TIME the big picture

How Maker Faires Are Inspiring Young ‘Makers’ All Over the World

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YOSHIKAZU TSUNO—AFP/Getty Images A boy plays a keyboard to control robot guitarist "Mach", a member of a robot rock band "Z-Machines", during the two day art and technology event "Maker Faire Tokyo" at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo on November 3, 2013.

Young children and their parents flock to Maker's Faires to get hands-on tech time

One of the truly bright lights in tech education is the Maker Faire. The granddaddy of the Maker Faires celebrated its tenth anniversary this weekend at the San Mateo, California Events Center, drawing around 150,000 kids and their parents who went to explore the world of making things.

The show itself has a strong STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) emphasis, and all types of tech-related projects were being showcased at the event. The founder of the Maker Faire, Dale Dougherty, says the goal of the show is to create a world of makers. In fact, the vision of the maker movement is to inspire people to become makers instead of just consumers of things. Maker Media, the folks behind the Maker Faire, sponsored more than 130 events all over the world in 2014. Its executives say they will sponsor more than 200 events this year, with the addition of Maker Faire’s school program, which means more events at high schools around the country.

While en route to the event, I spoke with Demaris Brooks-Immel and her son Sam, who were also on their way to the Maker Faire. She told me that Sam looks forward to the Maker Faire every year, and he asked that next year they spend two whole days at the show. Demaris said that her son is a tinkerer at heart, and his school in San Jose — Booksin Elementary — has a special Create and Innovate program that highlights various maker projects during the school year.

One of the first things you will notice when attending a Maker Faire is the awe in the eyes of the kids who attend as they excitedly go from one booth to another checking out the various projects or demos on hand. There were dozens of areas where kids could sit down and help with building robots, make motor driven cars or even learn how to solder inside a special tent where skilled adults introduced kids to using soldering tools for use in all types of electronics projects.

One of the sponsors of the show is Atmel, which makes micro controllers that populate most of the Arduino boards used in various maker projects. Arduino makes various electronics kits letting users build a wide array of electronic devices, such as mini robots, drones and other products. At the Atmel booth, I spoke with Amtel Senior Manager Bob Martin and asked him why the company is so committed to the Maker Movement. He told me that once the Arduino community started using their micro controllers in their boards, he convinced top management to “put significant resources behind this movement and to support projects that will make life easier for people.”

Intel is another big sponsor of Maker Faire. Its CEO, Brian Krzanich, is a huge supporter of the Maker Faire, and Intel’s large booth had many hands-on demos and projects for kids to work with to learn more about the micro processors that have driven the tech revolution.

Another important group at the show was LittleBits Education. Its goal is to fuel students’ creativity; they have 6,000 educators, 1,500 schools and 375 universities in 70 countries helping kids develop design skills, creative confidence and technology fluency with LittleBits. Facebook and Google also had booths at the show, showing they too are committed to tech education.

While most of the kids at the event were boys, there were a lot of girls there as well, and the Maker Faire had kits designed for helping girls get interested in tech and making things. One company at the event was Roominate Toys, whose line of products are designed to get girls interested in all types of tech and design projects. I am also a big fan of the Golidblox line of products for girls and have bought many for my granddaughters in the past.

After last year’s Maker Faire, I wrote a piece for TIME on why the Maker Movement is important to America’s future. The Maker Faires’ goal of helping people become makers has driven a high interest and demand for these shows. But I also mentioned a concern I had about the lack of diversity I saw at the Faire. Like last year’s show, I saw very few African American or Hispanic families at this year’s event. This is still a concern, as I know the Maker Movement and Maker Faire is very inclusive and wants everyone to participate.

After my TIME column last year, the Maker Faire’s Dougherty called me and told me that the lack of a diverse representation at the Faire is a huge concern for him. In fact, he told me that he personally sponsors a summer camp for Hispanic girls in the Santa Rosa, California area where he lives. He and others in the movement have been pushing STEM programs and trying to get more local sponsorships in areas where kids of all backgrounds could connect with the Maker Movement.

Over the last year, the issue of diversity in tech has risen to the forefront thanks to people like Cheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, and the Women in Tech Summits. And many African American and Hispanic leaders have come to Silicon Valley to speak with top leaders to make them more aware of the lack of diversity in tech companies.

