Guest column: 12-year-old’s view of Girls Hack Ireland
Niamh Scanlon helps a Girls Hack Ireland participant. Photo by Dr Kevin J Fraser/Insight Centre for Data Analytics

Guest column: 12-year-old’s view of Girls Hack Ireland

26 Mar 2015

Young coder Niamh Scanlon, aged 12, tells us how she got on as a ‘Hackathon Hero’ at the recent Girls Hack Ireland event in Dublin City University (DCU).

When I was asked to be a Hackathon Hero at Girls Hack Ireland, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was really excited.

Since I was 10, I have been a mentor in CoderDojo DCU, so I knew about the university where the hackathon was being held, and I like helping people to learn code and debug software, so that was good. I had been to hack days before, so I was really pleased to be part of this one.

Hackathon heroes

To begin the day, we played a few ‘ice-breaker’ games. Anne-Marie Imafidon from Stemettes got us all talking about what we had in common, how many languages we could count to 10 in and how much computer code we knew.

Next, the girls were split into three groups:

  • New Ireland: The girls in this group had to redesign a webpage.
  • Newer Ireland: These teams had to make a webpage from scratch.
  • Newest Ireland: This group was the most advanced, so they had to make a full website.

Girls Hack Ireland

Niamh Scanlon at the Girls Hack Ireland event in DCU. Photo by Dr Kevin J Fraser/Insight Centre for Data Analytics

Myself, Lauren Boyle (EU Digital Girl of the Year 2014), Harry McCann (founder of the Digital Youth Council) and Tracy Keogh (chief operating officer, Deposify) were Hackathon Heroes and there were lots of other mentors there too.

We went around and helped out if anyone had any problems. The Hackathon Heroes also had to give out a few spot prizes for girls who were working hard and helping others.

The girls got set up with their computers and the work began!

Tools of the trade

New Ireland used X-ray Goggles to redesign their webpage of choice. Using this Mozilla Webmaker plug-in, they could change the text, images and colours on their chosen page. Most girls used the homepage of the BBC website. Since the theme was ‘New Ireland’, they ‘hacked’ these pages to display information about Irish culture, food and animals, St Patrick’s Day in Ireland and Irish traditions.

The Newer Ireland group used Thimble, so they could see what was changing in their webpage while they typed in the code. The girls in this group had information and pictures (and some videos!) about Irish slang, facts about Ireland, famous Irish people and homelessness in Ireland.

The Newest Ireland group had the hardest challenge: to make a full website. This meant they not only had to make one page, but two, three or even four different pages! They mainly used Cloud Cannon and Bootstrap to code their websites.

Girls Hack Ireland

Niamh Scanlon helps a Girls Hack Ireland participant. Photo by Dr Kevin J Fraser/Insight Centre for Data Analytics

Everyone’s a winner

Choosing the spot prizes was really hard because there were so many great projects and ideas.

Once all the work was finished, the girls presented their projects on the main stage. They each had about two minutes to talk and were asked a few questions from the judges. Images of their website or webpage were displayed on the screen, to show everybody what the outcome was.

The presentations were amazing! There was a five-minute break while the judges decided the winners of each category and it was time for the audience to vote on their favourite project.

Lots of the girls walked away with prizes, but I think everyone who was there walked away having had a really fun day, where they learned loads. Including me!

The first Girls Hack Ireland event was hosted at DCU on Saturday 21 March by the Insight Centre for Data Analytics and Stemettes.

Girls Hack Ireland will also be a part of Inspirefest 2015, Silicon Republic’s international sci-tech event running 18-19 June in Dublin, connecting professionals passionate about the future of STEM with fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity. Buy your early bird tickets now! Get in early and grab the ‘Two-for-one’ tickets before the end of March. You don’t want to miss this!

Niamh Scanlon

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