Racing Through the Gateway of Play: Notes and Inspo from the RaceYa Hack Day


That was the key takeaway from the RaceYa Hack Day event we hosted at the Pine Street School, Nov. 18, for hackers, STEM educators, and a couple of maker sprouts.

Over several hours on a Saturday afternoon, we set our latest prototype cars loose among a gaggle of curious, creative, and crafty hackers to see how they would get along. We were not disappointed.

There were obstacles to outmaneuver, gear box modifications to explore (hello windmills!), loads of different weights to transport — and vectors! But most of all, it was crazy fun — proving our fundamental hypothesis that play is what unlocks creativity and experimentation.

“Everyone lit up when they started using it,” said one happy hacker. “Even people who never used an RC car before.”

We learned a ton in the process and got so many great suggestions for features to explore — a boat cleat for tethering, perhaps?  — and new ways to use the cars as a platform for exploring mechanics and ultimately programming.

I want to thank everyone who dedicated their Saturday afternoon to our Hack Day so we could watch them play with cool cars.

And if you weren’t able to make it this time, we’ve got more in the works.

Hollywood Hacktress: This Screen Legend Invented WiFi. Whaaat?
Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr

We know: who knew?! For those of you thinking to yourselves, Hedy Who now? — Hedy Lamarr was a Hollywood star of the 1940s and 50s known for playing the Biblical seductress Delilah, among other leading roles. But according to the new documentary Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, the Austrian-born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler acted by day and hacked by night!

In addition to helping onetime paramour Howard Hughes improve the wing design on one of his airplanes, she and co-inventer George Anthiel developed a "Secret Communications System" that helped prevent the interception of Allied radio transmissions during WWII. The system's use of "spread spectrum" technology would later enable the digital wireless communications we rely on today.

But like so many women inventors and innovators before her (hey, Ada Lovelace, Rosalind Franklin, and Vera Rubin!), Lamarr's contributions were only belatedly recognized. Here's to shining a spotlight on another hidden figure....

Know anyone with a need for speed?  Share us!

Hacking Halloween
pumpkin gif.gif

Here's how rocket scientists carve pumpkins

NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, is winning at Halloween. For the past several years, the talented and dedicated engineers behind such pioneering aerospace achievements as the Curiosity rover have staged epic pumpkin-carving contests that show off their programming and robotics ingenuity. Just goes to show that inside most every aerospace engineer is a kid who just loves to make cool stuff.

Check out JPL's Flickr feed for the latest creations.

Please try this at home.

You don't have to be a NASA engineer to hack your own robotic jack-o-lantern (I mean, it ain't rocket science). 

Arduino-powered pumpkin

Know anyone with a need for speed?  Share us!

Real Wonder Women: STEM Superhero Costumes for Halloween
Rosie the O.G. Maker

Rosie the O.G. Maker

Don't get us wrong: we love Diana, Hippolyta, Antiope, and all of their Amazon sisters from Paradise Island. But when it comes to Halloween, there are soooo many other powerful women that don't wear bustiers whom we can look to for costume inspiration. Many of them happen to be actual non-fictional people, from historical figures to real, live heroes living among us!

Because we're all about the science and the technology and the engineering and the math here, we've put together a quick round-up of our favorite STEM-themed costumes to remind everyone this Halloween who run the world.

For more inspo, check out A Mighty Girl's Girl Empowerment Halloween Costume Guide and Take Back Halloween.

Know anyone with a need for speed?  Share us!

Teachers Rule
thank you.gif

We want to thank everyone who came out to see us last month at Worlds Fair Nano and Maker Faire — especially all of the teachers who geeked out on RaceYa and what we're trying to do.

After chatting with so many of you and hearing your ideas for how you would use RaceYa in the classroom, we stared off into the distance and thought, If only there was a way to get them all in one room and tap into that collective awesomeness! 

Oh, wait — there is!


Thanks to the overwhelming response to our proposal for a curriculum hackathon, we've set a date — Saturday, November 18 — and we're lining up a space in Manhattan. Stay tuned for details on time and location.

Are you an educator? Are you looking for a chance to spend the day racing cars, eating snacks and brainstorming ways to bring fun — and fast — STEM projects into your classroom?



All STEM all the time!  
Are you looking for even more things to design, build, launch, or hack?
 Check out these awesome programs and resources:

A resource from Change the Equation for finding and
investing in leading STEM education programs

A roundup of low-cost STEM activities and curriculum
developed for and tested in afterschool settings

A searchable consumer guide for resources and programs

We know there are tons more...let us know about
your favorite afterschool resources and programs!

Please try this at home.

It's officially mid October, so we're legally allowed to get Halloweeny.

Alex Nickel, the clever and charming host of Technicality, has some fun home experiments that go way beyond slime, featuring dry ice and cameos from Physics Girl...and Daveed Diggs!


Abigail and Team RaceYa

P.S.  Know anyone with a need for speed?  Share us!