Digifest 2019 is a design and tech conference being held in Toronto from 25- 27 April 2019.  The theme this year is – Creative Growth on how we can use unique connections at the intersections of design and technology to grow as educators, entrepreneurs, and designers.

Update: read proceedings from this workshop at: https://torontodigifest.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/TorontoDigifestProceedings2019-1.pdf

On 27 April 2019 (Saturday) – the Digifest Family Day – the participation in the event is free and open to all, including kids and families.


Artash and Arushi will be giving a talk at the Event on 27 April (12 pm -12:30pm) on NextGen Creative Growth: Hacking to Raise Creators, Not Consumers! 

They will also be exhibiting several of their space and artificial intelligence projects such as the TRAPPIST-1 Exoplanetary Model, the Make A Robot Smile (MARS) Bot, CanadaArm and more.

robot with medal
Make A Robot Smile (MARS) Bot
Kids having fun playing with Make A Robot Smile (MAR) Bot
TRAPPIST-1 Exoplanetary Model

NextGen Creative Growth: Raising Creators, Not Consumers

Growth and opportunities of tomorrow are birthed by new and ongoing challenges of today. Think climate change, deep space exploration, rapid urbanization, biodiversity conservation, and longevity and aging population.

A creative, collaborative and entrepreneurial mindset can transform these inter-generational challenges into economic opportunities bringing growth, employment, and development.

But how do we raise a generation that is motivated to tackle these challenges, is capable and trained to come up with creative solutions, and finds joy and satisfaction in searching solutions for problems they did not create?

checking the wiring
Making things is a part of Creative Growth

Our current education definitely introduces kids to technology. Technology is embedded in all aspects of student life –  but does it foster creativity, invention, imagination, and curiosity or does it simply create new customers and consumers of tech products?

To get most of the technology we need to rethink our educational system. It needs to challenge young minds and fire their imagination to think big. This means extending the learning process outside of the classrooms too where they can be exposed to real-world challenges, linked up with mentors and communities of practice in subject areas that interest them, and opening up avenues for them to seek their own role models and inspiration.

Sharing knowledge is the best way to learn

Hackathons may be a good way to provide students access to mentors, technologies, and introduction to global challenges at an early age. It prepares the NextGen to become inventors, makers, and trendsetters, work in interdisciplinary teams where age is not a barrier, and develop a mindset where problems need to be tackled rather than ignored. Hackathons disrupt the traditional way of learning.

We have participated in almost 30 hackathons in the last 5 years and won several of them. They give us an opportunity to seek new information, do research, connect to people, build communication and presentation skills, and come up with impactful solutions that can fire the imagination of people. As we love space and robotics, we often pick up challenges that are related to them. For instance we have created machine learning based robots, scientific instruments to study stars (won the Hardware Hackathon 2015), instrument to study the solar eclipse (won the Jesse Ketchum Award of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada), model to calculate carbon concentration in the atmosphere (won the Climathon 2016), software to predict risk of collision with Asteroids (Honorable Mention at the Mission Hack Hackathon 2018), and using satellite data for predicting droughts and migration in Kenya Uganda border (won the NASA Space Apps 2017). We frequently combine science with arts to create the Deep Space Musical by converting images from Hubble Space Telescope into music (won the 2018 NASA SpaceApps Challenge) and using the Canadian Satellite RadarSat-2 images to recreate Canada 150 logo (won the 2017 Canadian SpaceApps Challenge).

Use the latest technologies from different sectors to solve big challenges. Artash using Machine Learning to predict the risk of asteroids colliding with Earth

It is not uncommon for youngsters to know a lot more than their peers in subject areas that interest them. This self-driven knowledge seeking behavior should be encouraged by creating a unique and enabling environment around them. Instead by focusing on standardization and conformity we stifle creativity, curiosity and the inherent right of every generation to question things around them and feel passionate about making them better. One of the best ways to learn something is by teaching them to others. Young minds are good teachers as they are constantly improving their knowledge and fast-tracking their learning process by sharing their learnings over social media.

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