12th July 2017
CoderDojo Foundation: How we got on at Coolest Projects
I’ve been part of the organisation team for the CoderDojo Coolest Projects for 4 years now and each year I”m blown away by the level of creativity showcased on the day! This year there was a live beehive (yes, live) monitored by a Raspberry Pi, many robots, social impact projects, video games and more. You name it, it was there! Seeing these projects and hearing the ninjas talk about how and why they made them is inspiring and this really makes the day for me.
The event has grown in project participation and community attendance year on year. It is a true representation of the impact that so many volunteers are having on the next generation of creators by exposing them to coding and tech at their local Dojos! This year I was delighted to meet so many international participants from 17 different countries across the globe! Some of which I knew well, and others I was meeting for the first time. It’s awesome to see that the CoderDojo community continues to grow around the world, 5 years on from the first Dojo in Cork! Lets get 30 countries involved next year!
Finally, a big congratulations to all the CoderDojo ninjas that participated this year, all the projects were AWESOME! Also it would not be possible to run the event without the support of those that volunteer on the day #GreenShirtsRock! And a big shout out to: all CoderDojo community members (both national and international), Louise Byrne and the organising team, The CoderDojo Foundation team and sponsors! (raise hands emojii) Bring on Coolest Projects 2018!
The CoderDojo Foundations Erasmus+ project is called Training in ICT Programming Skills. One of the main aims of the project is to examine how evidence of learning gained by CoderDojo participants might be recognised. A large part of the initiative is listening to parents, mentors and organisers involved in the Dojo, finding out what the important issues are and developing resources based on this feedback. As part of the project we held a small conference during the Coolest Projects as a separate event where we disseminated the partner outputs to the community and educators in the Merrion Hall. We also had a guest appearance by co-founder James Whelton on why it is important for organisations like CoderDojo and institutions across Europe to collaborate more and E+ was a great platform to do so.
As part of managing Communications and Community Engagement with the CoderDojo Foundation I get the awesome opportunity to see photos and videos from Dojos including Ninjas projects through our blog, forums as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram throughout the year; as well as popping into Dojos from time to time. But CoderDojo Coolest Projects provides such an amazing opportunity to meet the children and volunteers directly involved in hundreds of Dojos around the world all in one place! This year we had youths from 17 countries presenting their projects to the over 10,000 adults and children who attended. I was able to meet and talk with awesome project presenters both at the international meet up and pre-registration the day before on Friday as well as meeting lots more youths who were only delighted to tell me all about their projects and how they made them. When you see the diversity of projects, languages and project ideas you are not only are blown away by the creativity and hard work of the ninjas, but also of the amazing network of volunteers who give their time to help support and encourage the youths that attend their local Dojo throughout the year!
There is nothing like the build up to Coolest Projects every year. The work that goes into Coolest Projects is Trojan and it’s done by a organising committee made up almost entirely of volunteers. While the amazing green t-shirt army of volunteers power the day of Coolest Projects, you’ll see some other people sneaking around in black t-shirts who have been planning the event for months in advance in every bit of their spare time. Every year for each of the organising committee seeing the Ninjas in awe of the venue set-up when they first walk in or seeing them light up when displaying their projects is magical – no matter how little sleep you have had! This year was also extra special to see so many international projects travel from Argentina, Japan, Australia and all across Europe to participate! And since the event is over, all there is left to do is to get some sleep and start planning for next year! Roll on Coolest Projects 2018 ?
This was my first Coolest Projects and for me there was so many stand out moments. I was very grateful to get the chance to help out on comms with Nuala. This gave me the opportunity to go all over the RDS interviewing ninjas from several different countries. This was an amazing experience to see how much CoderDojo means to the community members and to see the happiness showed by the participants when speaking about CoderDojo and their projects. One particular interview with a ninja that stood out for me the most was when the ninja explained how their Dojo is a place that they can go to and be themselves and meet people who are like them. It is amazing the work and effort that is put into this event to make it a special day for the kids. The talent that was shown on the day by the kids was mind blowing. Throughout the whole event there was an amazing community feeling and to see so many people give up their time to volunteer on the day is incredible!!
Thrilling changes! From the outset, Coolest Projects tried to encourage kids this year to spend less time at their desks and more time discovering others projects.
On a volunteer side of things, there has been an exceptional change. For the 3 years I’ve volunteered at the event, Coolest Projects has aimed to increase the amount of activities available and better it and despite its number of volunteers growing each year, there has been challenges on the day. This year has been fantastic: volunteers being allocated shifts to allow everybody to both engage and enjoy the day, all potential catastrophes being planned for in advance meaning much more relaxed organizers and most of all, an energetic community!
