What happens when 25 middle school girls get together to build and code their own Raspberry Pi digital cameras, take a deep dive into a public domain poem, and then try to visually re-interpret that poem with the cameras they've just built—ultimately creating an entirely new collaborative work of art all their own?

Whether they know it or not, they're learning a lot about the open source ideals Red Hat believes in and champions every day.

Open Source Stories presents CO.LAB is an immersive experience designed to introduce open source principles, spark an interest in technology, and make a meaningful impact on the lives of girls and their communities. It is an educational extension of Open Source Stories, a Red Hat storytelling initiative about people who build out in the open, sharing their work for others to build on, modify, and improve. The aim is to let Red Hat be a catalyst for conversation and change.

What makes CO.LAB different from most STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) programs is the emphasis on open source and collaboration. The hardware is open, the software is open source, the poetry is in the public domain, and in order for it to work, the participants must help one another succeed. Some girls are instantly drawn to the technology and intuitively figure out how to make it work. Others are better with language and find meaning in the poem while others struggle. Still others are natural storytellers, able to imagine visual metaphors more readily than their peers. And some are better photographers than others. What's important is that each girl feels empowered to take charge and share openly when their strength is needed, and to ask for and be open to help when they aren't really sure what to do.

Their shared experience is designed to awaken the generosity and openness inherent in all of us, and teaches that far more is possible when we are free to connect and combine our gifts and efforts.

Red Hat CO.LAB began with a pilot program in Boston last spring and was run in cooperation with one of our agency partners, CTP, The City of Boston, Boston After School and Beyond, and Sociedad Latina. This fall, we've refined the curriculum, chosen a new poem (I Am the World, by Dora Sigerson Shorter), and we're taking CO.LAB on the road to New York City, Washington D.C., and Raleigh, North Carolina. Along the way, we hope to learn more from our students about how to teach young women to collaborate, and we'll share our findings with others down the road.

To find out more about how it works, who's involved, and what we're learning, check out CO.LAB On Tour.

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