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Jarkko Moilanen wrote an interesting post about whether or not minors have a place in hackerspaces. The topic came up recently at Make: Day.

MZ_Kids-Badge.gifI was working the MAKE table but also talking to people about our hackerspace, the Hack Factory. We had a couple families come up and want to know whether kids could join. These were super smart teenagers for whom schools had little to offer, desperate for some nerdy types to hang out with. We discussed it in our next meeting and agreed that our bylaws didn’t allow it.

Some hackerspaces do not allow anyone under 18 to enter without supervision. Reasons for this normally vary a lot, but the most common reason seems to be avoiding accidents. If an accident would happen in a hackerspace, legal consequences could occur in some countries.

“It’s all about liability or the perception thereof. If you have an insurer that is okay with it, sweet. If not, prepare to pay to allow those kids in.”

“Children are NEVER allowed [...] for safety reasons.”

The above attitude or viewpoint is easy to understand. A lot of hackerspace activities include welding, wood work, machines, acids and even flammable materials. Besides it’s not just the materials that can make a hackerspace more prone to accidents, reason can also be the facilities (stairs, stuff lying around on the floors, etc..). Therefore a risk of accident is always present. Some kid could without anyone to know about it, hurt oneself seriously. The risk is present even for the adults, but they are supposed to take care of themselves and act in responsible manner. But it is common that kids do hurt themselves often. So what’s the news? That’s part of how they learn to live in this world. Although not allowing kids to enter a hackerspace without supervision can be well justified, it isn’t the only viewpoint.


Some hackerspaces (especially US hackerspaces) use waivers that the adults sign. If the kids of those parents who signed the waiver come to a hackerspace, they are to be supervised by the parent of the child. Another option is that parents of under-aged children sign the waiver for them. This seems to be a valid practice. Although it raises a question concerning those kids whose parents are not interested about hackerspaces related activities.



Some hackerspaces, depending on their location, need to take more strict attitude towards kids in hackerspaces. To get an insurance for a hackerspace can be hard, since they might not fit into existing categories of insurance profiles. Another hackerspace allows minors to enter hackerspace as long as they are guests of a member. The ‘host’ in that case will be responsible for the safety of the kids.

What do you think, readers? Should we do more to encourage kids to visit hackerspaces? Are we cheating a lot of teenagers — who may theoretically be as smart and capable as any adult — out of a cool learning experience? Leave your thoughts in comments.

[Image by Sunset Spark!, found in the MAKE Flickr Pool]

John Baichtal

My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal nerdage.net


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Comments

  1. Colecoman1982 says:

    Apart from the, obvious, issue of legal liability for the possibility of a minor getting hurt (and the, additional, possibility of increased insurance rates). I know that, at my space, we also tend to swear like sailors driving big rigs. Up until recently, we even had at least one example of what many people would consider offensive language written, in large lettering, on our wall (it’s still there, but something bigger got moved in the way while re-organizing the space). The atmosphere tends to be very inviting and accepting of new people, but it also tends to be a bit more adult/edgy that most parents would be ok with.

  2. Colecoman1982 says:

    As an addendum to my previous post, while I don’t really think that kids have a place at a hackerspace, I do think that there is a place for hackerspaces to work with kids in other environments (assuming the hackerspace members are interested). Community outreach is always an option. For example, US First http://usfirst.org/ is always looking for adults to mentor highschool robotics teams. That kind of stuff can be done at the school in question or, sometimes, at the facilities of the primary corporate sponsor or the team (some sponsors have fully stocked machine shops that they let the teams make use of).

    1. Kc8nod says:

      Hosting a FIRST Robotics team is a challenging endeavor for a hackerspace. So we at i3detroit decided to host two of them.

      It was a rousing success. Our teams (1216 & 3302) were excellent guests. And i3detroit got some great exposure in the local community.

      Our rookie team even made it to the state championship. Woot!

