Calling all young scientists and geeks for a free Summer hack in August #H2Hack

You may have heard of the first ever Hydrogen hack happening in the UK this summer, run by the uber cool Arcola Energy team, ahead of the launch of their education programme. The latest news is that we are ready to start filling up the centres. If you want to read all about the hack and apply, go here http://hydrogenhack.co.uk – but the basic idea is that 100 scientists and geeks aged 18 and under will come together in ten centres and use hydrogen fuel cells to make animate objects move faster and inanimate objects become mobile. Using a variety of fun technology, toys and fuel cells, this week promises to be challenging and completely new.

At the end of the week there will be a large competition between the projects at Ravensbourne College near the O2 in London, in front of a panel of distinguished judges.

If you look at the map on the website you will see where all the centres are, but we are just looking now at getting the right balance of young talent in each centre. By ‘scientist’ we mean that you have an interest in science and engineering, or of course are a flat out genius at science; by ‘geek’ we mean that you have coding/hacking skills; by ‘young’ we mean that you have to be aged 18 or under. Here is the list as of this week:

Nottingham University: we are looking for 8 young scientists, we have enough geeks but if you are amazing, do apply!

Techniquest, Glyndwr University, Wrexham: we are looking for 7 young scientists, we have enough geeks but if you are amazing, do apply!

Centre for Life, Newcastle: we are looking for 9 young scientists, we have enough geeks but if you are amazing, do apply!

BOC, Guildford: we are looking for 7 young scientists, and 2 young geeks

Tettenhall College, Wolverhampton: we are looking for 6 young scientists, and 2 young geeks

Monmouth school, South Wales: we are looking for 4 young scientists, we have enough geeks but if you are amazing, do apply!

University Technical College, Bolton: we are looking for 8 young scientists and 1 young geek

University of Sheffield: we are looking for 7 young scientists, we have enough geeks but if you are amazing, do apply!

In London we have a wealth of young scientists and very few geeks so far! Which is very odd, so please do apply if you love hacking and are happy getting to a centre in London. We are in the process of signing up more London centres as we have so many young science applicants – so there will be a number of centres to choose from.

You can all apply on site here http://hydrogenhack.co.uk

Right! That is it. It will be a GREAT week, and free – what more could you ask for.

{Mentors: we need you, so if you are too old for this hack but love the idea – register as a mentor, it will be as much fun – but we can’t pay you}

 

 

Why should kids learn how to code?

I get asked to respond to this question in public and private forums a *lot*. I often trot out the driver/passenger analogy, but this is not necessarily a good explanation for children. So here is another wheel-based explanation of why I, personally, believe it is an important skill to be taught in schools:

Buying a child a computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone without teaching them at least the basics of computational thinking and programming, is like buying them a bike and letting them cycle on the roads.

As responsible parents we ensure the children know the rules of the road, stuff like:

  • which direction the cars drive in
  • how to keep themselves safe
  • when to use pavements and when to try the road
  • to avoid motorways

and so on…

We probably start with teaching them how to operate the bike at home and in safe areas before allowing them the freedom of the road, but let’s face it for this analogy, most of these children know how to ride a bike from their first efforts with a tablet and apps when still toddlers. However, we need them to understand the environment, so that they can act accordingly, safely and happily ride their bikes – exploring and learning and most importantly having fun.

Some of these children will grow up to simply continue to be casual bikers, it is just something they can do and enjoy. Some will become professional cyclists, some will become serious weekend road warriors, some will learn to build bikes and make a living out of it. But they have all grown up completely understanding the environment within which they can ride their bikes, and how it all works.

If you take this analogy back to giving them their computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone, current accepted behaviour is to restrict them to only riding their bike in the sitting room, with Mum, Dad or teacher holding their back wheel – this way they will be safe. Or the other extreme, let them out the front door and send them straight off onto the roads with no guidance. To be fair, most parents assume that schools have already got this one, that these young people are being taught the basics of the environment therefore it is not ridiculous to let them out the front door.

But the reality is that currently they don’t. And it is only best efforts from volunteer groups, such as CodeClub, and a small number of IT teachers who have the skills and ability to teach the essential rules of operation in a digital world. In Young Rewired State we have spent the last five years finding and fostering the young people who have been teaching themselves how to code, introducing them to each other and to mentors who can help them further their skills – slowly we are building a supported network of people aged 18 and under, who are learning through peer-to-peer and are no longer isolated and having to work out the rules of the road by themselves.

The world that these children are growing up into is rapidly becoming a world largely dependent on digital, a digital renaissance is upon us if you like. To whizz back to the analogy, the roads and the cyclists are becoming ever more critical to the infrastructure and operation of our entire world. It is not just about job opportunities, it is about being digital citizens, fully informed and empowered to confidently make choices and decisions, almost without having to think. They need to just know.

