Breaking things better at Young Rewired State

It is year six for Young Rewired State (YRS), and it is growing into a great, international community of young people who have taught themselves how to code. We remain relentlessly focused on fostering the peer to peer nature of learning, and solving real world problems through code and community. We like to call this “Breaking things better”.

Earlier this year YRS separated completely from Rewired State, enabling it to focus on community projects and the the local/everywhere programmes. I also announced my intention to step aside as CEO of YRS/RS.

Excitingly, things have moved very fast since then and Young Rewired State has moved naturally into being its own entity, we have hired some great people to manage the YRS community and projects, and soon we will be able to announce the new Head of YRS. I shall share all of this staffing news when everything is all in place. This is us in Buckingham Palace…

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But the headline news is that I have invited an extremely select and active group of people to join me on the Board, and am going to move to Chair of YRS at the beginning of July. The Board members are as follows:

Annika Small:

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Annika is the CEO of Nominet Trust, but I have asked her to join the Board in a personal capacity, as she has been great at monitoring the growth of Young Rewired State, and gently steering us in the right direction and keeping me focused on the right things – in a completely positive way of course! I trust her judgment and know that she understands this space completely, and is far more knowledgeable than I in growing global communities and projects. Annika is the absolute rock YRS needs.

Bill Liao:

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Bill is a successful entrepreneur, VC and is the founder of CoderDojo. He has been invaluable in guiding us through the restructuring of YRS and RS and it is hugely important to me that there is someone on each of our Boards who is experienced in taking social organisations to global communities, and who has serious creds in the Venture market. Not for YRS (that will remain a non-profit organisation) but for the members of the community. We want them to have the aerial cover from Bill. Needless to say, CoderDojo and YRS have much in common.

Ian Livingstone:

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The Legend, as he is known in my house! Ian has long been a great shoulder for me to collapse on over the years of growing YRS. He has either made me laugh, got me drunk, or told me off but he has always got me through whenever I have yelped for help. He is also a towering inspiration for young programmers and has fought a long battle to bring gaming into many peoples’ lives, and took on government in a very serious capacity – fighting for changes in education (and winning). Being a success himself, and also slightly baffled by some of the things that have happened to him, the board is complete by having him shoulder to shoulder with Annika and Bill.

And finally… we have our very own Angelina Jolie, our Ambassador and friend to the Board: Kathryn Parsons.

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Kathryn has been a pal of mine for a while, and she has been hugely successful with her own Decoded adventure. We kind of fell forward in this space together and she and I have learned a lot from each other. So Kathryn is our Ambassador, a very important female role model for the girl entrepreneurs in YRS – but also a successful entrepreneur and actively scaling, a great example for all YRSers. Kathryn is ace.

And that is it.

This is not a passive Board/Ambassador. I will be meeting with them all every month individually, and then we will have quarterly board meetings to make sure we are doing the best we can by this rapidly growing community.

It is exciting.

Why young people are choosing to run YRS & Google assemblies

Yesterday we launched all the projects for Young Rewired State 2014 (YRS2014), this included our YRS Google assemblies initiative. We are inviting all of the young coders to run an assembly in their school, with the dedicated support of a YRS mentor, slide decks, videos, Google and YRS schwag for their mates. The point of this being to showcase their talents and encourage take up of programming by their peers as a fun thing to do; de-nerdifying it if you like!

The response has been incredible, and I wanted to share with you some of the reasons why these children are saying they want to run an assembly. (These are selected comments from the applications 50:50 girls:boys)

I would like to host an assembly at my school because, as a young person with special needs, I have been told by many people that I wouldn’t be able to have a career in technology (or anything for that matter) purely because I have special needs and this was the thing which demoralised me from persuing technology and any other career choice… My reason for wanting to host an assembly at my school is to combat the reputation people have of those who work in technology particularly programming, as there are some really cool people who program however they get ignored by the media in favour of the stereotype. Overall, I want to host the assembly to talk about something I love and a community who I will defend against those who bash ‘nerds’ and ‘geeks’.

Not enough students at my school understand the benefits of coding, and don’t even know about programs like Young Rewired State and I want to prove to them that coding isn’t nerdy and it is lots of fun.

I would like to have a YRS assembly because I want to share my experiences of programming and the two YRS events I have attended. Since I am in year twelve, our year group is being encouraged to think about which subjects we enjoy for university applications. I know many students in my school who are thinking about taking Computer Science at university but have no real knowledge of programming. By educating them about YRS and aiding them with resources to learn how to code, I believe people will be more interested in programming and consider computer science as a strong university choice. Furthermore, I am very passionate about getting people involved in YRS and telling them how they can make a positive change by creating useful apps from open data.