  3. Shadyman says:

    I think it really varies from space to space, whether the space is conducive/acceptable to host minors.

    As far as liability, I would get the parents to sign a liability waiver or some kind of disclaimer of liability, if possible. Otherwise, the “host” idea is definitely tops.

    TBH, if hackerspaces were around when I was 16-17, I would have totally been into it, like the teens in the article, so I tend to sympathize with their cause.

  4. Shadyman says:

    Ditto with the addendums: I’d think that 16+ would be a decent agegroup. Also, they would have to be comfortable with the language/atmosphere of the space (though whether the parents think so or not, many kids that age are, or are at least tolerant of the language)

  5. John T says:

    While I agree to some extent that there is no place for children in some hacker spaces purely on the basis of safety, I do feel this is not always the case. Yes workshops are dangerous places, but should efforts not be made to ensure they are as safe as possible? Simply saying that because there is welding occurring etc is not always a good reason for me. When I was in school children, around 15 or 16 years old were being taught to weld. Yes this was supervised, but it was still happening. What is to stop (Aside from hyper active health and safety fans and insurance companies) spaces running special days specifically geared towards getting kids in as a guest to teach them the safe use of such equipment.

    General safety is one that has started to annoy me more and more over recent years. Sure the safety of everyone is important, but for a minute lets just go back 5-10 years. Rules were not as strict as they are now, yet the number of injuries wasn’t significantly higher (at least from my experience). Assuming everything is supervised appropriately and common sense followed (i.e. Watch where you are going, don’t leave things lying about if you can help it etc) hacker spaces could be just as safe as a school workshop.

    This specific issue aside, I personally do not think there is enough being done in some areas to nurture younger makers. At least in this area, the nearest hacker space is either in Edinburgh or Leeds, this is either a 101 or 121 mile journey to either. I am sure this is not the only place where this is the case. For a city that hosted the UK Maker Faire, I find this disappointing. If efforts are being made to promote the maker culture and to improve interest in technology and science, why isn’t a similar effort being made to provide a place for the interested to do this outside of a school environment? Or even in school?

    Things that make sense will no doubt come later…

  6. ricklon says:

    At Fubar Labs we’re debating this topic right now. Over all the consensus is we would like to, but we need to understand the insurance issues, and can we afford the insurance to do it. Has anyone written on this in more detail, and posted in online?

  7. migpics says:

    Safety should be paramount for any person, whether you’re a minor or not and I’m not sure how what type of chemical reaction a human undergoes as soon as they turn 18 but I don’t think a flip of a calendar automatically converts a 17 year old irresponsible minor into a responsible adult.

    That being said I think this really comes down to a liability issue more than anything and if hackerspaces are interested in getting a different age perspective on designs or the making of things then a vehicle should be created to allow kids/minors/teenagers into these spaces and also protect the hackerspace through consent forms and/or waivers.

    If parents can’t make it, then maybe a formal hackerspace mentorship program would be in order or possibly an “Under 18″ area where they can safely view and be shielded from the dangers and realities of an adult world.

    It’s one thing to let them into a hackerspace to let them build and construct things and another to let them in to observe, tour, view and become inspired by the creations of others. I hope hackerspaces can at least find a safe way to do the latter.

  8. Pete Marchetto says:

    Just my opinion, though it be backed up by internally consistent logic, follows.

    I know plenty of adults who would be hazards to themselves and others in a hackerspace. Furthermore, I know plenty of kids who wouldn’t be hazards to themselves or others in a hackerspace. Indeed, I myself was one of those kids. I think that if you’re excluding anyone from your space, the reason must be one of competence, and not of age. Broad generalizations about capability and competence based on age alone are to be avoided, especially in a community such as ours, where the young should be encouraged to do the unprecedented and incredible. Besides, a make and hold harmless liability disclaimer for a minor signed by said minor’s parents is just as legally binding as one signed by an adult for themselves. Finally, as for “salty” language and bawdy atmosphere, consider that it is the height of puritanical hubris to think that a kid doesn’t know all of what you’re saying already, and doesn’t know three newer ways of saying it. Just learn your profanity in a foreign language; that somehow makes it more acceptable.

