In 2017, Red Hat launched CO.LAB, presented by Open Source Stories, in Boston. Since then, we have shared the principles of open source and collaboration with more than one hundred middle school female students in five locations. These students built digital cameras out of Raspberry Pi computers and took photographs to visualize a poem. The result was a collaborative work of art.

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This week we’re kicking off our Fall 2018 tour in Boulder, Colorado, where we will introduce a new CO.LAB curriculum. Local middle school students will join us for two day-long engagements in our mobile lab, outside of the Boulder Public Library. During the program, they’ll be introduced to paper circuitry and LilyPad Arduinos — small, flexible microcontroller boards that can be easily mounted to paper. The students will use the LilyPad Arduinos to program a page of their code book to perform a specific function — like light up, buzz or beep. Once complete, the pages will be assembled to create a collaborative code book. Through this engagement, the students not only become beginner programmers, but they’ll also unlock codes in the book that provide clues to solve the story’s mystery.

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The code book project is an innovative collaboration between Red Hat; Alicia Gibb, open source advocate and researcher, and founder and CEO of Lunchbox Electronics; and Lauren Sabel, the author of two young adult thrillers and a Boulder local. When considering an evolution of the program, our team reached out to Alicia for her advice on using open hardware in a new way. We have been working with her since 2016 when she built open hardware badges that were distributed at Red Hat Summit. In 2017, she took the main stage and was a keynote speaker at Red Hat Summit. This year, she is featured in the Prologue to our latest Open Source Stories documentary film, The Science of Collective Discovery. Given our history, it was a natural fit for her to help us create the new curriculum for CO.LAB.

After brainstorming and creating several do-it-yourself prototypes, the team decided to use a paper circuitry project for the program as it provides a hands-on introduction to basic circuitry. Alicia connected us to Lauren, who agreed to write an original story to complement the technology.

“It's not every day a software company asks me to build a hardware project for them with a young adult author and a team of illustrators,” said Gibb. “It's been a true cross-section of interdisciplinary work.”  

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After our stop in Boulder, we’ll also be traveling to Minneapolis to share the CO.LAB curriculum. We’re excited to share this collaboration with the students and we look forward to showing you these students’ stories as they are introduced to new open hardware.

As a part of Red Hat’s Open Source Stories initiative, CO.LAB is an ongoing effort to create and share stories about how openness can be a catalyst for change. Red Hat has championed communities—both big and small—as we strive to build innovative technologies. With Open Source Stories, we are sharing what happens when people defy convention and say to the world: “Take this. Build on it. Make it better.”

You can follow along with the CO.LAB initiative via our website: www.redhat.com/colab and on our social media channels via #RedHatCOLAB.

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