This post is a bit off the normal topics I cover here, but I feel it will be helpful in the future for both me and others to reference to. What I’d like to talk about here is an area that I run at BSides Delaware (And soon some other conferences!) called Spawncamp. Here I want to cover what Spawncamp is, why I feel you should care, and how to create your own for a conference you run or help out at.
Some background, I started going to conferences when I was 6, the first conference I went to was BSides Delaware. Conferences like these really helped define a lot of my life, and I owe a lot of my passion and learning to the people I’ve met at them. When my father brought me there, there was no real place set for kids, meaning a lot of what I did was running between different villages like the wireless village and the lockpicking village. Don’t get me wrong, this was fantastic and helped me a lot because I learned awesome things like lockpicking and SDR hacking at a really young age. But it wasn’t organized, and it was a lot of work for me to get involved into the community fully, so a few years later I helped ‘spawn’ Spawncamp to alleviate this.
The main goal of spawncamp is to provide a safe place for kids at conferences to learn and enrich themselves in whatever they’re interested in. It started off with just Computer Science and information security, but I’ve been working to expand topics. Such as last year (2018) I gave an impromptu class on music theory, and we taught tons of kids and adults chess. A big thing I’ve noticed from running Spawncamp is that hands on or tangible activities are very attractive to attendees, so topics such as Arduino programming, chess, and 3D Printing hold attention very well. I always try to keep things interesting and make sure nobody is just sitting there bored with nothing to do, hence my impromptu music theory class in 2018. In Spawncamp there are 2 tracks, structured and unstructured. The structured track consists of the main classes and talks that other volunteers and I put on such as a Python class or a Wireshark class. The unstructured track is where we have activities such as destruction alley, snap circuits kits, or just even legos. It’s intended to be a place where the kids can hang out and do other activities if there isn’t a class or talk they’re interested in. So far Spawncamp has improved its content range every year and continues to help kids learn about whatever they’re passionate about.
Why should you care? What if you don’t have kids? Well adults can learn too! We had some students from the college we are hosted by come into a wireshark talk and they were surprised to have learned a good amount. And if you do have kids, then hopefully it’s obvious why you should care. If your kid is interested in a field, then hopefully one of the volunteers will be able to help them either learn more, or maybe explore other fields that the kid is unsure of. That’s the beauty of Spawncamp, it can be whatever you want!
But, I hear you say, “How do I start a Spawncamp?” Well it’s not that hard, first of course you need a conference or event to host it at, but after you’ve figured that out you can just expand off the base goal into whatever form you want. I like the form that we’ve come up with at BSides Delaware, which consists of a structured and unstructured track. In the structured track we place whatever talks and classes we have for that year, they change a lot but a few good ideas are usually Arduino, Python, soldering, 3D Printing, Circuit / Electronics Design. Then in the unstructured track we have other activities such as destruction alley (where old electronics can be taken apart by the kids and then recycled), chess, potato batteries, and snap circuits. These activities are hands on and meant to captivate the attention of kids between classes or other activities.
Some pro tips we’ve learned:
- Use a tarp for destruction alley to prevent damage to floors and losing screws
- Safety goggles are a MUST HAVE for destruction alley
- Hands on activities are great, but always have supervision from atleast one other person than the instructor!
I hope this post helps anyone who wants to start a Spawncamp or was interested in determining if it was something they should participate in.
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!