We are engaging under-represented youth in technology and design by putting a creative twist on the traditional hackathon.

During a hackathon, teams work intensively to prototype a technology project over a short period of time (often one or two days). These events are exciting and can be a great opportunity for out-of-school learning but they are often competitive and male-dominated, making them unwelcoming to beginners and young women.

The Robot Petting Zoo was designed to address this problem. We've created it from the ground up to be welcoming to everyone. Instead of competing, groups work collaboratively to put on a fun event for the public. Participants learn coding, electronics and physical prototyping by building an interactive robotic pet. The goal of these animatronic animals is to delight the public, which makes art, creativity and humor essential skills in the design process.

We've assembled a set of some of the most user friendly and low-cost robotics tools available, and are building out a library of video tutorials and support documents online. Using these beginner friendly tools in a fun, creative and collaborative environment, we can make the hackathon welcoming to everyone and help to bring more diversity into the fields of technology and engineering.

We hope that you will join us: as a participants in the next hackathon, as one of our mentors, or by hosting your own Robot Petting Zoo.