Finally -- a hacking conference just for kids!

A new conference will teach kids the true skills of the (legal) hacker: curiosity, experimentation, tech fluency, and fun

Technology enthusiasts and the ranks of the curious have been trying for years to rescue the term "hacker" from its pejorative meaning. A new conference that will teach kids the wonders of hacking may be one sign that such efforts are paying off.

Hackid is a new conference designed to "raise awareness and understanding of technology, mathematics, and engineering and the impact on society and culture." (Disclosure: I've volunteered my time to help with the Hackid Boston event, but haven't formally been involved in organizing the conference.) The conference, scheduled for October 9 and 10 in Boston, is the brainchild of Chris Hoff, author of the Rational Survivability blog and Director of Cloud and Virtualization Solutions at Cisco Systems.

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Hoff has said that he was inspired to start Hackid after taking his kids along to the recent Source Boston event, a security conference that's pretty dry and corporate. By contrast, spirited shows like Defcon -- where clinics on physical lock-picking and high-tech games of Capture the Flag are the main attractions -- provide ample inspiration for a "hacking curriculum" that can truly engage kids, especially in a world where educational policies like No Child Left Behind have put the focus in classrooms on remedial learning in reading, writing, and math, while draining resources from exciting, interdisciplinary learning.

Of course, a hacking conference suitable for kids means taming some of the more outrageous impulses of the hacking community. But the agenda at Hackid accomplishes that with ease. Sessions will teach kids basic programming techniques in kid-friendly languages like Kodu (Microsoft) and Scratch (MIT). There will be sessions on robotics, but also on Internet safety, physical defense, and protecting yourself from cyber bullying. Microsoft has been nice enough to donate its New England Research and Development (NERD) Center in Cambridge and the inaugural Boston event now coincides with National CyberSecurity Awareness Month.

Paul F. Roberts is a Senior Analyst for The 451 Group, a technology analyst firm.

This article, "Finally -- a hacking conference just for kids!," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

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