Introducing Kids to Tech for Hack Week

by Joanna Buchmeyer - 21 Dec 2016

While Hack Week gives Zalandos a chance to experiment and try something new, it also allows us to explore ways we can give back to the community via technology. Our Hack Week team is channeling that fervor via an initiative to introduce kids to tech, which is a great way to use our vast resources of people and knowledge.

The scope of the project is to make opportunities in technology visible to kids from any background or gender, to help shape the tech environment for future generations. Our project team has begun looking at a workshop concept that could be implemented in schools and afterschool programs, focusing on the following:

  • Role modeling: The Zalando volunteers will represent different roles, and potential possibilities for the students’ future.
  • Practical workshop: Sparking an interest in tech via en e-commerce game, playing out the whole e-commerce setup and ecosystem (like Zalando)
  • Community partnerships: Becoming actively engaged with the community by creating symbiotic partnerships and making an impact

So, how did we get under way?

After initially brainstorming the impact, purpose, and outcome of our project, we were visited by a representative from Impact Hub Berlin who explained the Theory of Change Model (TOC), a process that requires we define all necessary and sufficient conditions required to bring about a given long-term outcome. Under the TOC Model, we mapped out what we want kids to take away from the workshop:

  • Understanding the underlying concepts of programming to solve a problem through challenges that require logical and analytical thinking
  • Understanding the mechanics of an app they regularly use
  • Creating an overall more neutral perception of tech, from what we feel kids perceive it to be today

We broke our plan down further by looking at different age groups, and making assumptions about what these groups would be seeing, feeling, and thinking. We were also fortunate enough to be able to have these assumptions validated by kids of employees, who helped show us that we were on the right track. We also plan to validate assumptions with kids from our target group, too.

By creating an e-commerce game as the practical element of our workshop, we wanted to introduce the important foundation skills that are required in technology, making sure kids understood the intent behind their interest: Problem solving, analysis, and creativity.

Our game will focus on the entire e-commerce set up of an online fashion platform like Zalando, from a customer ordering their clothing item online, to picking this item in the warehouse, all the way to the eventual shipment of the item. This would introduce technology ensuingly to come up with solutions the game would need.

For example – our logistics process has many automated actions, and our kids will need to understand the process of getting an order in, picking it in the warehouse, preparing a package, and writing a label for shipping. How can they simplify this process with the inclusion of technology?

The game is to be set up as role way with different Zalando experts to help, which can also be customized in terms of difficulty and technologies used. This also allows for easier iterations once some initial feedback has come in.

Ideally, kids participating in the workshop would see the benefits of using technology to solve problems in creative ways, something we aspire to do every day at Zalando. Awards in the game offer up an extra incentive, as well as giving kids positive affirmation of their interest in tech.

We’re happy to have Hack Week as an opportunity to pursue initiatives like these, and hope to see it through. We’d love to hear feedback as well – let us know your ideas via Twitter at @ZalandoTech.

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