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…