Mentor Diary: Chris Hillidge from CoderDojo Warrington
If you’re thinking of setting up a Dojo, do it! The biggest reward is the buzz in the sessions as the ninjas try their ideas and learn from each other. Setting up the Warrington CoderDojo happened purely by chance after meeting a representative from Barclays who told me about an event they had held at the Knutsford headquarters. I visited the Manchester Dojo a week later and enlisted some help from Rob Curran at the Wilmslow Dojo who massively helped me to put the plan together!
Our first Dojo was basic looking back 8 months later. We had Scratch, Lightbot on the iPads and LEGO robotics. We run our Dojo from Beamont Collegiate Academy in Warrington and have a really forward looking school leadership team who see the benefit of investing in technology. I’m responsible for developing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) within the school.
Our ‘basic’ Dojo was a big hit – the 20 new ninjas loved it but we knew we had to keep developing to enthuse new ninjas, but especially to engage their parents to really support their child’s desire to learn these future proof skills.
We had some ICT teachers to help but their skills were rusty, they hadn’t used programming in years as it wasn’t on the school curriculum. We sent staff to get trained at the Picademy where they were inspired to work with kids on Raspberry Pi projects. We asked them to develop projects for the Dojo that their kids would love to do.
Last weekend we held our eighth Dojo and we had seven sessions running for 50 kids and 30 parents. We had the usual Python, Scratch, Hour of Code activities, LEGO robotics challenge and APP creator but all with a bit of a twist that keeps the kids asking for more.
Our biggest hit is always the Minecraft room. We set up through the edu server and the kids can either gameplay together and learn to code whilst they play or they can focus just on the Java programming to make exciting stuff happen in their Minecraft world! One of our ex-pupils runs this session helped out by some enthusiastic Year 11’s and a couple of Year 7’s. We gave them badges to wear in school to demonstrate their commitment to mentoring and developing others. They are proud of what we’ve achieved together.
Our biggest hit for this Dojo was our Makerbot 3D printer – we used printcraft.org and thingyverse.com to find some exciting but simple designs that the ninjas could make using the 3D printer. The hits were the Yoda and minecraft tools (pictured). It gives the kids something to take away that reminds them they are part of a special group. We plan to introduce some coding into the use of the 3D printer and really develop the practical side and real world benefits of coding and design. We have a laser cutter set up to use in the next Dojo. We don’t know what we’re doing with it yet but we will learn….together!
Don’t worry about expertise, it will find you as champions and mentors come from the most unexpected places and offer their help. Oh and finally, get some coffee and doughnuts in for the Mums and Dads; it keeps them happy whilst their kids are light years away!
The CoderDojo Foundation recently received some new signs and we absolutely love them! Thank you CoderDojo Warrington!