Sep 13 2010

What skills should a geek kid learn?

Published by at 5:05 am under Family,Hacking,Social Networking

In a few weeks HacKid will be coming up in Boston at the Microsoft NERD Center.  Flying cross-country to attend with my family didn’t quite work out, but it did get me thinking some about the skills I’d like my two boys to master before they’re too old to learn to learn anything from their father or any adult, which I figure is about 15.  I don’t mean the stuff they learn in school, which while valuable are not necessarily the skills they’re going to need to survive on a daily basis.  I was wondering about the geek skills, both technical and non-technical.  Since I’ve recently started playing with lock picks, I decided that would be one of the first of these skills, but I turned to the wisdom of Twitter to add to the list.  Below is a compilation of the list I started and some of the suggestions I got from Twitter.

Here you go:

  • Lock picking (physical security being taught at HacKid)
  • How to social engineer a password from someone
  • Fix a printer (or at least replace the paper/cartridge and pull out jammed paper)
  • Martial arts/Self-defense (also being taught at HacKid)
  • Electronics/soldering/circuit boards (I’d have to learn more about this one myself)
  • Amateur (Ham) radio
  • Fast reading/Critical thinking (they’ve got the first handled, I can barely keep these kids in books)
  • Conflict management
  • How to build a tree fort
  • How to build a home network
  • How to build a computer
  • How to change a tire (This one will wait until they’re a little older)
  • How to repair a consumer device, how to fix a motor
  • How to improvise to build what they need (aka Duct tape foo)
  • Role playing games (so this one will do more harm than good, it’s still fun)
  • Basic self-reliance (which our society seems to want to train out of us) [ireadit]
  • Basic carpentry and plumbing skills [ireadit]
  • Debate skills [Matt Summers]
  • Rope skills: how to make, how to coil without kinks, how to tie knots [Chris J]
  • Bike maintenance [Robin]
  • Basic navigation, both with and without a compass (my kids have been orienteering since they were in diapers) [Robin]
  • Juggling (fun, but essential?) [Robin]
  • Coin/close up magic, handy for social engineering [Robin]
  • How to swim [Norbert]
  • Learn to play an instrument [Robb]
  • How to play all major sports [Robb]
  • Basic cooking skills [Peter]
  • Basic first aid (Like ‘Call 911!’?) [Peter]
  • Linux & Windows command-line fu, a programing language (Does Scratch count?) [Chris]
  • And?

Leave comments and I’ll add to the list

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16 responses so far

16 Responses to “What skills should a geek kid learn?”

  1. ireaditon 13 Sep 2010 at 5:16 am

    Basic self-reliance, that they can solve their own problems. That the environment around them can be manipulated and changed to suit their needs with surprisingly little effort.

    Basic carpentry skills. How to drive, remove a nail. How to use a level. How to use a carpenter’s square. How to use a power miter saw. How to repair sheetrock.

    Basic plumbing. How to solder copper pipe. How to cut copper pipe. How to clear a drain. How to fix a faucet.

    Too many people don’t understand how easy a lot of these things are. If they’d just dig into it and do the work, they’d be amazed at what they can accomplish.

  2. Matt Summerson 13 Sep 2010 at 5:21 am

    Hey Martin,

    I think debating would another cool one. Adults I know rely on ‘argumentum ad ignorantiam’ as debating strategy. The only other thing I can think of is hacking some decent food together. Even boiling an egg would be a start. I know that you are man of many tastes when it comes to food so I hope you are instilling this in your kids as well.


  3. chris jon 13 Sep 2010 at 5:53 am

    I recently got my girlfriend’s 7yo a copy of 50 dangerous things. He’ll be getting that and a 9 volt battery on Saturday. When her 1yo turns 7 (assuming we’re still together), she’ll get a copy of the book too.

    As for learning electronics, the Make: Electronics book by Make has been really good. Now that they have the kits out it’s a little easier and cheaper to do.

    Oh, and another one. Rope. How their made, how to coil without kinks, how to tie knots.


  4. Robinon 13 Sep 2010 at 5:55 am

    Basic push bike maintenance. Always useful when they get a puncture while out on a ride.

    Basic navigation, with and without a compass.

    Juggling, always a good way to impress people.

    Coin/close up magic, goes with the juggling and comes in handy for social engineering

  5. Norbert Griffinon 13 Sep 2010 at 6:26 am

    How to Swim…cause you may get pushed in the pool at a conference :-)

  6. Robb Reckon 13 Sep 2010 at 12:22 pm

    I have two little boys of my own, and I think about these type things often.

