Summer hacking in the UK

As we are currently in the middle stages of scale and expansion for Young Rewired State, looking at sustainability and providing a bridge to more than just one off community events such as the much adored and missed Festival of Code.

In the mean time there are still some exciting opportunities for the young programming community, including the Hydrogen Hack I have been helping Arcola energy put together as they launch the expansion of their education programme.

The challenge is to take hydrogen fuel cells, code and hardware and make something newer, faster or inanimate objects animate.

Run the same way we run the Festival, with centres around the UK, mentors and then a finale in London, those of you in the Young Rewired State community will be familiar with it. This time we want to add those young people who are also crazy about engineering.

There is only space for 100 people in ten centres across the country so I would advise registering early.

Here is the link http://hydrogenhack.co.uk

We also need mentors and centres of course, so feel free to share and invite your friends

Festival of Code 2015, 7th one: a synopsis… the legacy

I am going to try to cram 1200 kids, 400 mentors, 70 centre leads, 50 volunteers, 200 parents and five (yup only five) full time staff’s work at this year’s Festival write-up. A challenge – but not one as great as the one we set the 1200 kids: build something digital in a week (even if you have only just started learning to code) with only one rule: you *must* use open data. (The open data rule goes back to the origins of the Festival, where we set out to let young people know about the data government was opening on data.gov.uk back in 2009).

So please bear with me and grab a cuppa – this post will take a while to navigate, you may need to come back later.

Firstly, here is a medium post of what it is like during the week from one of our regular (and ace) centres: Lives not Knives, and how being a mentor this last week has helped her come to a decision about her career, post-Uni. How lucky the world is that this indecisive, brilliant lady has chosen a career working with young people.

Fun facts:

We were covered on BBC Breakfast, BBC lunchtime news at one, 5Live, BBC Bews at 6 and Newsnight at the beginning of the week. The finale was covered by ITV News on Sunday. And Mike Butcher (a semi-final judge) wrote this on TechCrunch.

1200 young people aged 7-18 took part

32% were female

The semi-finalists, finalists and winners are listed here and the finalists videos can be watched here (please like your favourite one as they will win a prize)

For all the different hashtags on Twitter and Instagram we had:

  • 11968 posts by 1804 users
  • Total reached: 4,299,775 people <- MILLIONS!
  • Total impressions: 25,909,753 <- MILLIONS!
  • 65% male users and 35% female users (32% of the Festival participants were female, so this reflects that)
  • The biggest surge of tweets was between 11am and 1pm on Sunday where we had around 2000 posts. (that’s the finale)
  • The most commonly used hashtag in addition to one associated with the festival was #watttheduck
  • The most tweeted centre was #FoCHighbury
  • We had tweets from all over the world, with the UK, US and Ireland being top of the list.
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Here is a link to all that was made: http://hacks.youngrewiredstate.org/events/festival-of-code-2015 The semi finalists and winners will be displayed in the hacks app shortly, but we had a small laptop incident that means we have not been able to have the smooth transition to the 2016 sign up and 2015 synopsis – this will come. (But you can still sign up through here for 2016 registration news, as a mentor, YRSer, volunteer or centre).

Paul Clarke, a photographer of huge renown, covered the Festival for us and captured every moment of joy and trepidation – you can see the photos here, they are available on CC license but obviously please don’t take the mick and if using for anything give Paul the appropriate props in the tags and attributions. It is testament to his talent that his tweet with the photographs is the top tweet on the #FoC2015 hashtag.

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For me there were three defining moments of this Festival:

The first was when I was sitting at the information desk on Friday afternoon. We have registration open for six hours (it takes that long to process 1200 young people, plus their parents, mentors and centre leads into the weekend venue) – but the numbers of people signing in comes in waves, always has – we have people coming from all over. However, there is always a 4-5pm surge. During that surge, all I saw from my slightly nondescript desk and chair to the right of the escalators, was kids going “ARRRGGHHH” *running hug* “I cannot believe you are here! It’s been a year!!!!!” *bouncing hugs*. At one point, a brilliant brilliant young developer: Michael Cullum, who was at school with my daughter, saw her at registration and similarly did the running hug. It was a Festival of Code bundle, and I was pinching my arm not to cry at every reunion I witnessed.

