“That was the best day of my life” and other such expressions of pure, youthful delight were responses heard frequently by the Infotrainers who mediated kids’ encounters with the content of the KET exhibition that ran from January 31 to March 4 at the Ars Electronica Center. Produced by the OTELO Association, KET is a series of installations designed for 4-8-year-olds to enjoy up-close, hands-on experiences with scientific phenomena and technological applications. This is the second year that the AEC has hosted a KET exhibition.

These five weeks were thrilling, stressful, interesting and enriching—all at the same time! The enormous joy, intense interest and bubbly enthusiasm the kids brought to their investigations and experimentation with new things was fascinating for the Infotrainers to behold. The younger the kids were, the more open and intuitive was their approach to technology. Girls and boys were equally adroit in their dealings with high-tech equipment and tools, and there were no gender-specific differences evident in their interests or level of enthusiasm.

The top attractions among the array of installations were Candle Carving and Deconstruction—and not only among the kids; they were the favorites of the Infotrainers too. Once the young craftsmen & -women got the hang of turning candles on a high-tech lathe, their initial trepidations quickly turned into unalloyed enthusiasm. Each child ultimately took his/her own individual approach to the shaping process—some were absorbed by trying out all the tools, others concentrated more on the various patterns. Either approach made for an interesting way to explore all the creative possibilities afforded by this installation. And after all was said and done, the young artists could proudly take their creations home with them.

The Deconstruction installation offered kids the opportunity to dismantle all sorts of electronic devices and use the resulting techno-junk to tinker together something new. This may well have been the first time some of these youngsters had ever gotten their hands on a screwdriver or a pair of pliers, but here as well, it was fascinating to see how quickly the girls and boys learned to work with tools they had little or no prior experience with. The cool thing about this installation was that you got to do something that was otherwise taboo. As quick as a wink and with consummate delight, kindergarten kids and elementary school pupils got into pretending they were workers, technicians, and computer experts. The girls and boys developed amazing endurance when it came to implementing their ideas, and the tangible products of their imagination were just as astonishing—for instance, “a telephone you can call up extraterrestrials with” or a “computer that lets you see into the future.”

Meanwhile, things were hopping at the other installations too—like the Energy-Water station, Digital Modeling and the u19 Mobile. It was really great to be able to make these enriching supplementary offerings available to the AEC’s youngest visitors.

If you had to describe the KET exhibition’s guest appearance at the Ars Electronica Center in just one word, it would have to be: Fun! Everybody who took part simply had a marvelous time—the Infotrainers, the numerous kindergarten & school groups who came by, and the many other visitors (especially on the weekends) who could give free rein to their imagination at these well-conceived installations. There was a tremendously enthusiastic response by young and old alike, and lots of parents and their children enjoyed a wonderful family experience playing together. In short: everybody was delighted. The only regret: that it was over so soon.

Article written by Katharina Link, Infotrainer at the Ars Electronica Center