"When Age Does Not Determine the Expertise" - SUCCESS STORY #49

Who says you have to be a certain age to know enough, or to make important decisions? Nina’s story is a great example that expertise is not a question of age but rather one of pursuing ideas and interests with enthusiasm.

Nina is a young woman from Konstanz, Germany. When she was 13 years old she felt an urge to learn how to code. A bit disappointed by the fact that there weren’t coding classes at her school, she started looking for alternatives. She was browsing the web for tutorials and listening to different podcasts. A bit later, one of the teachers from her school offered an extracurricular game programming workshop that she joined. Even though she wasn’t really keen on creating and designing games, she took it as a chance to get some input on programming.

cc by SA — Vidister

cc by SA — Vidister

In one of the podcasts she heard about a program called “Jugend hackt” (youth hacks). Jugend hackt is a program for children and teenagers, who are interested in coding. Jugend hackt organizes hackathons for children and teenager between 12 and 18 years old. One of the goals of Jugend hackt is to connect young coders with other peers who share the same interests. The other goal is to show teenagers how they can solve problems of today’s world with their skills and making them aware of their possibilities and responsibilities as future programmers. At the Jugend hackt event she was excited to be surrounded by like-minded people. Being a sixteen year old girl who is super interested in encryption and privacy issues wasn’t weird anymore. At her first hackathon, Nina and other participants decided to develop a website to help users implementing encryption. Instead of writing a traditional “How-to” they decided to create a tool with personalized information and instructions.

“How should I describe it, so that not only hackers or programmers could understand it but also my mum’s friends?” was their leading question. Encryption is only useful and powerful if the people that you want to communicate with know this type of communication as well.

cc — by 2.0 Oh Choong Seok

cc — by 2.0 Oh Choong Seok

The result was HowToPGP. At the beginning, they implemented a short questionnaire. So, depending on the operating system and the user’s knowledge level the instructions would be given differently. At the annual hacker conference Chaos Communication Congress in 2015 Nina presented the project and the group got a lot of positive feedback. Amongst the audience were programmers who worked on important encryption soft wares at that time.

In 2017 Nina participated at a Jugend hackt exchange event in Seoul. The group developed a project CoolTourHat. Rather than knowing what problem they wanted to solve or what programming language they wanted to use, they knew that they wanted to make something with hardware. The result was “CoolTourHat”, a hat that helps finding people who share the same interests. The program notify user when someone, who has the same interests is close to you. Due to missing hardware the group had to improvise and ended up with a rather bulky prototype. Back at home Nina redesigned the hat, not because she was unhappy with what they had come up with but in order to proof to herself that she could make it on her own.

cc — by 4.0 Nina Riöckelein

cc — by 4.0 Nina Riöckelein

Next year Nina participated as a mentor for the first time in her life. She was mentoring at Jugend hackt. There were experts from different fields — programmers, designers, software and hardware developers. But instead of instructing them and telling them what to do, they support them when they have questions or ask for help. This experience was very special to Nina. A group of three teenagers worked on a food sharing project. They built a prototype of a food sharing fridge that would scan all the products available and display them on an online platform. Though the three participants had very different skill levels, the project ran very smoothly. Nina describes her role as „sitting back, taking a look every now and then, and helping a bit with time management“. And, of course, be amazed by the great teamwork.

cc — by 4.0 Jugend Hackt, foto Holger Dorn
cc — by 4.0 Jugend Hackt, foto Holger Dorn

A more recent change happened when Nina was asked by one of the local politicians if she could imagine running for a seat on the local city council. She was always advocating for participation. Getting the chance to ask a lot of questions about how the local council worked helped her get a clearer picture of the task and responsibilities. Amongst her top priorities are: open data, digital participation and the fight against the climate change.

When you meet Nina one of the first things you notice is her positive energy. She might be calm and quiet but once she sets herself a goal — she finds a way to achieve it.



By Ilona Stuetzmedialepfade.org — Verein für Medienbildung e.V.



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p.s. Do you know a child from 6 to 16 years who has developed a social innovation using maker facilities? Maybe you are working on a project with kids or you know a committed person in a makerspace? Contact us, if you want to share your own story! →https://www.facebook.com/DOIT.Europe.Net/

“Entrepreneurial skills for young social innovators in an open digital world DOIT Europe” project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement №770063