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November 1, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Hackidemia to put youths’ imaginations into high gear

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Joe Schoenmann

Stefania Druga, a fellow last summer at Singularity University, is bringing her HacKIDemia children’s program to Las Vegas this weekend.

Updated Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 | 9:22 a.m.

Stefania Druga is only 26 but has lived around the world and, more intriguingly, knows how to make a battery from a lemon, extract DNA from strawberries and create her own video games.

Last weekend, when a speaker went out at a house party Druga was attending, she created a useable speaker out of some wire and household items.

“Man, that was crazy,” said Fodé Diop, who founded evasive.com and saw Druga make the speaker. “She’s like a MacGyver. She made a speaker out of nothing.”

What’s more, Druga can teach all of this to children.

Before she flies back to Europe this weekend, she has set up a program for kids Saturday in at the SYN Shop, 117 N. Fourth St. Over two hours, she will help kids make their own video games from scratch using free software, play with graffiti, create a conducting circuit from dough and do other fun tasks that have a scientific bent.

She has conducted similar seminars over the past five months around the world, teaching some 2,000 kids. It’s part of the mission of hackidemia.com, an endeavor she started as a way to teach complex scientific concepts to children while introducing them to the technologies with a vision toward the future.

Raised in a small town in the Transylvanian mountains by a father who is an electrical engineer and her mom, a teacher, Druga said with a smile she knows “every plant species.”

She also has learned all the romance languages, is learning German (she lives in Berlin), speaks English and says she’d like to move to Las Vegas for a few years.

Druga said she had heard about what’s happening in downtown Las Vegas. She’s been stunned after getting here, though, after seeing what’s taking place.

“I was like, ‘Wow,’ there’s so much going on like art and creating and programming,” she said. “But I also wondered: Where are the kids? So I said, ‘I’m here for a week — use me.’”

Having taught in Brazil, Nigeria, Cambodia, France, Germany and other places, Druga observed that children with nothing, who have to build toys and devices from scratch, are particularly good at creating.

Druga is already well educated, having been a fellow last summer at Singularity University, the Silicon Valley think tank where Hackidemia came to life. But she said curiosity helped her most.

“That’s what I try to inspire in kids and mentors,” she said. “If you make them curious, they’re going to learn everything by themselves.”

The Hackidemia class will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

CORRECTION: This version reflects a change in the location of Saturday's hackidemia class to the SYN Shop, 117 N. Fourth St. | (February 21, 2013)

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  1. Yes, please come back to Las Vegas. Though small now, my children would love to participate in a year's time.