I truly hope the world of tech becomes more inclusive. However, I think that it starts at the youth level, and things like the Maker Faire and the various STEM programs being employed in schools across the world needs to accelerate. Initiatives like them need stronger backing from corporations and educators who can help get more kids of all backgrounds interested in tech and equipped with the kind of skills that will be necessary to compete in the job markets of the future. Only then will the maker movement and the tech market in general really live up to their potential.

 

MONEY kids

Here’s Your Excuse to Stop Buying More Stuff for Your Kid

Getty Images/Farouk Batiche

Worldwide, kids are pretty darn happy with what they have.

The welcome if not surprising news presented in a global survey is that kids are happier and less worried about money than grownups. And despite how often parents might hear about children needing new toys, video games, electronics, and clothes, the vast majority of kids worldwide report being plenty satisfied with what they have.

According to the new International Survey of Children’s Well-Being, which polled kids ages 8, 10, and 12 in 15 countries, fewer than 1 out of 20 kids report low satisfaction with the things they have. Meanwhile, children in some of the poorer countries in the survey—Algeria, Turkey—worry a lot less about money than one might presume. (The United States was not included in this year’s survey.)

“Children tend to be more optimistic in life,” Norway’s Elisabeth Backe-Hansen, the survey’s lead researcher, told Quartz. That’s good to hear, of course, especially in light of what seems to be the increasingly stressful, high-pressure environment that kids grow up in nowadays.

Yet optimism and the refreshing idea that kids worldwide still get to enjoy fairly worry-free childhoods don’t explain all of the study’s findings, some of which are rather contradictory. For instance, children in Spain—one of the wealthier countries in the study, based on GDP—are among those most satisfied with what they have, yet they rank #2 (behind Colombia) in likelihood of reporting they “often” or “always” worry about how much money their family has.

Algeria also presents a confusing picture. “Despite Algeria’s very low GDP, children reported comparatively low levels of worry about how much money their family had,” the report states. At the same time, however, Algerian children were near the bottom in terms of being satisfied with their material goods and possessions. Only Ethiopian kids were more dissatisfied with what they have.

The researchers theorize that Algeria’s “socialist-egalitarian political regime” may have something to do with the surprisingly low level of children worrying about money. “Many effects of this–such as free education and educational resources, financial aid for poor parents at the start of the school year, free school meals for many children in primary education–remain, which may result in poor children judging their own situation to be similar to that of their peers, and therefore not feeling that their family is worse off,” the report states.

In other words, kids in Algeria may be less likely to be aware of who is poor and who is more well-off. With less obvious means of everyday comparison among children and families, there could be less of a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality.

The researchers admit that there were some “diverging patterns of findings,” and that “it may be important to include a wider range of such questions in future surveys in order to fully capture children’s evaluations.” Based on the data we have, though, it seems like there is no clear correlation between material goods and happiness: Richer countries aren’t necessarily home to happier, more worry-free kids either.

TIME Innovation

What’s Behind the Russia-China Cyber Deal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Should we be worried about the new Internet security pact between China and Russia?

By Cyrus Farivar in Ars Technica

2. Here’s a roadmap for building an innovation ecosystem in Africa.

By Jean Claude Bastos de Morais in IT News Africa

3. What if junk food actually kills off the bacteria that keeps us healthy?

By Luke Heighton in the Telegraph

4. We’re about to lose the best way to measure how well we educate poor kids.

By Jill Barshay in the Hechinger Report

5. Want to end the War on Drugs? Don’t talk to Washington. Lobby your local police department.

By Ben Collins in the Daily Beast

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Research

Can Antidepressants Be Safe for Kids?

A new study looks into how antidepressants can best be used to help kids quickly without initial side effects

Currently, antidepressants carry a “black box warning” cautioning people that the pills can cause an increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. But researchers in a new study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry have taken a closer look at what exactly is causing these behaviors, and how to avoid them.

The warning was first affixed to antidepressants 10 years ago, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that a phenomena of increased “suicidality”—which means suicidal thoughts and behaviors, as opposed to actual suicide—could occur in young people who begin taking antidepressants.

As TIME has previously reported, many in the psychiatry community were upset by the addition of the warning, saying it discourages prescribing the drugs to people who need them. Depression is the greatest risk for suicide, not antidepressants, they argue.

