Coolest Projects 2015

Thanks to @sarahd0ran(colleague and dojo mentor) this year I got involved in coolest projects and it was truly inspirational. For those not familiar with the coolest projects, essentially kids from dojos all over the world come to show of their latest creations in a competition. Yes I said world. CoderDojo started in 2011 by @Whelton and Bill Liao. It has now spread globally, there is a wave of kid code ninjas coming our way so watch out because they are coming for your jobs.

The competition really well broken out into categories with prizes for each, they included scratch(being the most common with multiple groups), hardware, mobile, websites and evolution. Kids build out their projects in the dojos and then bring it to the coolest projects competition. Ages ranged from 6 to 16.

The Day

It was an early start(circa 7am) in the RDS. Organisation was really sharp, we got plenty of coffee, a slick tee-shirt and a great briefing from the organisers(registration processes, logistics etc). They organisers office was also really helpful, as a place to send over competitive parents.

My duties were a little different, I was based in the hackspace showing some Apple Watch hardware and code. Between people coming up to manhandle the watch and asking me how much it was, I was able to code up some small hack apps. Basically showing kids how to pull data onto the watch and even more basic just rendering a list of their names in a table on the watch.

I was beside an oculus rift and to be honest I even wanted to leave my space to go play with it. I was just a man with a watch. None the less people were really interest in the watch and kids were excited to see how they could develop for it. They were amazed actually and it was really intriguing to me how inquisitive these kids were.

Exploring the projects

I got a break to go explore the projects and this was the eureka moment when I truly fell in love with Coolest Projects and everything it aims to achieve. Judging takes a bit of time so there was a bit of waiting around for the children. I’d walk up to a kid who was completely bored out of his head and ask what they have done — in return I would get an explosion of enthusiasm and passion. It was awesome to see how kids hobbies(outside of tech) drove their project ideas, my favourites was the dance class website and the pony website(so cute).

I met the youngest iOS dev in Europe @KehoeGames, when he found out my background he hit me with questions which was amazing to help him. I even received some business cards :)

A project that blew me away was the winner of mobile, who built an app to show you the shortest and safest directions using Dijkstra and his own algorithm. In scratch a kid build a micro processor board(this made my head explode when he explained it to me).

I found it really inspirational how supportive parents and dojo mentors were to all the kids involved. Its a long day and people travel very far, some parents are complete technophobes(with Nokia 3210 phones) who are there to help nurture and expand their kids minds with technology. They are helping to raise the innovators of tomorrow.

One thing I found heartwarming was the support for children with special needs, there was dedicated quiet rooms for them to have down time and relax with no noise allowed. For me it was so energising to see how technology and innovation can make special needs children so engaged and involved.

The award ceremony was so energetic, there was some slick prizes on the line. The buzz was electric and you could really see how much fun and feel the pride the kids held for their work. They held their heads deservedly high.

Round Up

  • Get your kids involved in CoderDojo, help them learn and embrace technology as soon as possible. They are all over Ireland and always open to new members.
  • Become a mentor, even if you aren’t super technical its all about being there to support and guide the kids. This is a great initiative and by become an mentor you are helping educate the next generate in technology, something they aren’t exposed to in regular curriculums.
  • Get yourself and the family to Coolest Projects 2016 you won’t regret it. If you have young kids thinking of joining up to a dojo this will help them realise how great it can be. Keep up to date on the event here.

Without a doubt I’ll be back again next year to help out. Hope to see you there. This post was initially written on I hope you liked it.