At Hackcon, we’ve always had a big emphasis on empowering student communities. Hackathons don’t happen without the communities behind them; students are the driving force behind the events at all these schools. So, this year for #HackconIV, we’re excited to have Chloe Varelidi, Director of Engagement & Content Design at littleBits, join us to help you develop your hacker communities. She works with community chapters around the world to help people of all ages build awesome projects. We sat down with her to hear her perspective on community building and being a maker.

So, who are you?

Depends on who you ask. I really have the least straightforward answer for this question, and I consider it a good thing actually. I used to think it was a bad thing, but now I have made good friends with my multiple personalities. So, on one hand I am a designer who tinkers around with technology in various areas; art, games, installations, activism, even food. On the other, I am the Director of Engagement & Content Design at littleBits, which means I have the honor of working on a daily basis with our incredible community of inventors around the world and a team of super talented content and community managers.


How did you get started at littleBits?

Well, I knew our CEO and Founder Ayah Bdeir and our R&D director Paul Rothman since they were starting at Eyebeam in New York with the first prototype of littleBits. I remember being so impressed with the product; there I was in the middle of grad school at Parson struggling to solder electronics together for my thesis, and littleBits just made weeks of work possible within minutes. I was sold! Many years later when our paths crossed again with Ayah I decided to join the team and help scale the littleBits community globally.

Why do you like to tinker? How did you become a maker?

I find joy in putting things together and taking them apart; something about that process fills me with energy and new ideas. I never start a project with an idea in mind, I always find my way there through tinkering, fact!

As to how I became a maker, I think I can trace the answer to when I was growing up in Greece. I spent most of my childhood with a very crafty grandmother who came from humble beginnings and would always encourage us to invent our own toys and games or fix what was broken versus buying it again. She was also a mathematician, so she taught us early on to love the power of numbers and logic: elements I later found so powerful when I started making stuff with code.

© Schultz Media, Adam Schultz

The student organizers at Hackcon are very heavily focused on their communities. What advice do you have for them on building and fostering their communities?

One thing I always tell people who ask me about building successful communities is a line I overheard a few years ago at MozFest by Mitchell Baker, Mozillas’ Chairwoman. “No matter what your job title is, everyone at Mozilla is a Community Manager.” And that stuck with me ever since, and I have tried to bring it with me as an ethos at littleBits. It is really important for the members of an organizations to contribute actively to the community and to inform the culture of that group. It is no accident that the littleBits community is such a playful and quirky bunch, that’s how we all are at HQ!

Future Talks – Meet Chloe Varelidi [Hackable Games Lab, Mozilla Foundation] from Future Library on Vimeo.

What is your favorite part about working with communities?

I have so many! But if I had to choose one, I would say it’s the moment when someone puts together an invention, as silly or serious as it is, and has that light in their eyes, the confidence in their smile; it’s exhilarating! We actually have a slack channel at littleBits called #themoment to capture all those delightful stories from our community; it’s the best! It makes everyone smile.

Hackathons are all about community and building things with your own hands, and Chloe’s work at littleBits encompasses those key components. We can’t wait to hear what else she has to share with all of you at #HackconIV next week!

Tickets for #HackconIV are all sold out, but don’t miss your chance to go #HackconEU, the student hackathon organizers’ conference that will be hosted in Eindhoven, Netherlands in September! Early Bird Tickets are out, so join the community in Europe!

Photos courtesy of littleBits and Chloe.