What young people can achieve with code

Every week at Code Club, thousands of children as young as eight are learning how to code. Many of these children are using their newfound knowledge to make things that are smart, creative, funny, and also useful in their wider community.

Coolest Projects is an annual showcase of the work that young digital makers are producing in Code Clubs, CoderDojos, and Raspberry Jams across the world. We spoke to some of the young participants who were at the UK event last month to find out more about what they’ve been coding.

Liya and Gabriella, both 11

Liya and Gabriella won the Scratch category at Coolest Projects with their game Toad Ahoy! The girls used the skills they learned at their Code Club in Somerset to code a complex multi-level game in Scratch.

27909384898_e866b060a1_z (1)

Can you describe your project?
Liya: Our game is called Toad Ahoy, and in the game you have the Mario character Toad and you have to guide him to Toadette. To do this, you go through an obstacle course, but there is a possibility that you could fall into the lava and die, so you have to be careful.
Gabriella: In our project, you run around the world collecting stars and moving towards the portals. However, you have to be quick! You are being timed, and the fastest people will reach the leaderboard. The amount of stars that you collect is doubled, then taken away from your time, so the more stars you collect the better — if you can be fast at the same time.

What was your favourite thing about attending Coolest Projects?
Liya: My favourite thing about Coolest Projects was that you could share all these amazing things that these kids have done, and you also learn more about different projects, so you could be encouraged to make another project in that style.
Gabriella: Our experience at Coolest Projects was great, and I particularly enjoyed looking at other people’s projects.

Haseeb, 8

Haseeb caught our attention at Coolest Projects due to how confidently he presented his coding project to the judges. He learns how to code in a variety of programming languages, including Scratch, HTML, and Python, at his Code Club in a library in London.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Can you describe your project?
Haseeb: My project name is Robotic Pet. The aim of it is to entertain. It has two functionalities:

  1. Follow using Pixy Cam: it first creates a signature of the object shown and keeps it inside its memory. Then, through a feedback loop, it adjusts the position of the robot.
  2. Paint with music using colour sensor: when different coloured cards are placed, my Robotic Pet can detect the colour and play a different sequence of tunes. It is programmed using an ‘if and else’ loop.

 

 

What was your favourite thing about attending Coolest Projects?
Haseeb: My favourite thing was:

  1. I made lots of new friends
  2. Getting to try out lots of cool programmes and gadgets
  3. The swag bag with cool stickers and especially the Blinkt, which I used to make a mini fireplace

Zaahra, 9

Zaahra had one of the most beautiful projects at Coolest Projects and even designed her own T-shirts inspired by her Scratch game! She masters coding every week at a Code Club in East London.

zaahra (1)

Can you describe your project?
Zaahra: My project is a game that I developed on Scratch. It is called Mystical Madness. The aim of the game is to move the unicorn to catch the rainbow cupcakes — the more you catch, the more points you get. Be careful of the grey cupcakes, or you will be out!

What was your favourite thing about attending Coolest Projects?
Zaahra: My favourite part of Coolest Projects was to meet lots of other children and seeing all the different projects they have developed. I felt inspired, and I want to do even better next time!

Inspire young people to learn to code

These impressive projects prove that you are never too young (or too old!) to learn how to code. Improve your own tech skills while inspiring the next generation by becoming a Code Club volunteer at www.codeclub.org.uk/start-a-club.

Do you know someone who would make an amazing Code Club volunteer? Share this post with all the teachers, parents, developers, and other awesome people you know!

Building family bonds with Code Club in prison

Sometimes working for Code Club can take you to unexpected places. For Liz Smart, Regional Coordinator for the North West, an encounter with a Business Connector in Lancashire led to her setting up a Code Club with HMP Kirkham.

Here Liz tells us about how Code Club is working to establish family ties between dads and their visiting children.

Last August I met the wonderful Maria Desmond MBE, who runs a number of community projects across Lancashire and works closely with HMP Kirkham. As we talked about family Code Club sessions, she asked me a question I wasn’t expecting: “Have you ever thought about running a Code Club in a prison?”

Setting up the Code Club

Things took off quickly from there. The amazing women at Partners of Prisoners (POPS) leapt at the challenge and quickly, Karen, Kayleigh, and Janet were on board as the first volunteers. Awesome Code Club and CoderDojo volunteer Lisa Brown pitched in with some refurbished laptops donated by her employers Bosch UK, and the prison security team helped to make sure the equipment complied with internal policies.

POPS provides support to help maintain family ties during an offender’s stay at HMP Kirkham. Our idea was to create a Code Club that young people could attend with their dads and where they could work together to code games and animations.

ezgif-1-c120fdc7a0

One of the Scratch games the children could code with their dads

The first session

Just a few months after my initial conversation with Maria, we launched HMP Kirkham Code Club to coincide with the October half-term visiting days. The launch was a great success! POPs had crafted a fantastic display for the club space, and the dads and kids spent time working together on the Code Club projects. After the event, Maria said: “I can honestly say that in my 15 years’ involvement in prisons, I have never been quite so emotional. The men and their families were so hugely positive and proud of their kids — it was priceless.”