While community members are mainly from Ireland, there are also dedicated volunteers: people coming year after year, from different countries, with new faces, younger and older than me. And this is something I personally enjoy about Coolest Projects. There are still challenges to overcome from a volunteer point of view, but it’s definitely getting better year on year. Another step is for those of us who have been doing it for 5 years, is to share our experiences and insights with Dojos in other countries; which are trying their own version of Coolest Projects. Maybe even other community members can try a different approach, and inspire us with how to make it even better in the future 🙂
Coolest Projects this year was a lot of fun. I got to see some awesome projects in the hour or two I was away from the Foundation’s stand, as well as some cool demos that the sponsors had going. I also had loads of interesting conversations with community members while I was working the stand, helping parents find Dojos near them and introducing Mentors and Champions to the variety of educational and supporting resources available for them on the CoderDojo website. Unlike previous years, I also gave a talk! I walked a group of parents and prospective Mentors through how they could apply skills, other than technical ones, to mentoring at a Dojo. I also showed them how quick and easy it can be to pick up the basics of programming in something like Scratch. Hopefully a few of them will be joining local Dojos as mentors as a result! (You can see the slides from the talk here).
This was my second Coolest Projects on the CoderDojo stand. As before, it was really great to talk to both current and prospective community members. Some just wanting to get their kids involved, and some wanting to set up a Dojo in their local area. I only got a short period to check out the projects, but there were some amazing ones out there. We also had a picnic bench with some fun activities for the kids in attendance. It was great to see kids, some not even involved in CoderDojo (yet!), use their creativity with technology.
This was my first Coolest Projects experience so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the event and when I heard that I would be given the opportunity to help out on the day, I was very excited. I spent most of the day at the CoderDojo Foundation stand near the main RDS entrance helping parents, ninjas and others who were just interested in the movement itself or indeed in setting up their own dojos. It was overwhelming to see so many people so passionate about coding and technology in one place, especially since most of them were so young! We also had a small “workshop” table at our stand where people could craft their own “binary bracelets” and LED wearables and this table was very popular! I helped lots of people with their crafting which was a lot of fun.
When I wasn’t at the stand, I was able to walk around the exhibition and talk to the ninjas about their projects which was really interesting. I didn’t have a lot of time to view projects but there were lots of really amazing and creative projects that I did see and I would have loved to see more! Seeing these kinds of projects being created by ninjas was really inspiring and very impressive overall!
I started the day at the registration exceptions desk, helping to make sure that Ninjas who had problems with their registration all got the correct desks, lanyards, teams, etc and were able to participate in the event fully. Somehow it was not stressful like I had anticipated, but an exciting place where miracles were worked in the pool of calm that flowed around Guillaume. Thanks to the cooperation of our wonderful printer (!) and the superb help of volunteers no child was left behind!
For the afternoon I planted myself at the picnic table of the CoderDojo Foundation stand, and made binary bracelets with children and parents who stopped by. That was great fun and very well received!
Of course I also squeezed in some exploring to check out the projects being showcased. I had heard that one girl had made a **laser harp** which I just had to see. I found it and to my delight she let me have a go playing it… I’ve always wanted to have a go on one so that was definitely my favourite project! So impressive!
This year was my first time being at Coolest Projects and it’s true what everybody says: you just can’t imagine until you experience it in real life just how COOL it is!
The 2017 CoderDojo Coolest Projects was my favourite event yet! From the moment the ninjas arrived and starting setting up, there was an incredible excited, enthusiastic yet calming atmosphere throughout the RDS. The first stand out moment for me was seeing ninjas from the Docklands Dojo participate in the event. 9-year old Sara had been working on her App Inventor app Spell-Buster for over six months and it was completed to such a high standard, educational and engaging. It’s one example of the amazing creativity from the movement. Secondly, participating on the Raspberry Pi and CoderDojo Q&A panel along with co-founders Bill, James and Raspberry Pi CEO Philip. It was an incredible opportunity to discuss the growth and impact of CoderDojo to date and our plans for the future.
As this was my first Coolest Projects, manning the stand was a complete pleasure. Meeting, greeting and informing the many champions, mentors and parents that came up to the stand was a great feeling. Even coming up with ideas on how to best deal with certain types of ninjas within a dojo was fun, for example, when the question of trying to keep girls engaged and eager to come back arose one champion said she has a strong core of returning girls because she allowed them to have their own space within the dojo.
What I think was also fantastic on the day was the creative picnic bench, definitely for development and expansion for next year, so popular. Also maybe a few more screens with classic games on pi’s, also very popular. One project I seen that I thought was very smart was a graph machine that was controlled with a wii controller. Two girls about 12 yo built and coded it with python but I loved the way they managed to code the wii controller.
Coolest Projects as an event never fails to amaze me. The camaraderie shown between volunteers, sponsors, champions, judges and ninjas is so inspiring. The collective effort made to ensure young people from around the world feel supported and encouraged enough to showcase and discuss their innovative ideas & projects year on year is really something that makes me proud to be part of this community.
Each year I leave Coolest Projects with (a tummy full of blue slushy) an excitement about the following year, anticipation of more amazing projects and ideas and a renewed hope that the world is in excellent hands if the young people we welcome to Coolest Projects every year is anything to go by!