In the new study, researchers decided to take a closer look at what exactly was happening when young people started on antidepressants. It’s been known for some time that often, when people take antidepressants, the individuals’ symptoms can get worse before they get better. Dr. Adam Kaplin, an assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and his colleagues looked closely at this period, and how this adjustment period might be mitigated in young people.

Serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI) cause serotonin levels to rise. But there is a receptor in the brain called the 5-HT1AR, which acts like a break and prevents this from happening. Eventually, the receptor regulates, and allows serotonin levels to increase, but before that happens, patients can feel worse. The researchers tested this with mice, and showed that mice became anxious when they were first given an SSRI. But when the researchers gave these mice drugs that blocked the 5-HT1AR receptor in addition to the SSRI, the mice fared better.

“Not only did it completely reverse that anxiety, it made them less anxious than they were at baseline. It made the SSRI’s positive effects kick in almost immediately,” says Kaplin.

Currently, fluoxetine (Prozac) is the slowest-acting SSRI, and the only one approved for kids ages 8 to 12, the authors say. The researchers used a computer simulation to determine how long the adjustment period is for other types of SSRIs as well. They found that starting with half the normal dose and slowly increasing to the full dose over the course of a month was the best strategy for limiting the downside that comes with the adjustment period.

The researchers say they hope their study sheds light on what’s happening when kids start on antidepressants, and what an appropriate dosing strategy may look like. “We are saying, Look, these drugs are perfectly safe once you understand them, and you understand that you have to start them low and go slow or add something that blocks the 5-HT1AR receptor,” says Kaplin. “We are trying to say this is not a mystery. We understand the mechanism.”

Currently there are no drugs that effectively block the 5-HT1AR receptor in the way the researchers would like, but Kaplin says they are looking for a company that may be interested in developing one for human use.

 

TIME Research

Parents May Pass On Sleepwalking to Their Kids

Somnambulant parents likely to have kids who walk in their sleep too

Kids are more likely to sleepwalk if their parents also did, a new study suggests.

The new research, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, found that over 60% of kids who developed somnambulism had parents who were both sleepwalkers.

The study authors looked at sleep data for 1,940 kids whose history of sleepwalking and sleep terrors (episodes of screaming and fear while falling asleep) as well as their parents sleepwalking were reported through questionnaires.

The data showed that kids were three times more likely to become a sleepwalker if they had one parent who was, and seven times more likely to sleep walk if both parents had a history of it. The prevalence of sleepwalking was 61.5% for kids with dual parent sleepwalking history.

The overall prevalence of sleepwalking in childhood reported among kids ages 2.5 to 13 years old was 29.1%, while the overall prevalence of sleep terrors for kids between age 1.5 to 13 was 56.2%. Kids who had sleep terrors were more likely to also develop sleepwalking, compared to kids who did not have them.

“These findings point to a strong genetic influence on sleepwalking and, to a lesser degree, sleep terrors,” the study authors write. “This effect may occur through polymorphisms in the genes involved in slow-wave sleep generation or sleep depth. Parents who have been sleepwalkers in the past, particularly in cases where both parents have been sleepwalkers, can expect their children to sleepwalk and thus should prepare adequately.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Kids Overeat When They’re Stressed, Study Says

Especially if their parents use food as a reward

Next time you watch Bambi with your kids, you may want to hide the ice cream: A new study shows that 5-to-7-year-old children tend to eat more when they’re sad.

According to a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, kids are more likely to overeat when they are upset, especially if their parents have used food as a reward in the past. The study notes that stress eating is a learned and unnatural behavior, since stress and emotional turmoil usually reduce appetite, rather than increasing it. The fact that children were found to have stress eating tendencies at this age suggests that emotional overeating is something children learn in early childhood, perhaps because of the way their parents feed them.

The researchers divided the kids into two groups, asked them to color a picture, and then told them they would get a toy once the coloring was done. With one group of kids, the researchers withheld a crayon that was needed to complete the drawing, which meant the kids couldn’t get their prize. This was a “stressful situation” for the children. While the researchers pretended to look for the crayon so the kids could complete the drawing, kids snacked on a few different items around the room. Afterwards, the researchers found that the kids in the “stressful” situation ate more than the kids who were able to finish their drawing and get the toy, especially if their parents said they had used food as a reward in the past.

