Coderdojo Coolest Projects will showcase some 280 projects in DCU in Dublin and in Mountainview in Silicon Valley this coming weekend. Claire O’Connell takes a look at what we can expect
The temperature may be moving up a notch these days, but get ready for a spell of serious cool this weekend when CoderDojo's Coolest Projects gets into swing at Dublin City University.
The annual event, in which young coders get to showcase their projects and skills, looks set to be a two-day riot of creativity, learning and, above all, cool.
Projects on display will include games, websites to connect people with shared interests, a program to control robots, apps to help you recharge your electric car and to know when you need a toilet break and a platform for hosting and designing websites.
When Coolest Projects started in 2012, it hosted around a dozen projects from CoderDojo computing clubs in Ireland, where people aged from 8-17 learn about coding aided by volunteer mentors.
In 2013 Coolest Projects hosted around 60 projects and this year registration has mushroomed to 250 projects, including entries from Dojos in Scotland, England, Italy, Poland, Romania and Holland. "It's really cool seeing creativity from different countries coming into Ireland," says Noel King, a mentor at CoderDojoDCU and the creator of Coolest Projects.
This year also sees the Coolest Projects kicking off in Silicon Valley, which will host 30 projects this weekend at the Mountain View CoderDojo in California.
Range of projects
With seven categories to enter – Scratch, website, HTML games, apps, enterprise, advanced languages and 'Other' – the young coders have had plenty of options to translate their ideas into reality.
The results include a Scratch game called 'Showdown" where your character is a bounty hunter who is chasing an outlaw, a website called 'Pinbands' that connects solo artists with bands and performance locations to help young, emerging artists raise their profile and a HTML-based 'Flappy Moyes' game inspired by the Flappy Bird game but with a certain ex-manager of Manchester United. There's even a virtual reality game that uses the Oculus Rift to let you get really immersed in Minecraft using speech and movement to play
Apps to help out in a variety of situations will also be showcased next Saturday at DCU, including one to guide you to the nearest available charging station if your electric car is running low on power, and 'P-Ulator', which takes into account the amount of fluid you drink and calculates when you need to go to the toilet – this would be suitable for people with particular bladder problems, according to King.
A panel of judges, including siliconrepublic.com's CEO Ann O'Dea, will talk to the coders about their projects, and prizes are on offer for each category. However, the main aim of the event is to build up the young coders' enjoyment and confidence in their skills, and each entrant will earn a Dojo 'belt', notes King.
"Our core aim is for the members to become more confident about creating their ideas," he says. "For me the main prize is the belt as recognition for the CoderDojo member who has turned their dream into a reality."
As well as the projects themselves, Coolest Projects will host hack spaces and a series of lightning talks aimed at adults (mainly parents and guardians of the young coders).
Speakers will include CoderDojo co-founder Bill Liao, communications expert and SNP (Smart Nice People) co-founder Maureen Taylor, co-founder of school administration platform VSWare Patrick Barry, entrepreneur and co-founder of Intercom Des Traynor and co-founder of Coding Grace (and one of Silicon Republic's 100 Top women in STEM) Vicky Lee.
Then on Sunday, the young coders can get involved in a 'launchpad' of workshops on creativity, presentation, business and technical skills. "We have industry leaders coming in to run the workshops," says King. "Each group is going to run a little differently and there will be some excellent learning outcomes."
Commenting ahead of the event, CoderDojo co-founder James Whelton told siliconrepublic.com that Coolest Projects is a symbolic event for CoderDojo. "For Dojoers, its a time to come together, proudly present their creations, be inspired and come away with a hunger to do more and be more," he says. "I couldn't believe the incredible amount and standard of projects entered this year, but then I thought about the incredible people orchestrating Coolest Projects, and it believable."
Coolest Projects takes place at DCU on June 7th and 8th.