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What do Hackers and Education Have in Common?


For those of us living outside the tech-sphere, the term “hacker” has come to carry many negative associations. Whether it be information theft, criminal behavior, or anything else, what we might not know is that at its origin, hacking is more about making and fixing than anything else.

Who are hackers?

Born out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the 1960s, the word “hacker” was used to describe those utilizing computer-programming knowledge to solve problems, either by overriding systems or circumventing programmatic barriers. It began to carry negative connotations early on and has since maintained its polarizing status. But recently, there has been a push to change that, inside and outside of the university’s walls.

Jeremy Buckle is the Event Director for YoMo Shanghai, part of a global program partnered with GMSA that works to inspire the future generation of scientists, technologists and artists. Revolving around one of the pillars of the hacker imperative, YoMo engages their participants through hands-on, inquiry based learning experiences that address problems related to STEAM subjects, also known as:

  • Science

  • Technology

  • Engineering

  • Art 

  • Mathematics

Historically, hard sciences have been treated as their own discreet set of disciplines, but those working in education and technology are now striving to include the arts in this grouping, advocating for an interdisciplinary and inclusive approach to quantitative subject matter. Through learning by doing and creative engagement, students become more comfortable asking and answering their own questions, turning theoretical problems into real world situations with attainable, and sometimes surprising, solutions.


When discussing the importance of art and design within STEM subjects, Buckle asserts:

STEAM subjects drive forward the world we live in today ... Science and Mathematics are fundamentally important in almost every part of our daily lives. However, including the all important ‘A’, arts help us to show how new technology is transforming areas previously thought out of touch with or disconnected from core STEM sectors.” 

Eduardo Alarcón, founder of TokyLabs and YoMo participant, elaborates to say that:

Art and design help us discover new horizons, and question the status quo of thought ... By including this ingredient in STEM we get a spirit of exploration and innovation. Art and design are the tools that allow us to empathize with technical disciplines.”

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