The study found that children were much more likely to stress eat if their parents over-controlled their eating, by doing things like using food as a reward or withholding food for health reasons. According to the researchers, these practices can override children’s natural hunger instincts, instead making food into a reward or an emotional comfort.

But because the sample size is relatively small (41 parent-child duos) more research is needed before we’ll get a clearer picture of how exactly parents’ feeding practices affect the way kids think about stress eating.

 

 

TIME Research

6-Month-Old Babies Are Now Using Tablets and Smartphones

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Getty Images

Babies are using mobile media

Over a third of children under the age of 1 have used a device like a smartphone or tablet, according to a new study.

The study, which was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting, showed that by age 2, most kids have used mobile devices. To reach these findings the study authors surveyed 370 parents of kids between the ages of 6 months to 4 years about their exposure to media and electronics.

Overall, technology in the home was common. The survey results show 97% of the families’ homes had TVs, 83% had tablets, 77% had smartphones and 59% had Internet access. According to the parents’ responses, 52% of kids under the age of 1 year had watched TV, 36% had touched or scrolled a screen, 24% had called someone, 15% used apps and 12% played video games. The amount of time the children spent using devices rose as they got older, with 26% of 2-year-olds and 38% of 4-year-olds using devices for at least an hour.

Given the ubiquity of electronics, it’s not so surprising that children come across media and devices in the home. Still, the researchers note that the children in this study were often very young and that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) frowns upon television and other media exposure for kids under the age of 2. The AAP says excessive media use can contribute to school trouble, attention problems and obesity, according to studies, and that Internet and cell-phone use can be platforms for risky behavior.

The survey results also suggest that parents let their children use media or mobile tech as distraction. For instance, the study showed 73% of surveyed parents let their kids play with mobile devices while they were doing chores around the house. Sixty percent said they let children use them while running errands, 65% to calm their child and 29% to put their kid to sleep. Just 30% of the parents in the survey said they spoke to their pediatrician about media use.

“A better understanding of the use of mobile media in young children and how it varies by population groups is critical to help develop educational strategies for both parents and health providers,” the study authors write.

For all the week’s news of interest to families, sign up here for TIME’s free weekly parenting newsletter.

TIME Innovation

This Is Why Fingerprints Are Forever

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. You can change your password if someone steals it, but you’re stuck with your fingerprints forever.

By Aarti Shahani at NPR

2. Can teaching kids to be tough make up for income inequality?

By Rachel M. Cohen in the American Prospect

3. You don’t need a nuclear arsenal to feel safe.

By Erlan Idrissov in the Diplomat

4. America’s high school dropouts are quitting school to go to work.

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5. Here’s how AI will help your doctor diagnose cancer better.

By Adam Conner-Simons at MIT News

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Save the Planet With More Energy, Not Less

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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By Eric Holthaus in Slate

2. No big deal: Kids can now send their science experiments into space.

By Charley Locke in EdSurge

3. We basically know how to end — or at least stop the growth of — homelessness.

By Tim Henderson in Stateline

4. Soon, you could 3D-print your dinner.

By Heidi Ledford in Nature

5. Is this the technology that will finally give us flying cars?

By David Morris in Fortune

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME medicine

Most Americans Think Medical Marijuana Shouldn’t Be Used By Kids, Poll Says

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Getty Images

And 80% think adults shouldn't use medical marijuana in front of children

While most Americans think medical marijuana should be allowed for adults, a majority says the drug shouldn’t be used by or in the presence of children, a new poll shows.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health found that 63% of American adults think their state should allow the use of medical marijuana among adults. But only 36% think it should be allowed for children and teenagers under age 18. The poll also found that 80% think adults should not use medical marijuana in front of children. Ten percent know someone with a medical marijuana card or they have their own.

Close to half of the states currently allow the use of medical marijuana.

“Our findings suggest that not only is the public concerned about the use of medical marijuana among children, but that the majority of Americans worry that even exposure to it may be harmful to kids’ health,” Dr. Matthew M. Davis, director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and a professor at University of Michigan Medical School, said in a statement. “As is typical with anything involving health, the public’s standards are much higher when it comes to protecting children’s health.”

 

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