CoderDojo headed to European Parliament next year

15 Oct 2012

CoderDojo, the grassroots coding movement for kids that has grown in one year to host thousands of kids every Saturday around the world and teach them how to write software, is to hold a special dojo in the European Parliament in January.

The organisation, which held its first annual conference for 150 mentors at the weekend, started up just a year ago when teenage coder James Whelton and entrepreneur and investor Bill Liao decided to tackle the lack of computer education for youngsters in Ireland.

As well as mentors, MEP Sean Kelly and Ciaran Cannon, TD, attended the conference. Kelly confirmed that to coincide with Ireland’s presidency of the EU which begins in January, a special dojo will take place at the European Parliament on 29 January.

The first dojo was held in July 2011 and by the time the organisation celebrated its first birthday this year it had become an international phenomenon. There are now 104 dojos happening every Saturday afternoon (41 in Ireland) in cities from Dublin to Florence, and Tokyo, LA, New York, San Francisco, London and Chicago. New ones are sprouting up in Jamaica and Africa. On any given Saturday, an average of 6,000 kids between the ages of seven and 17 in Ireland and around the world are teaching each other how to write code.

In recent weeks, it emerged that CoderDojo has teamed up with global recruitment firm Hays to find 1,000 new mentors and 100 companies to provide facilities for dojos.

Whelton told a number of kids from the Irish dojos as well as the kids of European politicians will attend the European Parliament dojo.


“The movement has really taken on a life of its own and I found the fact that 150 mentors along with mentor Rebecca Garcia from New York came along to our conference was not only reassuring but made me swell up with pride,” Whelton said.

“It was a really good time to discuss the future of the CoderDojo movement and talk about the organisation’s core ethos.

“We shared experiences and discussed matters like insurance to child protection policies, the technologies we will be focusing on and we had demos, including one kid who did a live demo from San Francisco via Google Hangouts.”

Also discussed was the rewards and merit programmes of belts and badges and an interesting new development is a decision by Limerick Institute of Technology to reward points to prospective applicants for its courses based on time spent as CoderDojo mentors. The idea is likely to catch on to other third-level schools around Ireland.

Whelton said the CoderDojo that will be held in the European Parliament will have a similar format to that of the dojo that took place at Dail Eireann in July.

“Bill and myself started CoderDojo a year ago, but it’s been the people who volunteered who have made it what it is.

“In one sense we’re very proud that the format and the ethos has worked and that people who volunteered have such a passion for it and it’s been taken and implemented elsewhere and has really scaled up. It’s fantastic to see,” Whelton said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years