Here is a little video we created at this year’s Festival of Code about why we do what we do:

Round the world with Young Rewired State {Everywhere}

Last year and earlier this year I blogged about wanting to run Young Rewired State around the world. This was in response to so many people from other countries getting in touch and saying how much they needed something similar to happen where they lived. To recap, for those who don’t know, this is what Young Rewired State is all about:

YRS is an independent global network of kids aged 18 and under who have taught themselves to program computers. We introduce these children to like-minded peers at events around the world where they use freely available open data to make websites, apps and algorithms to solve real world challenges

As you can see we have already included the fact that it is about a global community, and this is down to the success we have had in this year of experimentation beyond the shores of the UK.

We have been blown away by the joy and excitement experienced by the young people who have come to the events we have run, and the remarkable similarities between what these children create, learn and value from becoming a part of this community, and taking part in these events.

Here are a couple of videos from the events we ran in New York City and in Berlin earlier this year:

And if you cannot speak German, then switch on captions to watch this one:

You can read the round-up from both events here and here, and in November we are running an event with GitHub in San Francisco, details here

YRS{E} in 2014

We have learned a *lot* during the process of planning, partnering and running these events around the world, and have now come up with a scalable plan for 2014, again we will see if it works before rolling it out beyond 2014; but here is how we see it working…

There will be two options for running a YRS event where you live:

Option 1

If you are an organisation that is used to running hack-style events, then we would provide you with a pack detailing how to run a YRS event, create a registration page and microsite on our website for registering the young people and mentors and an MOU on how the event should be run, our values and our brand guidelines.

We will alert the worldwide young coding community when and where the event is taking place, and provide social media cover during the weekend.

This would not have a cost associated with it, but you would need to raise local sponsorship to cover event costs like venue, food, AV/wifi, publicity and prizes.

There will be options to get more from us, like weekly skype calls and community reach to young programmers, but these would incur a small charge in order to cover the central staff costs and time.

Option 2

We would work with partners in-country to assist with full delivery of the event, and would fly out a team for the week to actually run it. This would be a far more hands-on partnership for us with the regional teams and would suit those organisations who want to host a local Young Rewired State event, but are not used to running hack events.

This would carry a fixed cost of £20,000 for the work the dedicated central team will do, and include all costs including flights, accommodation, food etc. In addition to this fee, you would still need to raise local sponsorship to cover event costs like venue, food, AV/wifi, publicity and prizes.

America and Europe

As we have successfully run these events this year in America and Europe, we are also looking at raising central funding in the form of Grants, partnerships and central sponsorship that may well enable us to cover some of the costs ourselves; and so the above two options would become cheaper or even free, over time and in certain regions.

The Festival of Code

At each event we have run, the young people all expressed a desire, no an absolute need, to take part in the annual Festival of Code, run every year in the first full week of August. We are currently looking at the logistics of doing this, so watch this space – we will have worked it out by the time we are in San Francisco, and I will of course blog about it!

I shall leave the last words with Nadine (a YRSer from New York) and Ashley (a mentor from Code for America)

Want to run Young Rewired State where you are?

Contact hello@youngrewiredstate.org and speak to either myself, Kait or Ruth about what happens next…

Young Rewired State in New York

In July this year (2013) we brought Young Rewired State to Queens in NYC, to the Museum of the Moving Image. Have a look at what was built and the Eventifier synopsis of the event over on the Young Rewired State website.

But I wanted to just write a blog post about the more human elements of the hack.

The idea of taking Young Rewired State abroad came from being asked so many times to do so – I wrote a couple of blog posts about how we hoped to do this and now we have done it.

Did it work? YES!!

Did we find 50 coding kids in New York? YES!! More than 50 in fact but it still took a good 10 weeks to find them one by one, it was not easy

Did they understand Open Data and manage to build stuff with it? YES!!

What was more remarkable was that this event was *exactly like the first YRS event we ran in 2009*. Even the stuff they made. Even the kids lying about their age to get in! I love that… meet Ian McJohn age 12 (or 14 depends… watch right to the end) and one hell of a brilliant coder, articulate and destined for big things I say:

We were very blessed in New York with the very best mentors from Code for America and beyond to partners from Mozilla Hive and the local open data coding communities. We even had the lovely Robbie Clutton, one time colleague from the Guardian and YRS mentor from years gone by, now being fabulous in NYC. In this video, Ashley Williams talks about her own experience growing up as a developer and how important it is that things for communities like ours to exist for young coders. Ashley is ace and is coming to be a superstar judge at next week’s Festival of Code (we are very lucky), here she is:

One element of the YRSNYC event was that the UK kids were able to remotely mentor through the hashtag on twitter and the IRC room we had set up. Twitter was definitely not the US kids medium of choice, they all looked slightly horrified/disdainful that we suggested using it! But some were reluctantly persuaded… Facebook is definitely their preferred social channel, but ultimately the simplicity and dev-friendliness of IRC wins out every time. We will continue this joining up of the communities as we roll out YRS Everywhere across Europe and America.