    Most of your list is great, but do you really want young boys to know how to pick locks and steal passwords? Sounds like a recipe for lawsuits and police visits.

    Some more I’d include:

    Learn to play an instrument
    Know how (and have at least a minimum skill at) all the major sports (baseball, football, basketball, soccer, tennis, etc)
    Format a computer and install an OS
    A good sense for money. Including saving and investing.


  7. Martinon 13 Sep 2010 at 12:43 pm

    “Most of your list is great, but do you really want young boys to know how to pick locks and steal passwords? Sounds like a recipe for lawsuits and police visits. ”

    I understand how you could think that, Robb, but one of the things I’ve teaching the boys with skills lock picking is the ethical considerations behind having the skills. I try to teach them that being able to pick a lock is about understanding the strengths and weaknesses of physical security measures, not permission to open any lock they find. The same can be said for social engineering; it’s about understanding the basic concepts and being able to protect themselves from being social engineered, not taking advantage of someone else.

    Will the kids abuse these skills? At some point I’m almost certain they will. In fact, I’m sort of hoping they do, but with some understanding that there are rules and consequences involved. I’d rather have them learn these lessons while they’re young instead of waiting until they’re old enough for a slip to be a permanent smear on their record for their adult life.

  8. Peteron 13 Sep 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Basic cooking skills. You need to be able to feed yourself.

    Basic first aid and knowing what types of medical problems need professional attention. You don’t want to suffer a lifetime of problems because you ignored some medical problem that didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.

  9. Chrison 14 Sep 2010 at 9:14 am

    Linux Command Line,
    Windows CMD Prompt,
    a programming language

  10. Matt Summerson 16 Sep 2010 at 5:54 am

    How about some basic legal knowledge. What are your rights when getting shaken down by the cops?

  11. CGon 16 Sep 2010 at 6:18 am

    Basic nutrition guidelines. twinkies and cookies make you fat, vegetables not as much
    Basic fitness guidelines and what those labels on food boxes mean.

    How to safely handler/assemble/disassemble/accurately fire pistols/rifles/shotgun

    Basic human psychology (probably already there with basic SE) but it would be beneficial to them to understand why humans act they way they do.

    Responsibility aka pay your bills, understand you are responsible for you actions, etc

  12. Zakeon 16 Sep 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Sounds like you’re not describing Geek skillz but rather simply those of a well rounded balanced person!

    The Chinese say the “Five Gentlemen” a cultured person should be skilled at are: Musical Instruments, Board Games, Calligraphy, Painting, and martial arts, or something like that.

    One I try to teach my daughter, and which takes your side on the lock picking etc. is reading intention / street smarts / criminal mindedness. Queues on who the mentally ill and homeless are in a crowd, bikes that are not locked up right and are ready to be stolen, door hinges on the same side as the lock, ways to direct other’s attention with your eye movements. For example, she lost a library book, and then later when faced with paying a fine suggested to the librarian that due to the design of the night drop box someone might have simply taken it out of there after we’d deposited it! I was proud and shamed at the same time.

    As you and others have pointed out, skills which increase independence and self sufficiency are key too. Food prep, laundry, map reading, fixing stuff with paper-clips and coat hangers and duct tape, and on and on.

  13. glitchon 21 Sep 2010 at 11:01 am

    enroll them in team sports/activities. This will allow them to learn to lead, to delegate tasks, learn to read people, learn how to handle disagreements, learn to follow and when to step up, learn social interaction. Im sure you can agree how something as simple as learning when to speak and when to listen is a very important skill.

    social engineering

    typing skills

    trouble shooting skills (regardless of technical or not. its broken. why? make it work. how?)

    ethics – things are not black and white, but learning to determine how dark of a shade things are is important

    learn more than one way to do something. learn why both ways work and what is the strength and weakness of each. it creates valuable reasoning skills and teaches you to look at the problem from different angles.

    I think most everything else was covered in what i read. G33k on!

  14. Chrison 27 Sep 2010 at 10:57 am

    Basic hacking ethics. If you are just playing around an get personal information why you should not use it and maybe why you would like to tell the person about it. (all depends if you belie in full disclosure or not)

  15. […] What skills should a geek kid learn? ( […]

  16. Yochumon 04 Oct 2010 at 6:36 pm

    * Radio control model building – planes, cars, robots, etc
    * Piloting – At least on good sims, if not reals planes
    * Card games – poker, gin rummy, casino, hearts, etc

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