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'ello 'ello to Birmingham IO

Hello Birmingham.IO

My name is Bhish and I’m currently mentoring at Young Rewired State’s Festival of Code on behalf of a new social enterprise in Brum called the School of Code (I’m tweeting our centre’s progress here). This is my first time mentoring for the event and I have to say that it has been an awesome experience, our team are doing great and progressing day-by-day; and the ideas thrown about during the festival are truly brilliant (in-fact, one team have created an app to bring together co-located coders as a community).

I was introduced to this site via another mentor and I really like what’s going on here; I look forward to chatting to you all further, and hopefully see some of you during the festival (mentor social tomorrow eve I believe :slight_smile: )

Cheers and ciao for now
Bhish

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Hey @bhish, welcome to the community.

I’d be keen on hearing more about the festival from the point of view of a mentor - I think it might help encourage more people to take part in the future if they knew what to expect.

@bhish arrived on Day 2, into a team that had committed itself to writing Java on Android with no knowledge of Java or objects. It’s no exaggeration to say we couldn’t have done it without him.

@Bhish I know you were going back to London on Sunday but the monthly ‘Silicon Canal’ that I mentioned to you is this Thursday.

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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.

Cheers
Bhish

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I think there’s been a change from teaching “IT” to teaching “Computing” in schools, as usual without the resources to make that possible in the majority of schools.

I just heard via Twitter that twice as many girls took GCSE Computing this year compared to last year.

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