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Festival of Code 2013: Young Rewired State Bradford

Author: Siobhan Ramsey, Director of Sandbox Education
Siobhan Ramsey is a specialist in Computing, Digital & Text Literacies with extensive experience in schools working with children and teachers as computational thinkers and digital makers.

As a sponsor for Computing at Schools, she has a lead role in digital badges for the CAS network of excellence, is a Fellow of Naace and MirandaNet and a member of ALT, CSTA and ISTE.

Sandbox Education runs a free code club, and recently launched a social network hosting infographics and data visualisation tools curated by learners teaching themselves to code. She has expertise in building responsive, retina ready web sites, networks and learning systems for schools and the third sector.

Contact http://www.sandboxeducation.co.uk or by mobile 07984403380

Background

The Festival of Code is an annual celebration of code for under 18s run by Young Rewired State, a philanthropic movement which finds children driven to teach themselves how to code.  YRS introduces under 18s to open data, invites them to join a worldwide network of young programmers and work together to Code a Better Country by solving real world problems.

In the summer, Siobhan Ramsey, Director of Sandbox Education, successfully mentored young 18s programmers in visual programming, physical computing and application development to reach the final of Young Rewired State.  This article gives an outline of this work during the 2013 Festival of Code.  It provides a list of resources for learning the fundamentals of visual or text based programming.

“In addition to curriculum opportunities to explore the creative side of Computing, we would like to see this taken further in extra-curricular activities such as computer clubs. These clubs would encourage motivated pupils to explore the creative side of Computing further, and universities and industry should get involved." (Shut down or restart? The way forward for computing in UK schools 2012, Royal Society).

The Week

The week starts in Bradford as the young programmers arrive from Leeds, Bradford, Keighley and York, uncertain what to expect. They quietly plug in laptops, open screens, log on to the wifi. The tension breaks after the group watches a welcome video presented by Emma Mulqueeny: who explains YRS and encourages everyone to bring their creative projects to the weekend event at the Custard Factory in Birmingham.

They start to quietly chat and explore data sets, using links to resources provided by YRS and its sponsors.  With a little prompting, they formulate ideas for applications using open data, the annual challenge of YRS.

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One states that he would like to see if they can find the location of the 'North-South divide': exploring social inequality.  A team forms around this idea and sets to work coding in Python.

Another group decides to build an application using an event based API that will help users find events in any local area using the post code.  The lead programmer in this team, has skills in Ruby, mainly self- taught and is keen to code on Ruby.  We explain to him that he is on his own, as no one has expertise in Ruby. He cheerfully sets to work programming the full application, without mentor help, using web based resources.

The young programmers write their applications on cloud based interface development environments (IDEs) using Heroku or Cloud9 and store their code on GitHub.  The mentors curate the room, observing and strategically intervene to help when needed. Sessions run throughout the week drawing on the coders' and mentors' interests and skills.  One young programmers demonstrates Github a code repository used by professional programmers.  He creates a new account, pushes code to Github from the IDE, where it can shared, forked, merged or reverted back to earlier versions if the worst happens and the code is corrupted and can't  be fixed.

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Mentors provide expertise on agile workflow, programming in Python, Scratch, HTML, CSS, Web Standards and domain name registration. We help to install and configure Wordpress blogs with responsive designs.  The bloggers post images and videos to sites that dynamically adapt to display well on all devices: tablet, phone, laptops and desktop.

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Some programmers code, run and debug the backend of the apps, while others focus on the front-end or user interface. They explore the Twitter Bootstrap framework but opt to use a flat user interface kit (UI kit) instead and style their web pages  following the key design trend now found in IOS7 and Google.  Others create QR codes and design leaflets in Adobe Illustrator.

The mentors work as a team to facilitate social dynamics, occasionally stepping in to divert programmers not coding projects for the YRS event in Birmingham, to new challenges on Codeacademy, the Raspberry Pi and Scratch.  We guide a less socially confident coder into a role commensurate with his skills.

Aware of the absorption and intense concentration we instigate and enforce rest breaks and the host centre provides free snacks and drinks. The coders socialise as a group over lunch and games of table football.  A mix of concentration, collaboration, humour, excitement and anticipation, pervades the week.

As that the week culminates in public 'show and tell' sessions in Birmingham the young programmers prepare from day one.  At the end of each day teams deliver presentations to the whole group.
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Mentors give feedback and the whole group ask questions and comments.  This triggers reflection which leads the teams to debug their apps, clarify roles and evaluate progress.

One team realises that their application is not quite on track to provide the answers they seek.  With mentor assistance they decide to find and cross reference new data sets including data on poverty and reported crime.

Most of the programmers emerge, through a series of low-key rehearsals, from self–conscious hesitancy, to confident team members.  One who is uncomfortable speaking publicly, opts to run technology on stage at the Custard Factory. This is the culture of the week nothing is forced apart from rest!
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By the end of the week the teams have worked iteratively through the stages of  ideation, prototyping, rigours user testing and built fully working applications.  They have used project control lists to monitor progress and track modifications, in response to user tests and group feedback. 

They have polished their presentations with the potential viewpoints of the individual judges in mind, formed self-organising teams and are ready to present in public, in roles that work to their strengths.  All have taken part in video interviews, photo-shoots, tweets and blogs and adopted the ninja bunny as the official mascot. Photo Set http://flic.kr/ps/2wwdgw

Makey Makey

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At the start of the week I took along a Makey Makey to introduce physical computing and help explain the 'Internet of Things'. This is a small device built on an Arduino which when connected to a computer, turns objects, people and even pets into track pads or keys.  Developed by two MiT students, crowd funded on Kick Starter, it fuels a series of creative projects throughout the week.

