It Happened Here: Tech with Teens

December 19, 2019 | Debbie

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Tech for Teens program at Malvern Branch
Teens attend an Alternative Game Controllers program at Malvern Branch

Hand Eye Society is a non-profit Toronto organization that supports the development and display of creative/educational video games. They aim to inspire individuals to think outside the box by providing entertaining, interactive and educational programs to the public. They recently visited Malvern Branch to host a Tech for Teens: Alternative Game Controllers program. Malvern Youth Advisory Group volunteers wrote up a review for the program in this blog post.

What Happened?

On October 29, 2019, youth were invited to the Alternative Game Controllers Program. It started off with an introduction to controllers and the different types. We reviewed past controllers that were unsuccessful, such as the Nintendo glove, and discussed what made them fail. A majority of these reasons consisted of faulty technology and difficulty in control.

We then looked at examples of different controllers made by people using the Makey Makey kit. The kit consisted of wires and a board that when put together in a certain way with other material, could make a video game controller. Following the demonstrations, we formed groups and created controllers of our own. We were given a variety of materials to use such as tinfoil, play-doh and vegetables. We then used the controllers to play Super Mario Brothers.

After the trial and error of making controllers, we moved onto exploring the advancements in gaming. We then discussed the different gaming controllers that were innovated to be suitable for gamers that have certain limitations. An example would be controlling the movement of a character through exhale and inhale patterns. We also reviewed augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality. To experience AR, we then played an augmented reality game where the goal was to keep your controller balanced, which was stimulated as the player balancing a ball on a cup, while trying to “knock off" the other players.

Teens working on a tech program at Malvern Branch

What did you learn?

We learned was how to make game controllers using everyday items combined with the Makey Makey kit. The items have to be conductors to allow electricity to flow through them. To have the controller function, the player essentially has to be part of the circuit. The player in this case acts like a switch, they must constantly be connected to the ground and come in contact with a button to trigger it, completing the circuit.

What was the most interesting/memorable part?

We found that making the controllers was the most memorable part. There was some trial and error involved as we tried to make the most creative yet effective video game controllers.

Was there anything funny that happened?

Two of the program participants made a game controller that’s not only unusual and effective, but edible as well. Their creation consisted of vegetables such as carrots and fruits such as cucumbers but still worked well.

Would you recommend this program to a friend?

I would recommend this program to a friend even if they don’t regularly play video games. We had a great time experimenting with technology and playing video games. It is a great way to bond with friends while learning a little bit about electronics.

Do you have any suggestions to make this program better?

We do not have any recommendations for this program. The activities done were highly interactive and amusing. They brought out our creative and competitive side as they forced us to strategize our movements and tactics.


Learn more about volunteering with a Youth Advisory Group at a library branch near you.