How to Host a Jewelbots Hack Day: Interview with Aydrian Howard of MongoDB

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This Spring, MongoDB hosted a Jewelbots Hack Day for girls and their parents that was open to the public. Here we interview Aydrian Howard, Developer Advocate for MongoDB, about how pulled off this inspiring event! 


Can you tell me about your role at your company?

I’m a developer advocate at MongoDB, so I work with the developer community, including sponsorships of developer meetups, I also create lot of developer content like blog posts and work with our university team to put on workshops.


What made you decide to do a Jewelbots event?

I have 3 nieces, so as soon as I found out about Jewelbots, i bought them a 3-pack. I’m always looking for ways to get them involved with STEM, so this was perfect. I thought it would be something fun they could do with their Dad who also works in tech. I travel a lot for work and am always finding myself telling people about Jewelbots, at conferences and even to people sitting next to me on planes, I feel like an unofficial Jewelbots Developer Advocate!

How did the Jewelbots event come about?

I was speaking with our CMO, Meagen Eisenberg, and she was wanting to know how to get her daughters interested in coding. I told her about Jewelbots and she was like “this is great.” She ended up buying 6 as Christmas presents. She said next time you are in Palo Alto, we should do a workshop, so we ended up doing an event.

My coworker, Jay Gordan, then pulled in Chloe Condon from Sentry. She is also a developer advocate and has a background in theatre, so she was perfect to lead the day.


How did you prepare for your event?

We bought a whole bunch of Jewelbots. I then started looking through the forum and with some guidance from Sara Chipps, found some curriculum including the ‘Catch the Leprechaun’ lesson which taught them to create a game. We ended up doing a full hack day. So first we taught them the out of the box features, pairing with friends and sending messages and gave them some time to play around. Then we moved on the more advanced stuff, programming it. We knew that kids can sometimes have attention issues, so we wanted to make sure they got plenty of breaks.

Chloe came up with a face painting and hair color stations to add a little extra fun during the breaks. We had movies playing in a conference room towards the end of the day for those who had enough coding.


What was the most fun part about the Jewelbots event?


I think they had a lot of the fun with the out of the box features. We spent maybe an hour going over them, and then sent the girls off to try it themselves, giving them time to connect with their friends. They were having a lot of fun running around and sending each other messages. At the end of the day, it was great to see many of of the kids, some with parents and some solo, still there standing doing the programming challenges. One girl by herself went on and figured out now to do things we didn’t even teach.


Any tips for others who are thinking of putting on Jewelbots events?

I would recommend a shorter day. We did 8am - 5pm and it was just bit too long for some of the kids. I also recommend that people show up with the boards already installed and ready to go to maximize the time.

What was the most surprising thing that happened at the event?

We sold out! We planned for 30, aimed for 25, bought some extra to be safe, and we ended up having 32!

This was the first time we put on an event that had nothing to do with MongoDB. I had all these scenarios in my head of something that could go wrong, but it went so well! It was pretty painless getting them set up. Jay and I unboxed all 35 jewelbots and put them on the charge the night before. We didn’t charge much for the event, just a $5 donation to Girls Who Code. But I think it was such a great event and we could have definitely charged more if we wanted to.  I was also surprised at how engaged the girls were throughout the event. It was very inspiring to watch.

Interested in hosting your own event? Learn more here!