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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

London ‘Back to school’ meetup

Mickey Day, Regional Coordinator for London and the East of England, takes us through the success of his first Code Club meetup, which included talks by people from Teaboy Games, Barefoot, and Samsung Online.

The 7 September marked my first Code Club meetup, hosted by the software company Pivotal in London. Our meetups are an opportunity for Code Club volunteers to come together to share their experiences, and for newcomers to learn about the importance of digital making, about what a Code Club entails, and about how to get involved.

Pivotal kindly allowed us to use their amazing space on Old Street for the evening. The event gave our London community the chance to celebrate Code Club’s expansion into secondary schools, and allowed potential volunteers to find out more about what we do. We welcomed almost 100 guests, who came flooding through the doors and past our table of goodies.

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Among the attendees were large numbers of teachers and potential volunteers, and everyone was keen to learn and hear the evening’s talks. The event started with attendees enjoying a drink while registering their venues with Code Club.

When everyone had taken a seat, I opened the session with a short talk on the importance of receiving a digital education as a child, and how Code Club supports this cause.

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We continued with lightning talks from Frazer Merrick, creative director of Teaboy Games, who covered all things Scratch; Simon Vaughan-Long, volunteer for Barefoot, who impressed upon us how essential teachers’ digital knowledge is; and uve, digital advocate for Samsung Online, who demonstrated just how immersive VR can be. The session lasted an hour, then the floor was opened to questions from the audience for the panel of speakers.

After the Q&A, guests enjoyed a rather large amount of pizza before getting their hands on some activities. Code Club volunteer Marc Grossman demonstrated some Makey Makey kits capabilities: he used play dough to control Scratch sprites. Then computing student Hugh Wells flexed his musical muscles demo’ing Code Club’s new Sonic Pi projects.

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There was a lot of activity on Twitter using the hashtag #CodeClubEvent, with guests posting photos, reviews, questions, and slides of the night. Because so many community members used social media to share photos of and thoughts about the event, the hashtag was trending in London for two and a half hours. That’s pretty awesome!

The event concluded with networking and setting up new clubs in preparation for inspiring new young digital makers!

“Absolutely fantastic event – what you arranged and Pivotal hosted was truly inspiring. There was a great buzz around the place!”

— Simon Vaughan-Long, Barefoot volunteer

For more Code Club events, head over to the Code Club website, and follow @CodeClub on Twitter!

Our next free London meetup will be on 12 October 2017 from 5:30-9:00 pm at Monzo HQ on Old Street, and it will include lightning talks from Monzo, Disney, ustwo, and pi-top. Join us there to find out more about Code Club — you can get your free ticket here.

Hackhorsham Code Club Festival 2017, big projection

The Horsham Code Club Festival

HackHorsham’s recent Horsham Code Club Festival was a massive success, with volunteers, kids, and educators from across Sussex coming together for a day of coding, catching up, and exploring the fascinating world of STEAM.

HackHorsham

As a Regional Coordinator for Code Club, I’m lucky to work with some amazing partner organisations across the South East of England. One such organisation is HackHorsham, who are based in the charming Mid Sussex town of Horsham. HackHorsham was started three years ago by Gavin Hewins, Marcus Tyler-Moore, and Nik Butler, because they wanted to promote STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Maths) in the Horsham area.

The idea

In late 2016 Gavin, Marcus, and Nik approached me with an idea: they wanted to run a Horsham Code Club Festival. The event would bring together Code Clubbers from across Sussex for an exciting day of coding and making. It would also help to increase the visibility of young people who are enthusiastic about digital making, and make teachers take note of our efforts and resources, so that coding clubs might in future become as prominent in schools as football teams or choirs. Needless to say, I was on board immediately!

HackHorsham had already gained support for their idea from the Met Office, pi-top, and Horsham-based companies Red River Software and Reduced Hackers, as well as Creative Assembly, the local game developer that produces the hugely successful Total War series. I was more than happy to provide marketing support by advertising the event to local Code Club leaders and talking about it at meetups and events.

The festival

On Sunday 9 July, I made my way to the Capitol Theatre in Horsham, along with three members of the Code Club I run at my daughter’s school with Wendy Armstrong. At the theatre, we met 50 other eager Code Clubbers and their parents. After an introduction to the day from the partner organisations, we headed over to the Horsham Council’s offices, which the Council let us use for free. We kicked off with a workshop run by the amazing Cat Lamin. Cat showed the children how to use pi-tops and Python to make some traffic lights flash – a great introduction to digital making. She and her team were brilliant, and their infectious enthusiasm really got the children going!

Kids play with PiTops at Hack Horsham Code Club Festival

Young coders Morgan and Tilly get to grips with the pi-top. Picture credit: Dennison Studios Photography

After lunch, one half of the children worked with the Met Office using their Weather API and the Raspberry Pi Sense HAT, a device with a display and a bank of sensors. With the help of its temperature sensor, the kids compared the in-room temperature to the temperature reported by the Met Office. Children were also invited to interact with several stands run by the Met Office. Among them was one about the ArcGIS mapping system where kids could create story boards on maps, and one about the Turing machine where they learned about logic. The Met Office also showed the children an old Met Office Supercomputer and a Raspberry Pi cluster computer.

At the same time, the other half of the kids took part in a workshop run by Femi, a remarkable 11-year-old who is a recipient of the Diana Award. He took the time to attend the festival before flying off to Bangladesh to help 100 children from low-income families learn digital making and coding! Femi’s workshop was about Crumble robotics, and saw our Code Clubbers build their own robot buggies and then race them against each other.

There was also a stand run by Gavin Hewins, who was showcasing the always popular Mad Music Machine that uses Sonic Pi and a bank of Raspberry Pis. He encouraged people to alter the coded music the machine plays using its multitude of levers, joysticks, toggles, and sliders.

At 15.00, we all headed back to the Capitol Theatre for a ceremony in which the Code Clubbers who took part were invited onto the stage to get a certificate or award. I was delighted that our Code Club’s team won an Innovation Award for their idea for a Raspberry Pi-powered greenhouse that includes a weeding robot. What a fast-paced afternoon full of fun, laughter, and digital making!

The aftermath

I can’t tell you how impressed I was with the amazing job HackHorsham did putting on this event! It was a truly fantastic day, and we’ve had universally positive feedback. Yvonne Swinson, a teacher at Milton Mount Primary School, said: “What a great day for our young coders. Thanks for organising the event. Our Milton Mount team had a fantastic time!”

HackHorsham are already thinking about next year’s event, and they want to make it even bigger and better! So watch this space…