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Local children take on coding challenge

08 August 2013

Lyndsey Boardman

Festival of code comes to UCLan

 

Budding computer coders across the county have come together in Preston as part of a national event which will see 1,000 young people embark on a coding challenge to create websites, applications and games that solve real-life problems.

The four day Festival of Code at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), organised by computing teacher Alan O’Donohoe from Our Lady’s Catholic High School in Preston, has attracted over 50 local children aged from eight to 18-years-old. The Preston gathering is one of around 50 in the country taking place this week that aim to inspire children through computer programming.

The youngsters are using the University’s computing facilities and Raspberry Pi devices, economical credit card sized computers that can be plugged into a TV and keyboard and allows the user to develop their programming skills, to work in groups on coding challenges using open government data.

 

“I’ve teamed up with three other girls to create a game called Crime Catchers which uses real crime statistics. We’re all beginners to coding and have taken turns at everything."

They have been assigned virtual mentors that were recruited via Twitter and include professional programmers and company executives.

After creating a variety of games and programmes on healthy eating, world crime statistics, road traffic incidents and the cost of bringing up a child the groups will pitch their ideas to a panel of teachers and mentors at the end of the week.

Leyla Al Haroun, an 11-year-old pupil from Fulwood and Cadley Primary School, said: “I’ve teamed up with three other girls to create a game called Crime Catchers which uses real crime statistics.

“We’re all beginners to coding and have taken turns at everything. It’s been great fun learning how to programme and we’re all excited about presenting our ideas.”

Fellow young coder 14-year-old Wanida Costello from Our Lady’s Catholic High School commented: “I started coding when I started high school. It’s a great way to share ideas and be creative while learning new skills at the same time.”

 

“We never fail to be impressed by the calibre of young coders and their creations and we’re looking forward to seeing what comes from Young Rewired State’s Festival of Code 2013.”

At the end of the week the Lancashire programmers will travel to Birmingham’s Custard Factory for a national gathering to showcase their work. The children’s creations will be judged by a panel, including model, creative scientist, technologist and MTV presenter Izzy Lawrence and renowned physicist and mathematician Conrad Wolfram.

Preston event organiser Alan O’Donohoe said: “There is an abundance of information available for young coders and our job is to support and guide them. Through the Festival of Code we are able enable to inspire these young people to be creative and develop key skills needed for the digital world.”

The initiative, sponsored by SAP, Facebook, Google and AQA, amongst others, is run by Young Rewired State, a not-for-profit organisation whose aim is to find and foster young people who are teaching themselves how to code.

Emma Mulqueeny, CEO Young Rewired State, said: “Young Rewired State is working to address the shortage of skilled programmers by facilitating events that mainstream programming as a discipline and engage and enthuse young people.

“We never fail to be impressed by the calibre of young coders and their creations and we’re looking forward to seeing what comes from Young Rewired State’s Festival of Code 2013.”

Previous Festival of Code creations include the energy league website GovSpark, which is now being used in David Cameron’s energy challenge. Since its inception in 2009, Young Rewired State has grown from just 50 developers to a 1,000-strong network of programmers and has recently expanded to New York.

Preston is fast becoming a hub for nurturing young programmers through Alan O’Donohoe’s Raspberry Jam event at UCLan. The monthly gathering brings families together to develop their computing skills in a creative environment using Raspberry Pis.