The second defining moment for me was when I was standing slightly off stage at the end, watching the YRS Festival alumni judges. These were young people I have watched grow up and who are now too old to take part (19+), but who we chose to be the judges for their younger peers. They get it, they know what it takes, they understand what to reward and what to feedback. I sat in the judging room with our compere, Dallas Campbell – chatting about the death of Cilla Black – when the alumni judges all decided that feedback to every finalist was vital. They worked it out between them and I tried not to get emotional then. But when I stood there watching as the winners they selected were called to the stage, as they shook their hands and congratulated them – alumni to current participants – I have to admit I totally nearly lost it. But it was also a calm moment. I now know, that whatever happens – these kids have got it. Whatever we do or don’t do – the community owns this. My heart is literally bursting with pride for them.

The third was after it was all over and everyone was slowly exiting the finale space in the ICC, already drifting into mourning for the week, and two Mums of YRSers (parents *have* to accompany their children to the weekend if the kids are 13 or under) and they suggested that the next time we give the parents a chance to hack something over the weekend for them to surprise the kids with – a parents’ race, if you like (a whole other blog post). What a genius thing that we had never thought of. But perfect, so yes, something we will work on.

I am going to leave this update with a Facebook post written by Harry Rickards for all YRSers. Harry is an alumnus who came to Young Rewired State (YRS) in 2012, and is now studying at MIT. I cannot say any more – over to you, Harry:

Words are hard, but now I’m finally out of the yearly YRS sleep coma I’ll give it a try. You all are awesome. Seriously. Most of your mates spent half the week sleeping and half the week drinking in parks, and you spent the week making amazing amazing things. I say it every year but I 100% promise it’s true: every year I’m amazed by how much better the hacks have got. Seeing you all, both young and old, up on stage presenting things most professional devs could only dream of making in a week is awe-inspiring.
At MIT you feel like you’re around future billionaires, future tech leaders, future everything-awesomes. YRS is this but better. Go change the world! To those who just graduated, don’t think your journey is over! Come back as a mentor/volunteer/judge, get scared at how good the kids are, and have an even more fun time partying the evenings away (because none of you have been doing that as participants ofc), watching Robert dance and Alexander use a knife like he’s from the North. Despite the road-rage journey from hell with James and Shad this weekend (I think we might get PTSD from the M40…) and Neena‘s apparent misundersanding of the concept of private property, this weekend was one of the most fun I’ve had in a while (and I’m not even gonna attempt to tag you all).
Just please please please don’t let the cool kids party be at a goddamn Spoons 3 nights in a row next year. To the YRS organizers you’re the most amazing people ever. I’m sure your jobs are a trillion times harder than I think they are, and I already have no idea how you manage. YRS changed my life in so many ways: it made me get into programming and set me off into a path leading to MIT, it let me meet the best friends, and it hella inspired me. Trying not to sound like a cliched US politician (after all, thanks to YRS there’s now an app for that…), seeing the presentations and the excitement and the atmosphere and everything this weekend gave me faith in humanity.
I’m by no means alone here, so keep changing lives! Now enough with the rambling and (well-deserved) superlatives and onwards to next year. I don’t see how it’s possible, but I’m sure it’ll end up being even bigger, better, more fun, world-changing, etc. And with any luck (pending the Administration’s bureaucracy) we’ll have an MIT centre over in Boston next year! ‪#‎FoC2015‬‪#‎BestHashtag‬‪#‎WorldDomination‬
The YRSers own it, this is about them, and the ambition for the Festival is that it is totally supported by them. We will be their backbone, their champions – but the alumni will smash this. This is the legacy.
Please help us fund 2016 with the donation links on the website: it costs a lot to make this a free event for every child, and the work starts now for 2016.

Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

Last night Martha Lane Fox gave a knee trembler of a talk in the Science Museum. This was her Dimbleby Lecture and was her latest opportunity to use her position to put the clappers up the Establishment. If you have not seen it – do watch it: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05p9tvt/the-richard-dimbleby-lecture-30032015

There is an article about it by the BBC and this is the petition she is asking everyone to sign to demand that DOT EVERYONE happens. Now I will not waste more words telling you my version of what she says – because she says it brilliantly. But what I am going to do is jump on the opportunity she very definitely gave me last night.

Let me explain.

I have known Martha for a few years now, and she has been a fearless and brilliant person relentless in her support of what I do, but not afraid to bark at me if I screw up. I got to know her when she started following me on twitter about six or seven years ago and I told her not to because it was terrifying, we have been friends ever since.

In advance of the lecture last night she asked me and a few of her brilliant friends look over what she was planning on saying. This began with a meeting at the House of Lords – she had me in the room with my heroes: Tony Ageh and Bill Thomson and I was ridiculously happy.