    All of this being said, kids actually have it easy. There are many, many programs out there oriented towards bringing kids and technology together at supercollider-like energies, and more than a little funding being directed towards this end. Schools are increasingly working towards being able to allow kids to build things, and programs like the aforementioned FIRST are providing a suitable legitimate backbone for this endeavor. As an adult, you don’t have anyone pushing for your open access to a shop; you have to make your access yourself.

    As one of the founders of Ithacka, a foundling hackerspace in Ithaca, NY, I’ve recently run into the twin roadblocks that a lack of support for a constituency under age of majority instills: lack of fresh ideas, and lack of population. We actually have to move our meetings (since we haven’t found a space yet), from a bar to somewhere else so that we can get some new, creative, younger heads to work on our BOJ project. And, we have yet to find where this somewhere else might be.

    Anyhow, children are the future. Can we, as makers of any stripe, deny them any advantage that would move us forward as a species?

    In a related question, should maker(s) be capitalized?

  9. RichT says:

    When I was 15 years old I was flying airplanes. I soloed at 16 and got my license at 17. I hung around the airport and spinning propellers, worked at the airport, drove trucks loaded with 3000gal of avgas and jet fuel. I was driving a car at 16. I was running a tractor when I was 10 or 12 so the men could do real work. When I was younger I was hacking old bicycles, engines, and other random junk that I found. I was making hydrogen balloon bombs using lye and aluminum foil. I was fooling around with electricity, climbing trees, shooting off large fireworks, building fires and boiling all kinds of nasty concoctions. In 8th grade shop I was getting there at 7AM and using table saws, large lathes, pouring molten metal, and doing all kinds of stuff like that because that was the only “hackerspace” I knew of. And believe me, I could cuss out anyone from the time I was 10 or so.

    What in a hackerspace could be more dangerous or scary than than that? The world is too wimpified — all the lawyers and dumbass ignorant people looking for a quick buck, or to minimize every risk, have made it so. If you want to make the world better, you teach a kid to invent, to explore, to learn, to ASK QUESTIONS, to have rational conversations with adults, and to become a contributing member of society rather than a video-game consuming obese slug, who will become an obese adult slug.

    You got legal issues? Get a parent to sign a release, answer questions on a video shot to make sure they understand that Junior might get burned or cut, hear some impolite words, or otherwise do something stupid or dangerous. That is life, and the sooner you learn how to avoid hazards and minimize risk, the sooner you get smart.

    Banning interested kids from learning is one of the WORST things anyone can do to a child. Suck it up, act like responsible adults, invite a smart kid to work with you, and we will all be better off.

    1. ricklon says:

      Does that mean having a waiver signed, and Director and Officer insurance in place is good enough. No other worries?

    2. Pete Marchetto says:

      The goal of existence shouldn’t be safety, but survival. We get them confused sometimes.

      1. metis says:

        as a lawyer friend puts it, a waiver is great for keeping the people who don’t want to sue you from doing so.

        as much as we’d all like to be cool with each other, we all have responsibilities, and accidents do happen, and not everyone is always going to be cool with that. hence, if we (generic maker space) want to survive, we not only have to nurture our community, but we have to take prudent steps to protect our investment (of time, community, tools, space, etc) from reasonable expectations of problems.

        that means we incorporate (so an individual isn’t liable) we get directors and officers as well as space liability insurance (because a slip and fall will probably be more expensive than a moron officer)

        yes, we as a community should be helping to geek the kids of today, however as is shown by a plethora of science, youth are biologically lacking in some critical decision making tools, and as such kids can’t vote, buy smokes, or in many jurisdictions spray paint or lighters.