I can honestly say that in my 15 years’ involvement in prisons, I have never been quite so emotional. The men and their families were so hugely positive and proud of their kids – it was priceless.

Impact on the families

During the three visiting sessions that week, over 40 families attended the Code Club, and I was lucky enough to see the family engagement first-hand. The children started with Scratch projects — many had used Scratch in school and were excited to show their dads how they could manipulate the characters and get them to interact. They coded simple animations tailored to their interests and these acted as great conversation starters. One lad created a basketball animation, and his dad was amazed as his son proceeded to tell him all about his love of basketball.

One young prisoner couldn’t wait to tell his friends back in the block so that they could let their kids know they would have the chance to make computer games if they came to visit. He told me that some families have to travel a fair way on visiting days, so his friends’ children had stopped coming as often. He was convinced that having a Code Club would be the necessary incentive, and that they’d all enjoy it as much as he had.

ezgif-1-04f670ee40

The coding projects helped the prisoners and their children talk about shared interests

One thing I didn’t expect was that, when a grandad thanked us for the session, he was clearly surprised that his young grandson’s mouse skills were better than his own! He also told us that he was able to use a trackpad for the first time, which he said would definitely help his employability skills.

The Code Club continues to run three times a week to coincide with the visiting days at HMP Kirkham. It is also inspiring others to follow suit and in the Midlands, where a prisoner with an interest in technology has volunteered to run his own Code Club during visiting times.

Start a Code Club in your community

Starting a Code Club where you live can have a huge impact on your community, and you don’t need any coding expertise to do it. Take the first step towards running a club at your local school, library, or other community venue today!

To learn more and find help with getting started, head over to www.codeclub.org.uk/start-a-club.

Helping others start a Code Club

After becoming a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator at Picademy, the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s free face-to-face teacher training initiative, Kyle Wilke was inspired to start a Code Club to give students at his school and teachers in California more access to coding and making.

After attending Picademy, I was inspired to start a Code Club of my own in the computer lab at the school where I teach. The first week of the club, I introduced my students to Scratch, and we looked at project examples from across the community before starting to work through the Code Club projects. For the first two years I ran the club alone, and this year I reached out to our Parent-Teacher Association and was able to get multiple volunteers attending each session. Having volunteers has been a game changer for our club, and it’s great seeing them learn alongside the students!

IMG_0379

Building confidence

Students love coming to Code Club to hang out with friends and learn how to code. When they leave, they are always telling me about how they will continue working on their project at home, or that they plan to buy a Raspberry Pi.

A favorite memory from my Code Club is when one student, a pretty shy kid who didn’t interact with many other students socially, jumped at the opportunity to become our first Code Club student mentor. During Code Club, I asked him to assist another child, saying that they were in good hands as the student mentor knew more than I did. The next week, when someone raised their hand for help and I started to make my way over, my student mentor popped up and said, “I’ll be right there, I know more than Mr. Wilke.” Hearing this new-found confidence was music to my ears!
 

Helping others start their Code Clubs

Once I’d experienced the joy of facilitating a Code Club, I knew I had to share it with the world and help train other teachers to get started. I currently help run Code Club training at conferences in the US, supporting teachers in learning to use Raspberry Pis and how to start a Code Club. In training sessions I always emphasise that the leader doesn’t need to be a computer science expert. You can learn alongside your students, and Code Club’s step-by-step coding guides allow the students to work at their own pace, with only limited adult instruction necessary. Educators always love how flexible the program is and how there are many different ways you can structure the club to work in your environment.

IMG_20171021_092023

I spread the word about Code Club because of what it creates: on the surface, students are following coding guides and working on individual projects, but upon closer inspection, they are learning invaluable concepts like computational thinking and collaboration. Bringing a Code Club to your community creates a safe place for students to code, play, and learn together. Raspberry Pi Certified Educators like to say that Picademy helped them find their people — Code Club helps kids find their people, and their very own coding community.

My advice to anyone thinking of starting a Code Club is to go for it! When I started mine, I had very little experience using Scratch — I even told my students that on many projects we would be learning together. If you are thinking of starting a club, I really can’t recommend it enough!

Get involved

Picademy sessions run throughout the year in the UK and North America. Keep an eye on the Picademy webpage or Raspberry Pi’s Twitter feed to find out when the next round is taking place. And if you don’t want to wait, you can sign up today for our free online FutureLearn course on preparing to start a Code Club here.

Wherever you are in the world, head to www.codeclubworld.org to find out how to start a Code Club in your community.