I have since had the tab on my computer open day and night with the google doc transcript of what she was going to say. Every now and again I would go in and have a look at how it was shaping up and see Rusbridger also reading it, or Tom Steinberg, and moments when I would watch her typing and hesitating, deleting and then genius words would flow.  Even her cats got in on the editing.

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It was magical. And moving. But also funny. She sent me a text a few days ago saying: “You seem to be spending a lot of time looking at my lecture…” Poor MLF must have thought I was some silent judge-y teacher type, frowning at her work in silence. I wasn’t at all, I just kept the tab open to remind me to read every few days.

Thanks to her, and to the BBC Make it Digital team, the Managing Director of Young Rewired State (and my sister) Ruth Nicholls were also invited to the lecture. I was asked to attend the dinner afterwards (guestlist ridiculous, how on earth I got on there…) and then we retired for a final celebratory cocktail – and it was done. The lecture that is.

But what’s this noise in my inbox?

Today I have had a slew of people getting in touch. One of the reasons for this is that when Martha talks about women in technology, and how they need to be supported and showcased more, there is a cutaway to my face! I mean… yes cringe-making because I did not know, lucky I was not picking my teeth or yawning, but also, what a flipping gift! As Rory says:

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I have no idea how that happened, but thank God it did. People are wanting to be in touch, people are reaching out to ME to see what they can do to help and be a part of what I am trying to do. This is completely new, and refreshing and overwhelming and … exactly what Martha wants to happen for every woman working against the odds in technology, indeed civic technology (worst of both worlds for funding!). So, thank you, Martha – I am going to Carpe Diem and take absolute advantage of the opportunity you have afforded me, and every other woman like me out there today.

Here is how you can help me right now

STUFF THAT COSTS MONEY

1. In Rewired State we have just launched a programme called the Data Citizen Project. Here is what we are going to do:

We propose to run a programme which will be implemented over the next five years, from 2015 to 2020. Its aim is to significantly increase the understanding and confidence of citizens in the UK with regards to use of personal data, ultimately leading to everyone being able to make better decisions about that data.

This will involve partners across health, education, finance, politics, travel and social sectors working with representative personas, developers, designers, universities, social anthropologists and partners who specialise in measurement and statistics. We aim to help citizens be in complete control of their data, give permission to all parties who wish to access it and know what they are doing with it.

We need more partners and sponsors for this five year programme. Follow the link, get a pack and see how you might be able to help.

2. In Young Rewired State we are running our 7th annual Festival of Code. This costs a BOMB as we do not charge the kids to attend, they have taught themselves how to code, why should we make them pay to meet each other and work on some cool stuff? Supporting young programmers should be a line in everyone’s CSR budget. We need more of them to fill our jobs, and we need to find and look after them, so that they can teach each other – there is no other way we are going to fill this critical skills gap. We need these kids. If you want to support the digital sector and civic action/”for good” things, then your name should be on this page – in lights.

PAY ME TO SPEAK!

I get asked at least four times a day to go and speak at en event, or be on a panel, or turn up to something interesting. All of which I totally love doing. But realistically, I am a single parent Mum, I have had several times in the last year where I have hit the bottom of my overdraft (such is the life of a Founder of an – intentionally – unfunded organisation). Doing these talks and panels and stuff costs more than just travel – it is the opportunity cost. I appreciate that the platform is an opportunity, but so many platforms and the opportunity is lost because I am not actually getting any work done, or supporting the CEO and the Managing Director of Rewired and Young Rewired State: Ruth Nicholls and Julia Higginbottom (both women – yes).

So please don’t stop offering me platforms, or inviting me to attend stuff, but if you are needing me to speak as a part of your event, and you are charging people an entry fee, or raising sponsorship, please can you pay me?

STUFF THAT TAKES MORE TIME THAN I HAVE, BUT NEEDS TO HAPPEN

I really want to do this:

The challenge

The brand of technology/geeks is too remote and uninviting for most girls to want to be classed as a technologist – even if they are drawn to the career. Ada Lovelace days in schools exacerbates this remoteness – there is no relevance for your average school girl

The solution

Rebrand technology

But what can we realistically do right now?

I propose to build a small cohort of young, accessible, relevant and exciting women in technology. Schools will be able to ask us to run an assembly and careers workshop for them, and will pay to do so, unless I manage to get this funded by someone.