I think that everyone should be made aware of coding and how awesome it is. It would be great to have the help of Google and YRS! My school has around 700 students, 700 more coders hopefully!

Because we have started a code club in the last 12 months, which I love (we are starting to move from Scratch to Python), and while I will leave the school this summer to move to big school, I would love to tell all the younger girls why they should learn to code before I leave

Because I’d like to show that kids can have a say about things and this can be broadcast to the whole world with websites and coding!!

I have started a code club for my school but I’m not getting a good amount of pupils, only a couple of friends. I tried to get more but they just either forget or just don’t care. A lot don’t even know how to code and makes me really upset as teaching all the pupils in my school is more difficult if people don’t know what you can do with coding!!! I would love to have an assembly at my school to help boost the interest in coding or a related subject. But what upsets me the most is that people don’t believe that coding is one of our ‘super powers’…….. So please I would like help to make an assembly to see how it goes and use my club to teach people with a goal of everyone learning a bit of code or become complete experts!

These are just a few of the reasons given, but you can feel the passion and I am so pleased that we are able to run this programme. If you would like to run one in your school, then let us know through the sign up form here: https://youngrewiredstate.org/yrs-google-assemblies If you are not a member of the Young Rewired State community yet, then register for the Festival of Code and afterwards you will be able to run your own assembly.

Finally, here are the videos we made to be shown:

Young Rewired State 2014

So this year Young Rewired State (YRS) is six years old, believe it or not! We are still wholly focused on those young people aged 18 and under driven to teach themselves how to code, introducing them to open data and a community of their peers.

Of course the campaigning we at YRS and Rewired State have championed and supported to encourage more people to learn programming has meant that there are many more opportunities for learning now. Kudos to all the many organisations such as Code Club, Apps for Good, Decoded, TeenTech and Coder Dojo (to name the ones we know well and love).

This means that the YRS community has grown at an incredible rate over recent years, as it helps other young people learn from and teach each other. They hone their skills through building apps, websites and games, writing algorithms and parsing data – more often than not, solving real problems and challenges they experience.

This year we are doing three big things…

ONE: YRS/Google assemblies

We have a great community of hundreds of young people, most of whom do not go to the same school. They come alive when they talk about their skills and the community – and so we have teamed with Google to offer every person in YRS a sponsored assembly.

The YRSer will be helped by a dedicated YRS mentor to prepare an assembly, using slide decks, videos and YRS and Google schwag.

The point of these assemblies is for the young people already in the YRS community to tell their peers about what they have done, what they can do, and the support from Google shows how important their talents are to a multi-National brand every child will know (and probably want to work for because of the beanbags, slides and The Internship movie). It also challenges the familiar media view of nerdy, often male, programmers.

The videos I have used in this post are the videos we have made specifically for this project

Two: The Festival of Code will be International & the finale weekend will be held in Plymouth University

Every year we run the Festival of Code in multiple centres across the UK. This year we are including the centres outside the UK. This means that the festival now includes all the young people who have taken part in a Young Rewired State: Everywhere (YRS{e}) weekend around the world, and the community reaches across borders and Nations. This is the point of YRS – to create a networked community of young people worldwide who have grown up with open data and peer-to-peer learning.

Plymouth University have been incredibly generous in their offer to sponsor part of the cost and host the Festival, and house the YRSers over the weekend, meeting their challenging Wifi and power needs – and enabling us to continue to run the Festival now that many hundreds, tipping over a thousand young people, take part. Thank you so much!

(Travel to Plymouth will be arranged!! Planes, trains and automobiles will be activated – maybe holding the finale in Plymouth will encourage the YRSers to invent the flying car we were all assured in the 70s was going to be the vehicle we would be using in the 21st century).

Register as a centre, mentor or young person for the Festival of Code here: https://youngrewiredstate.org/ (it costs nothing to register or attend, it is funded through sponsorship. Feel free to apply to be a sponsor: emma at rewiredstate .org)

Three: YRS Hyperlocal and Rewired State/ly

We also announced that YRS Hyperlocal will happen in centres across the UK post the Festival, where the YRSers will be able to work, in the Festival centres that choose to opt in, with each other and mentors to take their Festival prototypes to product. At which point we will hand them over into the safe hands of partners we trust (morals/ethics).

We also announced Rewired Stately: a free Rewired State event that is happening in the last quarter of 2014 for programmers aged 50 or over, whether these be newly minted programmers or life-long, at which we will introduce them to open data and the rest of the RS/YRS community.

For more information on either of these programmes, email hello@rewiredstate.org

Please note: we do not teach kids to code… we bring together those who can code, from rudimentary knowledge to poly-codal, and take them forward to the next challenge – solving the real world problems