Photo: Intel’s Family Day at Digifest gave kids a hands-on experience with technology.

“If you give people tools, and they use their natural abilities and their curiosity, they will develop things in ways that will surprise you very much beyond what you might have expected.” – Bill Gates

A similar philosophy was behind Intel’s Family Day event Saturday at Digifest in Toronto, a three-day conference focused on digital creativity.

It was all fun and games, exposing children to technology through workshops and interactive installations, with a focus on showcasing wearables, 3D printing and all things maker related.

Intel, typically known for the chips that run our computers and tablets, is making moves in the maker community with its Galileo circuit board.

“What the Galileo board and Arduino does is open up the doors for kids to build things that are inexpensive and allows them to use their imagination,” says Nancy Demerling, Director of Marketing at Intel Canada.

Arduino, an Italian boys name meaning “valuable friend,” is definitely proving its value in the maker community, powering things like drones and 3D printers with its open-source development environment.

“Our objective was to make complex technology easy enough for people to use it as a creative tool,” says Massimo Banzi, CEO and co-founder of Arduino, who collaborated with Intel on making the Galileo an integrated software-hardware experience.

Creativity was evident in the diverse range of demonstrations that children were able to experience, including a demo of the Myo gesture-control armband developed by Waterloo Region’s Thalmic Labs, as it controlled an AR.Drone quadcopter.

And it wasn’t just hardware companies, but artists and designers who proudly showed off their works, like dancers from Ballet Jorgen using SoMo of Sonic Wear to control sound with choreographed movement.

“What’s impressive to me is where people have applied technology in an unexpected way to what seemed like very everyday scenarios,” says Elaine Mah, Director at Intel Canada.

Evident among the exhibits was form and function coming together.

“We are seeing this emergence of art with technology, and it’s opening up a whole new community, so we really want to encourage everybody to become a maker,” Demerling says.

It’s never too young to start learning, it seems.

Maker Kids, a makerspace in Toronto dedicated to teaching kids about electronics, 3D printing and woodworking, welcomes children from the age of three.

At the Intel event, they gave children the opportunity to get hands-on with activities like designing and 3D printing objects from the popular computer game Minecraft.

“When they are young enough they don’t care, so each one of them gets excited about technology, regardless of their gender, before either one of them gets typecast into what a boy or a girl is supposed to do in life,” says Banzi.

But this is only the beginning, as public libraries are creating makerspaces for kids, and Intel wants to be a part of it every step of the way.

“It’s in [Intel’s] DNA to shape what the future looks like and if we aren’t able to inspire the next generation to have that same belief and have that same motivation and drive, then we are going to be stuck in the same place,” Mah says.

And according to Banzi, who hails form Milan, Italy, we aren’t doing a bad job at it even though Canada isn’t immediately thought of as the place for startups or makers.

“What I have seen is that there is a fairly lively community here. In Toronto, there are two fab labs and a couple of makerspaces, and there are companies coming out of Canada like Thalmic.”