Ireland’s Coder Dojo movement spreads its wings to the UK

8 Dec 2011

Irish tech entrepreneur James Whelton is sharing his software programming talents with children in Ireland and the UK, to help them embrace the digital economy. Whelton set up Coder Dojo with internet entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Liao

The Coder Dojo movement, which is inspiring young people all over Ireland to learn about software programming, plus languages such as Scratch and Java, has now unleashed its computer programming nurturing talents in the UK.

Codo Dojo itself was set up by XING co-founder and partner of SOS Ventures Bill Liao and 18-year-old Irish technology entrepreneur James Whelton of Disruptive Developments.

Despite having only been set up in the past few months, the Coder Dojo movement has already held ‘dojos’ in Cork, Dublin and Limerick. And, now, the UK. It is only a matter of time before it spreads further to the rest of Europe and potentially the US.

By holding sessions in schools, the not-for-profit network of computer clubs, or dojos, aims to teach kids to code, as the world embraces the digital economy.

Taking on the UK

So what has Coder Dojo been doing in the UK?

The first-ever UK Coder Dojo, led by Whelton, was held in Ravensbourne College, south London, last weekend. While only seven children, aged from eight to 14, attended the session, this could be the start of a dojo revolution in the UK, inspired by Ireland’s lead in the area. Whelton said he was confident, especially as Coder Dojo has been getting attention from people across the UK, who want to volunteer as mentors.

Speaking at the Digital Ireland Forum on 30 September, Liao pointed to the pioneering work of Whelton and why the duo decided to embark on the Coder Dojo journey in the first instance.

Liao explained the genesis of their partnership: “James told me how he learned to programme and how it was a real struggle and then when he won an internet award and it was announced on the school PA, he had kids coming up to him and that inspired him to set up a computer club.”

It’s pretty significant that Irish kids as young as eight have being attending Coder Dojo events in Ireland, and quickly absorbing programming languages.

It’s also a fun way for parents to bond with their kids, by working on an app, for instance.

“We brainstormed and realised that for the movement to work it had to be cool and have edge and we came up with the name Coder Dojo. We said that if we’re to make this low friction there has to be one rule – above all, to be cool. If you waste people’s time, that’s deeply uncool. Now parents get to stay and learn with their kids. We are teaching kids how to code for free and people are generous and give us space and internet,” added Liao at the Digital Ireland Forum.

World’s youngest Mac app developer – hails from Ireland

Ireland’s own 12-year-old-app developer Harry Moran is the world’s youngest Mac app developer. Harry, who hails from Cork, is an example of someone who has embraced Coder Dojo.

Back on 24 November last Harry told that he only learned how to code in the last three months at Coder Dojo.

Harry developed a Mac app called PizzaBot that went on sale in mid-November on the Mac App Store for 79 cents.

“I’ve just consulted with Apple, and I’m officially the (world’s) youngest Mac developer now!” said Harry at time.

Irish computing prodigy

Another Irish computing prodigy is Dubliner Shane Curran (11), who did his first Linux install at the age of six. Since then, he has learned how to programme in multiple languages, such as PHP, C, C++, Java, Python, Ruby, Perl and Bash.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic