What it is
Rio Web Fest is a full day of practical activities focused on digital skills and technological exploration.
Why it is important
There is a lack of events focused on new digital skills and exploring creativity in Rio. There are a lot of events for professional development and web technology but nothing that caters to this underrepresented group of new digital citizens. People who are just learning new digital skills have no way to network with each other and not many places to connect with mentors and facilitators.
Instead of throwing an event focused on acquiring new digital skills, we decided to run an event focused on producing new original content (through remixing, interventions or exploratory methods). Our one rule was that all activities must be hands-on and practical, learners and facilitators would focus on experimentation and having fun. This was not only a celebration of Rio Mozilla Club, but also an opportunity for learners from different venues to connect to one another and establish new positive relationships.
How it happened
The event happened at a collaborative space in downtown Rio called PontoCom1. We organized it to coincide with the end of our funding period, so it was a celebration of our project and the start of a new phase.
We planned three different activities or stations for the event, they were game development, robotics, customization. The first two were parallel and would repeat themselves in the afternoon. This way learners could join one of them in the morning and the other in the afternoon thus experiencing both of them. The customization activity happened in the afternoon near one of our lunch breaks so that people had some time to work a bit of their creativity away from machines.
Rio Web Fest run from 11h00 until 19h00, we had about 65 participants with the following breakdown:
- 48 learners from LAN House neighborhoods.
- 12 facilitators.
- 5 members of the venue.
Customizing ecobags and tshirts
Each attendee of the event received a little kit containing an ecobag, stickers, sticky notes, a sharpie and a T-Shirt. In this activity we used stencil to customize the items they received. To make sure they could practice before working on their Rio Mozilla Club T-Shirts, we also has a basket full of colorful T-Shirts of various sizes that that could just grab to try new designs.
This activity was a lot of fun and a great opportunity for moving a away from the computer for a bit. Many learners became interested about how to create their own stencils afterward (We couldn't have them made their own at the event because of the lack of time).
Exploring robotics and the Internet of Things
This activity was an exploratory one where learners were able to exercise their own creativity through robotics. It begun as a guided activity, with talk about automation, robots and dreams for the future, then it proceeded to creating some sample devices and dividing them into groups and giving each group access to the components needed to create their own devices.
We used the marvelous Little Bits for this exploration of technology, they are easy to use and doesn't require a computer. In the end we had some amazing creations built such as remote controlled cars, a clapping machine, an open door alarm and more. The learners were really excited about this activity as it demystified robotics for them and caused a change to the common mindset that physical computing is hard and can only be done by engineers. Everyone involved wants to do more of this in the future.
Games are pretty popular with our learners and so is all the culture and experiences that surround them. Due to the large number of attendees, this activity was broken into two stages.
In one stage the learners sat on a circle and held fireside chats about gaming and game culture. This was pretty powerful as many there want to be more involved in this scene and we were super lucky to count with two facilitators who are running game portals and going to national championships.
The other stage is where the learners used computers and Construct 2 app to customize some sample games. Just like with cars where it is much easier to tune a car than to build one from the ground up, we worked this activity by focusing on changing ready-made games instead of building one from scratch. Not only this approach made better usage of time but also it allowed learners to see the changes caused by their action much more instantly than the long process of game creation.
Many learners have expressed their surprise on how easy it was and said that they'd be using LAN House time to create games. Yay!
This was a full day of work with learners and facilitators moving from activity to activity as they see fit. Our lack of rigid schedule was our strength, it allowed us to form impromptu discussion groups, seed new activities, and manage expectations.
Our facilitators, some of which we met for the first time at that day, were marvelous. We had gamers, developers, designers, and all sorts of backgrounds serving as facilitators. It was this mix of people, some new to our program, some who have been with us since the beginning, that made this a fresh and fantastic event.
Our objective was to celebrate our project, explore new digital skills and focus on creativity. If you could just see the learners laughing while running through the corridors of PontoCom1 in full costume, you'd see how we achieved our goals.
Another aspect of the event success was the venue, PontoCom1, which is a collaborative space with many social programs and initiatives hosted there. Creativity and collaboration overflow from all corners of the venue and its members, we couldn't be in a better place. By leaving our learners free to roam outside of our activities and interact with other people at the venue, they discovered many things, from pinhole cameras, to costumes, to models of human anatomy. Not only our activities were happening at the venue but a full host of ad-hoc groups and networking formed around many aspects of the venue as well.
We believe that this loose form of event that encourages creativity and free form association, an idea we took from MozFest, is the main power of this type of event. We're looking forward to repeating this type of day in our future.