This is the first part of a two-part series on the evolution of the Kumaran Hacker Maker Designer Community.

Hello, I am Gautam Padiyar and this is the story about my experience in school and how it got me started on a journey. A journey that starts with me creating a hacker community in my school followed by an experimental venture named Hackio and hopefully many more interesting entrepreneurial journeys in the future.

Let me begin by saying that I thoroughly apologize for the first person writing.

I’ve always been interested in building things and especially interested in computers since a young age. When I reached 8th std., for the first time, my peer group happened to be one that used to constantly discuss technology and how it was changing. Until that point I was merely user of technology. I couldn’t really build anything. My desire to start building something was sparked only because of my peer group. By the end of 9th grade, I had started learning programming. That summer the school took us on a five day trip to an institute in Bangalore called IIITB. The professors there gave lectures on technical topics but dumbed down to a school student’s level. That was where I realized how little I actually knew. My friends helped me understand the lectures.

A couple of years later, when I started the Kumaran Hacker Maker Designer Community at Kumarans-CBSE(my alma mater), a core principle was the fact that your peers are always your best teachers. The idea back then was to form a community of people who wanted to go beyond the reach of the computer science curriculum that was taught at school.

The journey started as a somewhat bold and sudden proclamation during the only event (an event that I organized) at the IT Fair in school, where I said that Kumarans will never face such an embarrassing situation of nobody stepping up to do any events during the annual IT Fair ever again. I said that within the next one year I would set up some mechanism where students across batches would work together and come up with much better shows.

So, quick recap, when KHMD began, we wanted to do two things.
– Improve CS education for those who were interested to learn more
– Make sure that we had meaningful events during our annual IT Fair.

The response I got from teachers was great among teachers of classes 10th and below. Multiple times in the past, my friends and I had suggested to these teachers that they needed to revamp their curriculum to make it more up-to-date and creative to make sure that everyone enjoyed the classes. But they always held back saying that very few students are able to catch on to technology in a way we did and thus it wouldn’t be useful to change the curriculum. When they heard our idea, they supported us fully as we would be able to identify the students who were genuinely interested in building tech and help them level up.

Meanwhile, in my own block, the senior secondary block(11th-12th), I seemed to have ruffled a few feathers by pointing out their inability (read unwillingness) to actually tell the students that there was something called an IT Fair happening in school. What transpired over the next 1 year was full of moments that my classmates never fail to remind me of. In their own words, I was apparently the only one standing up to their gross unwillingness to spark any creativity in the subject. A lot of my seniors who had good relations with these teachers tried to mediate but nothing really came of it.

Over the next one year, we would organize two major events, Infuse and Interface(previously, IT Fair). Infuse was done primarily to show students our vision and to make them join the community. Interface was our rendition of the IT Fair, and it turned out to be much larger than usual due to the man-hours we put into organizing it.

Right before Infuse, we had come to a realization that we needed to make it more that just computer programming and hence expanded it to get it line with the ideals of the makers movement which focussed greatly on functional design as well. Long story short, within the first few months, we had refined the idea to make it more inclusive and useful and invited a speaker who had experience working in Silicon Valley to show us how we were building something that followed the spirit prevalent there, and had roped in around 100 members — both students and alumni.

By April 2015, we had started planning and forming teams for Interface that was to be held in Nov 2015. We had lots of fun doing it, got more people involved and during the lead up to show, it was heartening to see the entire team working from one physical space with one goal in mind. For me personally, there were lots of long nights, long phone calls, an entire pocket-notebook full of To-Dos that was scratched out and had made friendships (with batch mates, alumni and juniors) that will certainly last a lifetime. The entire exercise of spending so much time and effort was also a respite from the day to day drag of JEE prep that was running as a parallel process for many of us.

KHMD also ran a blog that was collaboratively written by over 20 people. It currently has over 14000 views. We tried to make it as unique as possible by reporting what we had built or explained technology in simple words.

Why this long blast from the past you ask? Only for context, I say. This is when the real story starts.

The second part of the article can be read here.

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