On an unusually pleasant late-summer day, hundreds of schoolchildren, techies, and curious passers-by crowded into a small park on the west side of Manhattan for the first ever Geek Street Fair, sponsored by Google.
There were booths from The New York Hall of Science, the Liberty Science Center, and the Design and Technology program at Parsons The New School for Design. Visitors could snack on free slushies, watch a robot solve a Rubik’s cube, or lie in the sun and bat around one (or several) of the many colorful beach balls rolling along the park’s grassy central triangle.
The heart of the event, of course, was more serious than beach ball batting. “For some of our young people, the opportunity to work in a place like Google or Facebook or Microsoft may not be readily available,” Google’s Youth and Community Development spokesperson Mark Zustovich, told The New York Times. “This is a way to bring this world to them and let them realize that these areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics can be in their future.”
The fair had as its goal the promotion of science and math to young people here in New York. Parsons’ booth, staffed by professors Jonah Brucker-Cohen and Louisa Campbell (along with some graduate students), was particularly well-suited to meet this goal. It showcased the GadgIteration project, a series of hands-on, entry-level design workshops that encourage a creative and artistic engagement with technology through a focus on electronic tinkering as learning, knowledge-sharing through collaboration, and sustained engagement through making. It even included a teddy bear with a playable guitar, as showcased in this FOX5 interview in which professor Cohen can’t help but speak a little over the host’s head.