Hey @LimeBlast, sorry for my ridiculously late reply but busy life has had a hold on me recently.
As for the Festival of Code, I thought it was an absolutely amazing experience. To give an outline to those not familiar, the Festival runs something like follows.
The Festival is largely volunteer-based, with offices/communities offering their space for kids to come and hack; and members of the community offering their time and expertise to come and help the kids progress. It all starts on the Monday, where the kids begin brainstorming their project ideas that they will develop for the next 5 days. On Friday the country begins migrating to the central location (this year Birmingham ICC) where the kids and centre volunteers get together for some final hacking and pizza-eating. Judging of all the projects then takes place on Saturday and Sunday, with extra, mini-hackathons and makerspace areas on offer too.
As I said the Festival was an amazing experience for me, seeing the creativity and passion of theses under-18s in action was great; the originality of some of these ideas was beyond impressive. @Woo and I mentored a group of six children ranging from ages 11-17 that came up with the idea of turning everyone’s mobile devices into a distributed earthquake identification and reporting network; Identiquake. Some of the other ideas presented at the weekend included an intelligent ‘elephant’ alarm clock which monitors traffic updates and adjusts your alarm time accordingly to ensure that you always get to work on time (made even more impressive by the fact that it was thought up by a group of three girls aged eight and nine). Or a group that developed a program that restricts the incorrect fuel pumps at petrol stations by verifying your license plate against the national register; thus, preventing you from destroying your petrol engine with diesel (or vice versa). Videos of all the final presentations can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLrlo60-9HUYnB6uGPAkr605mbdtAJ7if_
I really appreciate how YRS have created a platform for kids to create, share, socialise and have good fun, whilst learning and exploring programming. It was really good to see our children develop over the course of the week and fuel their passion for computing; I was thrilled that a lot of them are aiming to go and study Computer Science at University in their futures. In all, the Festival creates a mountain of excitement, passion and an overall feel-good atmosphere; I think it is an invaluable experience for all those involved.
For the event the have the reach that it does it must rely on volunteer help. From chatting to other volunteers and centre leads during the weekend this can mean that, unfortunately, some centres don’t get as many mentors as they’d hope for (it is understandably tough for people to justify spending a week of their hard-earned holiday not on a beach). I did also speak to one centre lead who had no mentors with any coding experience behind them, making helping with the kids’ technical issues pretty tough.
One thing that was interesting was talking to the kids who are currently studying computing at school and learning python as part of their curriculum (something that was not an option during my school days - the most I got was training in Excel). The general feedback that I got is that the teaching isn’t so great, and many of these teachers are too inexperienced to effectively transfer the knowledge and skills to students. Alongside this, it seemed as though teaching is still largely theoretical-based and lacking in practical exercises. I think that the increased focus on coding at schools is great, and exposing more children to the opportunity of computing is a wonderful initiative. However, I have heard some mention that these teachings may actually have a detrimental affect; putting off students from computing as a whole because they’ve not been exposed to it in an accessible way. I’d be interested in hearing what other people’s thoughts are here and generally the state of affairs of computer science at a school-level.
Thanks for reading my mammoth post, I hope it helps, and thank-you for welcoming me to the community.