach how to use the app. The kids printed their aliens to take home at the MakerKids 3D printer station, run by Renae MacLeod.

At the Story Planet station, kids dressed up as aliens and astronauts and took pictures of themselves against a greenscreen. Girls Learning Code used those images to teach image editing with the software package Gimp, creating “wish-you-were-here” exoplanet vacation postcards.

Space DJs in the House!

For the MakerKids Listening to the Stars Challenge, kids provided the soundtrack to the event by mixing music and space sounds on DJ consoles and used a music sequencing app to create their own music. Here’s a sample track made by a participant:

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/88938018″ params=”” width=” 70%” height=”90″ iframe=”true” /]

For fun visual effect, they also poured cornstarch and water into speakers, producing writhing tentacle “oobleck“. Kids even made cubesat prototypes from origami at the Fab Spaces station. At their station, the Mozilla Popcorn team taught kids how to use their video editing platform with their space digital content. Marianne brought 4.7 billion year old pieces of space from CPSX – meteorites to hold in your hand.

All digital content generated at the challenge such as images, sound files and 3D objects was shared between multiple program stations so that the kids could build on what they created at each one. They were eager to download their own personal files at the end of the event! Older youth from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada also microblogged the whole thing on tumblr.

The NASA Youth Space Challenge was spearheaded by Marianne Mader, planetary scientist and co-director of MakerKids. Thank you Kathryn Meisner, the Director of Hive Toronto for coordinating the event planning. Special thanks to the ROM, Ashley Lewis for running the day and all the amazing MakerKids volunteers – Jennifer Turliuk, Renae MacLeod, Annemarie Pickersgill, Cassandra Marion Beauchamp, Marc Beauchamp, Bhairavi Shankar, Salma Abou-Aly and Peacefire Maji!

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