Six Weeks to the Hackathon!

The date is set for our parent engagement hackathon, so we’ve hit the ground running! Planning a large event like this is no easy task, so we’re breaking it up into smaller steps to make it more manageable and to ensure that we don’t overlook important pieces. Here are some of the key aspects we’re focusing on this week:

Securing a Venue

If you’ve ever planned a wedding or large party, you know that almost everything depends on finding the right venue. A space to host your hackathon will be your biggest and likely most inflexible resource, so it’s best not to advertise the hackathon date until the venue’s availability has been confirmed.

Luckily for us, we’ve got a fabulous space right here at our station. The WGBH studios include state-of-the-art events spaces where private and community events are held regularly. Supporting these facilitates is a fantastic team of public media folks, so we know we’re in good hands! The studios are also accessible by bus, have plenty of parking available, and are wheelchair accessible—all important factors to consider when looking for the right space.

Setting Up Online Registration

Now that we have the space and date set, we’re eager to start signing up participants. The WGBH events team recommended that we use Eventbrite, an online service for creating and promoting events. Our hackathon event is free to attend, so using Eventbrite to manage registration is free. And super easy! Setting up the event takes minutes if you have all of the necessary information ready to go.

We started to create the event but realized we still needed to answer questions like:

  • How many tickets should be available? As much as we would love to have everyone who wants to participate attend the hackathon, we know there’s a limit to how many participants we can actually accommodate. But we also know that not everyone who signs up for an event actually shows up, so we need to pad that number somewhat. And we’re looking for an even distribution of parents, teachers, healthcare professionals, designers, and developers, so we’ve decided to separate tickets into those categories. That way, when it gets to be crunch time, we can see where we’re short and focus our recruitment efforts on that particular category of attendees.
  • How much detail should we provide? We’ve been circulating a proposed agenda internally, but we’re not ready yet to share it with our participants because it may change between now and the event. On the other hand, we want to provide enough details so that participants know enough about what they’re signing up for to know if it’s a good fit.
  • What should the hackathon be called? Although we’ve been referring to it as the “parent engagement hackathon”, we know that a snazzier name could make it more enticing for participants. Brainstorming a new name has shown us that striking the right balance between informative and enticing can be very tricky…
Finding a Partner

We’re looking for an organization that can co-host the hackathon with us. Ideally, that partner organization would provide skills and experience that are different from and therefore complement our strengths. Identifying and bringing on partners is always a challenge, but is also an opportunity for immense growth! We definitely recommend securing a partnership early in the process, and even if partners need to bow out, be understanding and use that as an opportunity to meet another partner in the community!

Needless to say, it’s been a busy few weeks. In the next week we’re going to turn our attention to spreading the word about the event and recruiting participants, as well as sorting out what resources we need (food, supplies, volunteers, and so on). Check back in a few days for more updates on our planning process!

New Models for Parent Engagement

With funding support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, our First 8 Studios team at WGBH is looking into new models for public media to promote parent engagement.

Our approach?


Take a peek at a pilot Hackathon we held at the 2016 New England Head Start Association Regional Training conference. Special thanks to our fabulous participants! We loved working with you!

Our next First 8 Studios Hackathon will be held in Boston this November! Join us!

What Is Next Generation Preschool Science?

Next Generation Preschool Science brings together educational researchers from SRI Education and EDC, public media producers from WGBH, and preschool teachers and children to create rich early science curricula that integrate tablet-based and traditional learning experiences. Thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation, the team…

City Skate on Apple TV


GRACIE & FRIENDS CITY SKATE was released with the launch of the latest Apple TV (which now allows for interactive games and apps), and is featured as one of Apple TV’s Best New Apps in the Education category! We are so excited to be able to share Gracie & Friends on more platforms!

Parents’ Choice Award Winners

Gracie and Friends apps.jpg

The Fall 2015 Parents’ Choice Awards® are out, and we’re proud to say that Parents’ Choice Recommends six Early Math with Gracie & Friends™ apps in the Mobile Apps category. Check out the reviews of Gracie & Friends Breakfast Time, Jungle Gym, Lemonade Stand, Park Play, Photo Friends, and Treasure Bubbles.

Two of our apps are already Approved by Parents’ Choice in the Software – Mobile Apps category: Gracie & Friends Birthday Café and City Skate.

Thank you to the Parents’ Choice Foundation for their work helping parents and educators identify top learning materials, and thank you to our team here at WGBH and to our partners at EDC and SRI for their commitment to making high-quality educational media!

Congrats and thanks to Efrain Ponce, American Graduate Champion


Efrain Ponce works with two children on a First 8 Studios iPad activity.

This Thanksgiving week, First 8 Studios reflects with gratitude on the inspiring teachers who have collaborated with us.

One particular “Thank you!” goes to Efrain Ponce, for being a great role model to young children and their teachers, and for being a dedicated partner to First 8 Studios! Congrats on your recognition as an American Graduate Champion!