It is becoming increasingly clear that cities face different challenges to create a healthy and pleasant living environment for their citizens with a smart and responsible use of resources. The notion of ‘smart cities’ is becoming more and more relevant. However, a smart city cannot arise unless the citizens themselves become part of this adventure and especially the young people amongst them. To accommodate this development and think about ‘smart cities’ with youngsters, the T2 campus at Thor Park (Genk, Belgium) has setup ‘TECHville’: an interactive experience space for young visitors (10-14 and 14-18 years). The ‘TECHville: voor- en natraject’ project (Stad Genk / T2 campus; September 2019 – January 2020) project fits within this dynamic by providing the ‘TECHville’ experience and experience space with a meaningful pre- and post-trajectory for pupils and their teachers. After all, it is crucial that what happens in Techville does not become independent of what happens in the school and in the city. All parts of the pre- and post-trajectory proposed below are developed in collaboration with (a sample of) teachers and pupils. This project is a collaboration with a collaboration with T2 campus and UCLL Lerarenopleiding.
‘Making Things!’ (LUCA School of Arts / OPAK; 2015 – ongoing) is a Participatory Design trajectory in which a collaboration with local youth work organisation ‘Gigos vzw’ is set up to design workshops together with local children and youngsters of 6 – 16 years old and youth workers, within the context of FabLab Genk. Rather than defining the variables of the workshop beforehand, the designers, researchers and youth workers involved are looking for ways to ‘design’ the workshops in a participatory manner. This means that, via e.g. co-design, the children are asked to design the workshops themselves before effectively participating in them. In doing so, ‘Making Things!’ is part of a strategy to actively involve others (besides students and traditional makers) – and more specifically those from the surrounding neighbourhoods in Genk – in FabLab Genk striving for long-term participation. To give form to this trajectory, an iterative methodological process of three cycles will be carried out.
To stimulate children’s participation in Genk, the city of Genk (Stad Genk, Dienst Jeugd) organizes the ‘Junior Team’ every year. In 2018, from February – May, approximately 10 children (11-12 y/o) worked together to explore the Stiemerbeekvallei in Genk. This valley is a long-distance road that leads one through Genk by bike or on foot, connects different neighborhoods and contains a wealth of nature. In the ‘Junior Team 2018 – Stiemerbeekvallei’ project, the children – in collaboration with Stad Genk, Dienst Milieu – investigated how they themselves use the Stiemerbeekvallei (or want to use it), through field visits and the joint development of interventions. In doing so, the participatory design of the process itself by the children was central. According to the tradition of the Junior Team, the children formulated a series of policy recommendations for the city of Genk in which they expressed their (future) ideas about the Stiemerbeekvallei.
With the support of Flanders Make, FabLab Genk organized a number of workshops for students aged 10 to 14 years. This workshops trajectory – called ‘Wa Make?‘ (2016-2017) – aimed to enthuse children for ‘STEM’ (this is the widely known abbreviation for ‘Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics’, and includes a variety of technical, technological, scientific and mathematical education and professions). The workshops were an attempt to promote the influx of young people in this domain and related professions.
The aim of the ‘Speel-GOED‘ project (IWT/CiCi) (2015-2016) was the development of interactive gaming modules for children and adults that improve the quality of the waiting experience in hospitals and encourages interaction between visitors of the waiting rooms. Through actively involving the (child and adult) visitors of the waiting rooms, this Participatory Design research and design project resulted in a modular design system that hospitals – and by extension other public institutions – can use to equip their waiting areas with interactive game modules.
The project ‘MELoDiA – Music Edutainment Looking at the Digital Age‘ (iMinds) (2012-2013) aimed to develop a mobile application for children aged 8 to 12 years, which motivates them to learn and practice making music by providing real-time feedback on the music they play or sing, using familiar and popular content, and allowing for social interaction. The application is based on music education theories, but also includes gamification techniques to keep the motivation of the users of the application high.