DEFCON for Kids—Giving Kids the r00tz to Learn

This summer may be coming to an end, but it’s never too early to start thinking about next year. If you have children between the ages of 8 and 18, you may be planning another year of summer camp. And, if you’re an engineer whose children are interested in electronics, figuring out how things work, and learning how to break things, r00tz Asylum may be the perfect fit.

r00tz Asylum (formerly known as DEFCON Kids) is a part of the widely attended DEFCON hacker convention, which takes place annually in Las Vegas, NV. Parents who attend DEFCON can bring their children to r00tz Asylum sessions where they can learn about white-hat hacking.

Electrical engineer Joe Grand is a former member of the well-known hacker collective L0pht Heavy Industries and now runs product development firm Grand Idea Studio. Grand instructs hardware hacking classes for computer security researchers and has taken a subset of that work to share with r00tz Asylum kids.

“I enjoy teaching kids because of the direct connection you have with them,” Grand said. “When you talk to them normally and explain things in simple ways, they get it!” he added. “It’s fun to see their eyes light up.”

But is teaching kids hacking a good thing? “Naysayers don’t understand the hacking mindset, which is about free thinking, circumventing limitations, and creating elegant solutions to tricky problems” Grand said. “Teaching kids to hack gives them super powers—with guidance.”

r00tz Asylum agrees. According its website, “Hacking gives you super-human powers. You can travel time and space. It is your responsibility to use these powers for good and only good.”

Teaching kids about white-hat hacking helps them learn to solve problems, be aware of the law, and understand the consequences for breaking it. And that’s where instruction in a positive and supportive environment comes in.

“Technology isn’t going away. We’re only going to become more immersed in it,” Grand said. “Kids need to be exposed to new things. It’s important to give them an environment where it’s okay to break things, that it’s okay if things fail.” But he stressed that, “Kids need boundaries. It’s our responsibility to teach them right from wrong.”

In addition to various classes, r00tz Asylum attendees have access to a hangout space of sorts with a soldering station and other resources. Last year the space featured a MakerBot 3-D printer, this year an Eggbot open-source art robot was available.

I asked Grand if either of his children would be attending r00tz Asylum in the future. He said he recently watched DEFCON: The Documentary with his four year old. When they watched the part about DEFCON Kids, his son’s reaction was: “I want to go!”

For more information about r00tz Asylum visit www.r00tz.org

Free Raspberry Pi Poster

The Raspberry Pi is a computer with no casing, no keyboard, no hard disk and no screen. Despite all that, it’s taking the world by storm!

Get your free Raspberry Pi poster now, courtesy of Elektor, RS Components, and CC! Go ahead: download, print, and then enjoy!

Free Raspberry Pi Poster

RASPBERRY PI ESSENTIALS

Model A has 256-MB RAM, one USB port, and no Ethernet port (network connection). Model B has 512-MB RAM, two USB ports, and an Ethernet port.

The Raspberry Pi Model B, revision 2 board:

  • Status led labels: top led has label “ACT” and bottom led has label “100”
  • Header P2 is not populated
  • The text underneath the Raspberry Pi logo reads: “(C) 2011,12”
  • The area next to the micro usb port has CE and FCC logos and the text “Made in China or UK” along the board edge.
  • There are two 2.9-mm holes in the PCB, which can be used as mounting holes.
  • P5 is a new GPIO header with four additional GPIO pins and four power pins. Also note that some pin and I2C port numbers of connector P1 have been modified between revisions!
  • Header P6 (left from the HDMI port) was added, short these two pins to reset the computer or wake it up when powered down with the “sudo halt” command.

The Raspberry Pi measures 85.60 mm × 56 mm × 21 mm, with a little overlap for the SD card and connectors which project over the edges. It weighs 45 g.

The SoC is a Broadcom BCM2835. This contains an ARM ARM1176JZFS, with floating point, running at 700 MHz, and a Videocore 4 GPU. The GPU is capable of BluRay quality playback, using H.264 at 40 Mbps. It has a fast 3D core which can be accessed using the supplied OpenGL ES2.0 and OpenVG libraries.

The Raspberry Pi is capable of using hardware acceleration for MPEG-2 and VC-1 playback, but you’ll need to buy license keys at the Raspberry Pi Store to unlock this functionality.

Which programming languages can you use? Python, C/C++, Perl, Java, PHP/MySQL, Scratch, and many more that can run under Linux.

TROUBLESHOOTING TIPS

If you’re getting a flashing red PWR LED or random restarts during the booting process, it’s likely that your PSU or USB cable has problems. The Raspberry Pi is pretty picky and requires a solid 5-V/1000-mA power supply. For other issues and more troubleshooting tips check out the extensive overview at the eLinux website

Circuitcellar.com is an Elektor International Media website.