The hacks that the kids produced are listed here and as you can see are hugely varied and inspired, and next year we are coming back to NYC to bring this community back together again in several areas across the city, once again connecting the local kids with their local city data and each other. Anyway, here is Zachary, one of the members of the Best in Show winning team (who will also be coming to YRS Festival of Code 2013 as a part of his prize):

And finally, how can I not mention the girls – we had a 50/50 split throughout the weekend, which was absolutely amazing, and we had not even tried – so thank goodness for that. I shall leave the last word to Nadine (I dare you not to smile with her)

Onwards now to the Festival of Code next week and then YRS Berlin in September…

We were only able to make YRSNYC happen due to sponsorship from SAP, Twilio and the New York City Trust, and partnership from the Museum of the Moving Image and Mozilla Hive. What we do is not for profit but does cost something. If you would like to sponsor our YRS Everywhere Mission please get in touch with me for details of impact and reach.

A very great week for young programmers in the UK

Two important and wonderful things happened this week:

1. Google donated 15,000 Raspberry Pis to schools across the UK

2. Today it was announced that Computer Science will be included in the new English Baccalaureate (EBacc)

Much of this achievement is down to relentless campaigning and education by groups such as Computing at Schools, Next Gen Skills and a large number of dedicated individuals: too many to mention here. We should be proud of these things happening, but let’s not wipe our hands of this problem just yet.

We need to focus our attention on the junior school children, Year 8 is Too Late in my opinion and even with the impetus of the EBacc computer science course we need to introduce ‘computeracy’ in junior schools across the land: let the 7 year olds have fun, break stuff, play and enjoy exploring the potential of computers and the digital renaissance. Bring back the What if? questions, What would happen if I…?

I know that there is a while yet before the decision is taken as to which schools will get the donated RPis, but it would be really wonderful if they were only given to junior schools, bringing an excuse to the classroom to discover the potential and joy of computers, in the same way the BBC Micro gave all us oldies hours of code-y fun in the 80s. I suspect that this would see a far greater take-up of the EBacc as those children move into senior school.

All that aside, what a brilliant week for young people in the UK?

A version of this opinion piece is in the Education section of The Telegraph

Young Rewired State – an update

For any of you who are unaware of Young Rewired State, here is a video from this year’s Festival of Code

To date we have made it our focus to find and foster every child in the UK driven to teach themselves how to code; to support them through community and peer-to-peer learning, and introduce them to open data, primarily open government data. If you would like to read up more on what we do and why, here is a White Paper written by Dominic Falcao, a student at York University.

So we have come far in the last four years and as we enter our fifth year we really are going hyperlocal and global – as I mentioned in a previous post.

Since that post I have had some very great discussions with developer communities in several regions outside the UK, including Berlin, Amsterdam, New York, Kenya and San Francisco – and the narrative has become more clear, why this is so important and how this very well could be the beginning of a game-changing, independent, worldwide community.

Let me explain…

The idea is to start as we did in 2009 in the UK with one weekend in a number of International regions. Find 50 local children, aged 18 or under, driven to teach themselves how to code, and introduce them to open government data in a traditional hack-style event. During these weekends these young programmers will be mentored by their local coding community, as they are in the UK, but as well, they are remotely supported by the worldwide members and mentors for YRS, through twitter hashtags and IRC channels.

If history can repeat itself over the following five years, each of these first 50 will continue to be mentored and add to their number, growing to 500 in five years, maybe more – and then becoming hyperlocal.

The dream is for a child in Berlin to find it completely usual to be supporting a child in New York, for example, with a local civic problem, or just in their learning. For them to grow up expecting and understanding open data and open borders. And almost more importantly to be forever a part of a worldwide community of like-minded people – never again coding alone.

The beauty of this network is that it is so local, we are working with established developer networks and organisations in all of the countries, and as these children become 19 they *typically* fold back into Young Rewired State as mentors. This is important as it creates a support network for teachers and educators worldwide that is so needed.

We work also in partnership with those organisations teaching young people to code, giving them somewhere to continue the learning through collaborative, peer-to-peer education that can scale according to talent and desire.

YRS Scotland

This weekend sees the very first of these hyperlocal events in the UK, with a group of young programmers in Scotland starting their YRS journey. You can follow the action and add your mentor support by following the hashtag: YRSSCO2012 on twitter.

I really do believe these children can actually change the world, and I am grateful to the huge community who have supported us in the UK and overseas to get to now.

We are run as a not-for-profit social enterprise. Here is how you can get involved