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On November 15th, children aged 8 to 12 got together at a designated location in five cities around the world - Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, Nairobi, Dublin and Amsterdam, to participate in the first Global Children's Designathon. The event that was organized by Dutch design agency Unexpect, challenged kids to come up with solutions for some of the world's most pressing issues - food, waste and traffic - in a single day!
While even experts would have balked at the enormity of the task at hand, it did not seem to daunt the young kids that worked in teams of two or three. The day began with the kids listening to the various challenges that were pertinent to their particular cities and towns. The teams were then asked to brainstorm about which issue they were going to tackle and how.
After that came the difficult part - building a prototype to share with the other participants worldwide, via video conference. While it is not possible to describe all the amazing ideas generated on this day, here are a few that demonstrate what kids can come up with, if only they are asked!
There was a a remote-controlled helicopter called De-Waster 5000 that not only fished out plastic from oceans and landfills, but also used a solar-powered flamethrower to melt and transform it into beds for the homeless. Then there was the smart trash can designed by some Dutch students that recycled plastic into new objects and spit them out.
There was also a robot that collected trash and transformed it into fuel, a street that split into two during the night so that all the garbage could simply slide down in an underground bin and a portable greenhouse system that could grow enough food to make any household self-sufficient.
While some of the ideas were a little far-fetched there were many that could be feasible like the smart car that eases street congestion by informing traffic lights of its arrival and also guiding the driver to the best possible route. Also a possibility, is a robotic trash can smart enough to sort out recyclable waste and alert the garbage truck when it is full.
Emer Beamer, the founder of Unexpect, says the purpose of the project was to introduce children to skills they probably never learn in class. The entrepreneur says that for most part, schools focus on teaching things that they will most likely never need to know again. She believes that in order for kids to thrive in the world, they should be learning how to be creative, hack new technology and deal with unexpected situations - and what better way to get them started than challenging them to tackle real-life issues? Also, workshops like these allow kids to voice their opinions about how to solve problems that they will encounter during their lifetimes.
Though the first global design challenge was relatively small, involving only a few hundred of the two billion youngsters that are bursting with ideas, the next one will be much bigger. That's because in Spring 2015, Unexpect plans to distribute free tool kits to any school that is interested in hosting their own Children's Designathon Challenge - We for one cannot wait what ideas kids will come up with next.