March 2, 2015

KitHub Designed to Empower Young Innovators

Categories: Digital Learning, Equity
kithub drawing of young girl and her mother working on project together

KitHub, “creative electronics for young innovators,” is a kit-of-the-month club for young makers, their parents, and their families. It was designed to empower kids and parents who weren’t necessarily close to a physical makerspace, by two women — Tara Tiger Brown and Luz Rivas — who are passionately devoted to maker education, not by an edu-biz conglomerate or VC-founded startup.

Brown has served as an entrepreneur, executive director, technical director and lead product manager for the MacArthur Foundation-supported Connected Learning Alliance, Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC, Born This Way Foundation, Topspin Media, and Microsoft, and is co-founder and chairwoman at LA Makerspace. Rivas, who has a B.S. in electrical engineering from MIT and a master’s in technology in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, founded DIY Girls to bring technology tinkering and learning to Latinas in the Los Angeles area

For $19.95/month, KitHub subscribers can gain knowledge, skills and confidence to “create, experiment, and design creative projects using electronics.” Online support resources and communication channels complement the physical project components. Brown and Rivas aim not just to bring STEAM education to people whose school shop classes closed years ago, but to encourage the kind of thinking that tinkering encourages. When schools and teachers are constrained by the need to teach to the test, the emphasis on getting the right answers displaces the all-important skill of messing around and experimenting with projects that might fail. As maker educators such as Kylie Peppler and Sylvia Libow Martinez have pointed out, debugging failure is at the heart of both coding and electronics. Tinkering thinking focuses on fixing what doesn’t work yet rather than avoiding doing something that might not work.

Informal places, projects, and materials for trying out things that young people might actually have fun doing are springing up. But, not everyone lives near a makerspace, not everyone has the time to bring the kids there regularly. KitHub makes it easy for parents, teachers, and students to connect concrete capabilities — making physical objects light up, make sounds, move, sense, react — with theories of how electrons move through circuits. Kit-building has been a staple learning tool for hobbyists for decades. Combining a kit that arrives at your door on a regular basis with online instructions, support, and a communication forum is a path to knowledge that doesn’t depend on schooling — avoiding the fear of failure and lack of time for the kind of play that is also systematic experimentation. In this video, I talk with Brown about what goes into the kits and watch learners unboxing their first kits.

Banner illustration credit: KitHub