I’ve just returned home from Boston, having taken part in one of the most interesting, original and awesome conferences I’ve ever seen.
Step up Hackidcon, a conference geared towards “providing an interactive, hands-on experience for kids and their parents which includes things like staying safe online, how the internet works, manipulating hardware / software for fun, meeting law enforcement, low impact martial arts, podcast creation, Makerbot building” and an awful lot more to boot.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure if it would go without a hitch or end up like a scene from 28 Days Later. However, I’ve seen adult conferences that haven’t run as smoothly as this one. Turns out you CAN fill a Microsoft Research Center with small children and watch them learn about security basics, technology, programming languages like KODU, building things and the many, many definitions of what a “hacker” can be and what those same hackers can do in a positive manner.
Plus, we had a Hoverdrone that you could control with an iPhone.
My talk was a shorter, retooled and updated version of the gaming security preso I wheeled out at SecTor. Of particular note to the parents was the “Five top scams to avoid”, which seemed to cause a few “Oh, so THAT’S what it was” type glances around the room. Besides the parents, there were kids of all ages present (from about five up into the teens range) and I was surprised to see most young children were quite happy to sit and listen about security stuff, although I made sure my ramblings were restricted to about 30 minutes tops with time for questions if needed. My only suggestion here would be to maybe have a dedicated “Teens” track session – while the parents of the younger children present are now swimming in “things to avoid”, I’m not 100% certain the very young kids can handle a 30+ minute talk.
There were also security presentations from Microsoft themselves courtesy of Jeff Williams, and a number of other security themed chats throughout both days.
Additionally, you could feast your eyes upon robot things that make stuff:
Makerbots are pretty amazing bits of kit – the one below was given away in a raffle on the second day:
That’s a “before” shot, by the way. It looked more like this by Day 2:
I also helped to plug three wires in, and it didn’t explode or anything so that’s a bonus.
Lockpick village? Well, more of a table but it still counts!
That guy has a Star Wars tattoo on every square inch of his arms, by the way.
I particularly liked the “anything goes” atmosphere – I found myself getting involved in a talk regarding the many meanings of the word “Hacker” in populare culture across both days.
What particularly blew me away was on Day 2, we all had to wear protective eye goggles.
The reason? A row of kids at the front were shooting us in the face with DIY marshmallow guns.
I tell you what, I never got shot in the face at RSA or InfoSec Europe. Tough crowd!
Now the event is over and people have hopefully arrived home in one piece, I’m starting to see some blog posts go up. I’ll add more as I see them, and you can see my photos here. Hackidcon was a definite success, and with any luck you’ll be seeing more Hackidcon events popping up both in America and elsewhere – I believe there’s an upcoming event scheduled for DC to kick things off, and we’ll see how it goes.
Kudos to Microsoft for hosting the event, all of the sponsors and everyone that took part. I had an excellent time, parents and their children picked up lots of useful skills & information and the organisers should be very proud of their efforts.