        18 is to some degrees an arbitrary point, and i know some 15 year old kids who i’d rather see in maker shops than some of the folks i’ve seen in professional shops, however it provides a very straightforward point, legal majority, when we as a society have deemed them old enough to be responsible for themselves and not need to be supervised.

        lets be honest. if you’re using a table saw, you can *not* operate it in a safe fashion if you’re trying to pay attention to the safety of someone else picking up feed through for you, as they need to be monitoring their own safety, while you do things like blade and feed speed.

        suddenly you have 2 people operating a tool in an unsafe fashion that can seriously injure the operator and nearby folks *even when it has all safeties in place and is being used by an experienced operator.* this puts not only them, but others in the shop at risk. it’s not being excellent to others.

        now, it could be argued, that if the responsible adult directly supervises the minor and ONLY does that(not operating the tools), then you’re not creating an unsafe atmosphere, however you then have a body who is not paying attention to their own safety in the shop, which is also not a good thing.

        does this mean that kids shouldn’t be taught how to use power tools or electronics? not at all. i’ve taught minors how to use power tools, however it was in a situation designed for that education, and with appropriate legal protections for me, the space and the kids, as well as an appropriate environment for those lessons and subsequent projects.

        if a maker space wants to take on that sort of education of minors as a goal (like leonardo’s basement in minneapolis) that’s awesome, however even then you will need some age appropriate boundaries, and look at the impact on your core community of adult makers of the dedication of the shop to a purpose other than it’s original intent a regular basis.

        am i happy that we’ve decided to exclude minors at at this point at twin cities maker? no.

        do i think it’s necessary and prudent to protect the community and make it safer and stronger? yes.

  10. ckraft says:

    I don’t understand why its so wrong to have adult only spaces. Sometimes you want to be able to go somewhere and do something without worrying about what some parent thinks about what you are doing.

    Plus situations like this can easily get out of hand. You start with one smart kid and their parent and, next thing you know, you are running a day-care center with parents dumping their kids off so they can get their stuff done.

    There are lots of places out there that have programs and activities for kids. There are so few that are dedicated to adults that I don’t see a problem with saying “adults only”.

    – Chris

    1. Ben says:

      “Colored only” spaces might be equally appropriate and have been justified for all of the same reasons. Once you embrace discrimination for one arbitrary reason, how can you criticism others for similarly arbitrary distinctions?

  11. Colecoman1982 says:

    @Pete: I would be inclined to agree with you that it is a little ageist, but such is the way of the world. The simple fact is that the difference between an 18 year old member/guest versus a 17 year old member/guest is significant when it comes to legal liability and, thus, insurance rates. As for the, sometimes, crude atmosphere, I never meant to suggest that late high-schoolers couldn’t handle it, the issue is more a matter of parents not being able to handle it than anything else. Like it or not, they’re still the boss until you hit that magic 18th birthday.

  12. Richard@Home says:

    Yes, of course you have to include children. They are the engineers/developers of tomorrow.

    I respect the point of some saying there should be ‘adult only’ hack spaces’. Yes there is a place for that.

    Most places are fine for kids. You will need clearance from the parents and to keep things ‘sensibly’ safe. If a kid burns their finger on a soldering iron after you’ve explained “that’s hot, don’t touch!” then that’s a life lesson.

    I recently ran a kids only hack space making Atlatl (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlatl) during a Gist Hub (http://thegisthub.net/) camping event.

    No one died!

  13. MattMiddleton says:

    As a compromise to adults who may want a more mature environment, why not have specific days/times that younger generations are welcome?

    As for the risk factor, from the ages of 10-13, everyone at my elementary school was required to take shop. We had “adult” tools – band saws, belt and disc sanders – and were taught the appropriate use of them. Kids do need supervision, but it’s more important to help them understand the risks involved in what they are doing, and what can happen if they don’t respect the tools (and the rules) of the shop.

    Certainly, liability is always a concern – we live in a litigious society (less so here in Canada). I’d recommend using a waiver, signed by the parent or guardian. At least in Canada, that’s enough to cover martial arts schools, so I’m guessing it would be enough for a hackerspace too.

    1. Richard@Home says:

      “I’d recommend using a waiver, signed by the parent or guardian”

  14. rmadams says:

    I have been bringing my girls to the hackerspace I belong to since we first started it a couple of years ago. They are now 10 and 12 years old, and have really benefited from the experience. The exposure to a wide range of interesting projects and people in the group has been a great opportunity for them- they have clearly seen that engaging in hackerspace projects can be both fun and intellectually stimulating. We even brought a friend of my 12-year-old along to one of the hackerspace projects, something that she still talks about months later. Interest and engagement in technical activities at a young age is great, and is particularly important for girls, and our hackerspace has facilitated that.

    One point that I think is important to make is that the “edgy” nature of hackerpaces and hacker culture in general can be a key part of the appeal of making/hacking for kids. The risks of being around a hackerspace to life and limb are certainly no more than the many dangerous sports that our children participate in, and whatever risks there are around being exposed to alternative lifestyles, edgy art, bad language, etc., are more than counterbalanced by the mental flexibility that children can get from this diversity. Certain kids, particularly teenagers, seem to be drawn to activities that are perceived as risky or “outsider,” and I think that hackerspaces can be a place where that interest can turn into valuable technical and “maker” experience, while not being any more dangerous than anything else they do. I think that if everything that we expose our kids to has been carefully sanitized and padded for their protection, we are depriving them of valuable life lessons.

  15. Marcel says:

    Kids need exposure: both to what’s possible and to what’s a hazard. That’s education.

    I can appreciate that the adults of hackerspaces might want some adult only time so how about watersheds and certain days that are kid friendly?

    2pth

  16. Marcel says:

    …is this the time to raise the discussion of things like singles ads on the Make blog?

    My son’s not using the computer yet but in a few years I’d love him to enjoy the Make blog as I do — but I’m not keen on exposing him to that kind of sexual invitation. I appreciate the need for advertising revenue but surely there must be more ‘on topic’ advertisers about?

  17. matt joyce says:

    NYC Resistor, is pretty well known for it’s sometimes “exclusionary” policies. And we get a lot of criticism for that. But, I want it to be known that we don’t take these positions lightly. We don’t like excluding anyone from our space, or our events. We worked very hard to build our community so that it would be open and inviting to all.

    The conversations that occurred around whether or not to allow children into the space basically came up because of specific unsafe parenting that occurred in our space. Or at least our perception of that. Generally, we don’t fix problems that don’t exist yet.

    The arguments that occurred during this debate were some of the most fierce we’ve ever encountered as a group. As a group we suffered considerably mulling this over. Even today we suggest revisiting the topic as a joke with a hint of nervous laughter. A lot of personal relationships were strained by this.

    We rule on majority vote. In the first 3 votes we took on this topic spanning several weeks of discussion we were dead even tied. At that point in our history, most of our votes had been landslides for or against. This was difficult for us.

    Ultimately, we came to the acknowledgment that if a child were injured in the space several things would have to be assumed as happening in the event of a worst case scenario.

    1. A child would be injured. This in and of itself is something we don’t want to be a part of in any way.

    2. We would be sued. We would lose. Insurance or not, waivers or not, we would suffer SEVERE financial losses that would in the very best case scenario result in us losing our insurance, and being very hard pressed to find new insurance. More than likely though we would cease to exist as NYC Resistor.

    3. Individuals at the space would be drawn into the resulting legal mess. Lost time, money, and inordinate stress. The cost would be more than just money.

    We did discuss the option of inviting larger organizations like FIRST into the space. I personally support that, however the counter argument made was simple. We can always host a first team at a school, or library. In fact the NY Public Library was very responsive ( almost desperately so ) to the idea of hosting events for children there. Not many of our members however were very excited about working with kids directly, or hosting events off site. I know that hTink has done some stuff in this arena with the assistance of Bug Labs. I am glad they have. There’s plenty of room for others to take up the torch here. We need some geek dads to make this happen.

    Some of us still supported letting children into the space in a goddamn the torpedoes approach to ethics. Our country largely for the worse, puts crippling legal consequences in play for people who are willing to open their doors to children and provide them access to “dangerous” educational environments. Even then, some of our members were still of the mind that excluding kids was wrong, and took a moral imperative over the consequences. However, the majority ultimately voted to disallow children under the age of 18 into the space. Being part of a community means sometimes being in the minority.

    It is what it is. And we aren’t happy about it, but the problem isn’t with us. It’s with our legislation, a few rotten apples ruining things for the rest of us, and our politician’s ignorance concerning the issues. I like to describe hackerspaces as libraries for doing. And, that has never existed before outside of an academic institution. We often find ourselves at odds with the rigid guidelines imposed by legislation that wasn’t built to scale. And, for now at least that means playing a difficult game of breaching new territory while establishing safe guidelines for those who will follow us. Some day hopefully the full value of hackerspaces will be either rendered moot by new technology such as desktop fabrication, or wholly embraced by our nation as a point of national interest and pride. Until then, some restrictions apply.

    Sorry. We’re doing the best we can.

  18. rmadams says:

    All true, I suppose, and all very, very sad. I think we will live to regret these “inevitabilities” in the long run. The range of spaces in which young people can meaningfully participate outside the realm of the padded cell of childhood continues to shrink, and we are all the poorer for it. I am afraid that it is (as it always has been, I guess) left to the enlightened parents and boundary-pushing kids to discover and use as much as they can of this shrinking landscape. I will say that I am very proud of our local hackerspace for their openness to the younger folks in our community- it apparently is way rarer than I thought. My girls and I will take that particular lucky break and enjoy it!

  19. matt joyce says:

    There is no wall that cannot be torn down if people are willing to devote effort to that task, padded or not. Most spaces are only 2 years old. They’re barely in their infancy. We’ve yet to see the lasting impact of these spaces, and we’ve only begun to see them begin their development. There’s still a hell of a lot of opportunity for innovation, even in the field of kid proofing and legal proofing hackerspaces.

  20. metis says:

    i suspect that we’re all in favor of kids being exposed to hacking and making, but back to john’s query.

    is there a place for kids in a community workshop, and if so, what is it?

    hackerspaces are a diverse lot, managed in a myriad of methods, and with as many (if not more) goals as there are spaces. for those spaces with a mission statement, they need to address what they intend to do and what their community wants to do.

    if a lot of parents join up and want their kids to be allowed in, i suspect the diy nature of the community would find a way to do it. hopefully they would find a means to do it in a responsible fashion.

    most hackerspaces haven’t been founded to provide kids a place to hack, but for friends and friends of friends to do so.

  21. Pete Marchetto says:

    This is verbatim from my dad, a maker himself, and obviously, the proud father of a maker (me):

    Hi Bub,
    Re: your and everyone else’s comments.

    You were all in the same situation when you were younger.
    The word ‘COURAGE’ applies here. You all, as young children did things knowing or unknowing the risks
    you were taking. You wanted to MAKE something and made the attempt with what you had.
    From IT you GAINED, success or failure. And that’s why you’re all STILL makers.

    I read this along time ago, but don’t recall the author, perhaps Gurdjieff: “Experience…is what you get, when you
    didn’t get what you wanted.” If there are parents out there that would like their kids to be exposed to your
    Makers’ world, that takes Courage, they don’t know what they’re in for but they see their Kid wants to Make stuff.
    To Dis-courage their participation, though that in itself would be an Experience, would be a turn-off.
    To En-courage, mentor, advocate, guide a young geek, I believe would be a positive Experience
    for all involved. I say Make up the waiver forms and invite them along.

    P.S. Perhaps an organization like ABANA has some insuror insight.

  22. ricklon says:

    It’s clear from the passionate comments it’s a brave and honorable thing to work with the younger generation in a Hackerspace. But having it boil down to risk everything for it or not do it seems to be kind of extreme. Has anyone found the middle ground? Or bit the bullet and paid for the insurance? Did that work out properly? Was it worth the investment?

    1. matt joyce says:

      Most if not all Hackerspaces have Insurance. NYC Resistor is an LLC and we have pretty decent coverage ( several if not tens of million ). The problem is, if we ever cash in on that insurance for a serious injury we’ll run into some problems…

      1. We’ll end up losing that provider. Even if they pay out, we become a liability and they drop us. We may lose our LLC status as a result.

      2. Hackerspaces are intrinsically unsafe environments. Not just because of the tools. Large active projects are occurring. Lots of projects are occurring. Lots of things are in flux, be it chemicals, heavy materials, or flammables there’s always a risk.

      The problem with an environment like that is, that even if we were super responsible and cautious all the time… all we need to do is slip up once. And for 30 random people who are members and many more who are not, the odds of that happening increase. Then comes questions of negligence. Was X stored properly. Quantities? Was X approved equipment used by all in proximity to the . We could do everything right and still be portrayed as the bad guys by a decent lawyer.

      But with kids, they don’t even have to do that. If a kid is really and truly injured at a space, or anywhere… the court will ALWAYS side with that kid to get them the money they need to recover as best they can or be taken care of. You could prove you did everything right and you would still be paying out. Waivers would be useless. And you know what, that’s the right thing to do. And by and large courts try to do the right thing.

      Insurance isn’t a magic cure all. It can keep a tragic mistake from ruining your life for all time, but it can’t make the problem uncomplicated. It can’t make the problem go magically away without it costing you time and money personally.

      Waivers in cases of negligence are worthless. Proving negligence in a hackerspace is like finding hay in a haystack. We aren’t all lawyers and we aren’t always pursuing sane or orderly design process.

      And let’s face it. Some parents aren’t seeing their kids as objective third party observers.

      There’s more than just the kid that wants to learn and be taught. There’s the dad that loses track of his kids when he’s turned his attention to a project, or the kid who is just plain suicidally unsafe ( I was / sometimes am that adult today ), and there’s the kid that just doesn’t want to be there, and his idle hands and inattentiveness will get him into trouble.

      It’s a real rabbit hole. It isn’t as simple as, you could change a kids life forever and put him on the path to engineering. You could change a kids life forever, and cost him full use of his arm, his eye sight, scars… the list goes on. Sure, you might produce the next von braun ( is that really a good thing? ) or you might end up regretting having ever let that kid set foot in a hackerspace for the rest of your life.

      It’s easy to pontificate when these things aren’t “real”. But they are real, and the consequences are too.

      1. Ben says:

        Not every Hackerspace is a veritable jungle of dangerous gears and motors; the single most popular activity in a Hackerspace (after typing) must be building a reprap – all of which can hardly be described as posing some extraordinary risk to children of any stripe.

        The real risk of segregating the next generation from the essential skills of a first world is demise. This reaction is irrational; it’s protectionist, its the tragedy of the commons in the inverse, If everyone excluded kids, the demise would be inevitable, so those who exclude children, are depending perversely on those who do not for their future healthcare, economic vitality, air conditioning etc. . . .- all of which will in future be provided by what we now call “Children”.

  23. Adam says:

    I completely think that kids should be able to enter/work in hackerspaces, though their parents should probably have to sign a liability waiver. I’m 12 and once I’ve gotten past basic breadboarding and soldering, the tools become quite expensive, hard to maintain, and large. Also, I think that every budding hacker should have the ability to integrate into a community of like-minded people who will understand their ideas, unlike most parents.

In the Maker Shed