These include the invention of a digital drum kit where chilli peppers, limes and green beans, (donated by a local grocer) form the digital drum sticks; a computer alarm which sounds when a cupboard is opened; the composition of music with glasses of water.

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It culminates in the creation of a working human piano powered by the Makey Makey, wires, tinfoil and people, filmed and uploaded to YouTube and Twitter. All the inventions are programmed in Scratch, a visual programming language, which is accessible to all and the hands-in nature of the activities brings the group together as a whole.

 

 

 

 

Applications Built With Open Data

EventsIn

Team: Rafal, Lawrence, Hannah, Aaron

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" EventsIn (events-in.yrsbradford.com), allows you (the user) to find out about various events that are happening in your area; you simply have to input the location of where you are in the United Kingdom, and the date you'd like the events to be in.   As we finished a bit early, we decided to integrate SMS messaging to the service where you can text a location to +441143031536, and after a couple of seconds you'll receive a response with the top 2-3 popular events around the location you have specified.   The whole service was built with the Ruby programming language (ruby-lang.org) using the Sinatra web framework (sinatrarb.com), which allowed us to handle the HTTP requests and therefore display the web pages. 

As for the sources of our data, we decided to use the Eventful API (api.eventful.com) for all the events information. Lastly, for the SMS messages we used Twilio (twilio.com) which handled everything from that aspect including receiving, reading, and sending SMS messages. After everything was done, we deployed our project to Heroku (heroku.com) and released it open source at GitHub (github.com/rafalchmiel/events-in)"
Rafal Chmiel 2013
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North- South Divide

"North-South Divide was a project to try and calculate where the North- South divide is which was built in a few days during the Festival of Code run by Young Rewired State (YRS). In order to do this we used a number of data sets including crime data, population and child poverty data. The program draws a line where there is the most difference between the North and the South."
Matthew Hall 17

 

 

 

 

At The Custard Factory

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On Friday we travel to the Custard Factory, Birmingham in a minibus paid for by Exa Networks, hosts of the Bradford YRS week.  We are joined by two programmers from France working at Exa and a parent of one of the young programmers who is under 13.

Over the weekend we sit in large rooms full of people programming.  We wander down corridors, past towers of pizza boxes, crates of bottles of water, past ice cream vans, huge statues, join queues for meals.
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On Saturday we watch numerous presentations including: the PiCycle a bicycle powered by the Raspberry Pi (the winner of YRS 2013), an app entitled Evil MP built to engage young people in politics and an amazing young girl who takes centre stage and talks eloquently about her app built with Scratch.  Overnight programmers over 14  bed down in sleeping bags in a safe communal areas which stay lit all night. The next day the people are visibly tired but remain interested.
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We are delighted when we learn that the EventsIn Team are winners in the category 'Best Use of Code' and discover they have reached the YRS final.  After another round of presentations to the judges on Sunday morning, we learn that another team has won, but our team does not appear to be at all dejected.
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The competition aspect of YRS serves to gives the week structure, focus and pace.   However, taking part as programmer or mentor is in itself an inspiring experience.  So much so, that we all agree, on the way back in the minibus, to run a free programming club, the first session of which took place a few weeks later.

I come way feeling energised, determined to take my programming skills to the next level.  For those interested in getting started or as YRS puts it becoming 'newly minted' here are some starting points.

Learn the Fundamentals of Computing

Tutorials

http://scratch.mit.edu
Learn Scratch

http://net.tutsplus.com/tutorials/ruby/ruby-for-newbies-installing-ruby-and-getting-started/
Learn Ruby from scratch

http://www.codecademy.com
Learn Python, Ruby, HTML, CSS and JavaScript

Cloud based IDEs

Cloud based are IDEs are an development environments provide an online workspace to write run and debug code, access code frameworks and libraries, collaborate and communicate in real time.

Heroku
https://www.heroku.com
Ruby, Node.js, Clojure, Java, Python and Scala.  

Cloud9
https://c9.io
HTML, CSS, Javascript, Java, Ruby and 23 other languages.

Social Code Repository

Github
https://github.com

Github a version control system hosts 5.7 million code repositories. Git is used to store, backup, share, merge and restore code.

Thanks

Thanks to Young Rewired State http://www.youngrewiredstate.org

Mentors: Siobhan Ramsey, Director Sandbox Education, Michael Syree, Director Exa Networks, Martin Cottrell, Section Leader Media and Business, Shipley College, Franklin Raccah, Laure Delisle,Thomas Mangin, Developers at Exa Networks

YRS Programmers:  Arran Curtis-King, Hamzah Yousaf, Hannah Pirie,Laurence Syree, Matthew Hall, Nicholas Dyson, Oliver Brown, Rafal Chmiel, Thomas Davies.

Contact Details

To get involved in the 2014 Festival of Code contact Young Rewired State via the website http://www.youngrewiredstate.org.

Siobhan Ramsey: work with Sandbox Education or nominate a young programmer who is interested in joining the safe, free social coding curation team.
M 07084403380 W http://www.sandboxeducation.co.uk E info@sandboxeducation.co.uk
Festival of Code 2013: Young Rewired State Bradford
Siobhan Ramsey is a specialist in Computing, Digital & Text Literacies with extensive experience in schools working with children and teachers as computational thinkers and digital makers.

As a sponsor for Computing at Schools, she has a lead role in digital badges for the CAS network of excellence, is a Fellow of Naace and MirandaNet and a member of ALT, CSTA and ISTE.

Sandbox Education runs a free code club, and recently launched a social network hosting infographics and data visualisation tools curated by learners teaching themselves to code. She has expertise in building responsive, retina ready web sites, networks and learning systems for schools and the third sector.

Contact http://www.sandboxeducation.co.uk or by mobile 07984403380