The speakers will be given a clothing allowance to buy a fabulous outfit and incredible cars will be hired for them to be driven to the schools. They will also be paid a speaker fee. They will then stand on stage (I propose four speakers per school) tell their story followed by speed dating style careers advice. It would be a maximum of three hours.

I need someone to help me, to take it, and drive it. This can be an organisation as well as an individual, I don’t mind – but I need help

In Martha’s own words:

The values of the internet have always been a dialogue between private companies and public bodies. And right now the civic, public, non-commercial side of the equation needs a boost. It needs more weight.

We have an opportunity to make Britain brilliant at digital. We’ve been going too slow, being too incremental – in skills, in infrastructure, in public services. We need to be bolder.

I am being bolder. I am asking for help. I am asking for money. Traditional funding models don’t work for businesses like mine, because the money comes with ties that always and eventually force historic business models, analogue models, ill-fitting models down the unwilling but hungry throat of the civic tech company. We cannot compromise what we are doing. The business model is solid, but it will take time – there is no quick win, but it is a solid one. The impact of both Rewired and Young Rewired State over the next twenty years worldwide will be huge, and visible, and noticeable.

We run great projects and programmes, eminently sponsorable, with benefit for both of us: US so that we can do what we need to do (and still eat and afford train tickets) with your money; and YOU because we will ensure that what we do, delivers value in return. A trade. The oldest trade in the world: money exchanged for something of value.

Thank you, Martha! Here’s a cheeky shot…

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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 – Festival of Code 1st round up

This is a long video post – go make tea first…

“It can make a grown man cry” is the repeated phrase I keep reading and hearing. Here’s why…

What we do at the Young Rewired State (YRS) Festival of Code is we invite all kids in the UK who can code, with a basic entry level of editing HTML all the way through to the veterans of code (aged 18 and under), to a week long hack event/festival. We then call out for centres and mentors and we find places with wifi and software developers (including our own Rewired State devs) across the country to host them for a week and get them to Birmingham. Then we invite them to build a web/mobile app, write an algorithm, anything they want to do is fine, so long as they use at least one piece of open data.

It makes people cry for the following reasons:

  • YRS staff cry because kids do not read email and so we have to invent great ways to ensure they know what to expect (cue Twilio)
  • the audience cries when they see what these kids have built in a week
  • the tech/wifi/power people cry because they have no idea how to cope with delivery of an event for 1000 kids where each one turns up needing connection and power for at least two digital devices, not so they can tweet and facebook, but because they need to keep on coding and downloading data for three days and nights…
  • the YRSers cry because we cannot yet meet their tech requirements at the Festival, but we will hack our way towards a solution, care of the determination of the lovely Steve (who runs Rewired State in Australia alongside his wife: Jec) but always flies in like a super hero to rescue tech companies at the Festival

It is this last reason for weeping that stands as testament to why Young Rewired State and the Festival is important. Here is a back stage view of the people who help make it happen:

The world of industry and entrepreneurs is also at a loss as to how to find suitably skilled graduates and interns. And the education system is scratching its head about how to create a load more, in line with the opportunities and work available, and the growth of expectations in digital citizenship (a whole new ballgame as we are beginning to see).

Learning to code is not about being the mechanic in the digital world, it is being the driver – as opposed to passenger

I give you a whole YouTube channel of kids from 5 to 18 who are the next generation of programmers and designers here

And some highlights in video:

Girls:

Centres and mentors:

Other YRS participants of all ages:

George is a bit of a hero, check out his channel

Also Zac and the rest…

Press (we get a lot of coverage, here is some video footage)

BBC Breakfast TV because of advertising laws they could not mention who we were but all this is filmed at YRS2013

Five Live Outriders Podcast

BBC Midlands (live) from 15.45mins in – I know I point at a completely empty street, I am an idiot

We were on the radio a lot, and we had a tonne of newspaper coverage proper newspapers, we were in The Times and the Evening Standard and are going to be in the Guardian and The Observer this week

Here is Howard, from the BBC centre we had in Manchester:

Here is a parent:

We had a lot of stuff going on including talks, robots, chiptune artists, amazing sponsors thinking of clever ways to engage with the kids, including ice cream…  you can watch the entire weekend on the recorded live stream all on the Friday night before presentations.

Photos are here and here

Sign up for next year’s festival , and YRS Hyperlocal and check our YRS Everywhere

Finally (for this post – I will defo be doing more), the thank you video: