The Coolest Projects Around

Pictured: Alice Cosgrove, aged 12 with Leo Scanlan, aged eight, and Niamh Scanlon aged 12.

Pictured: Alice Cosgrove, aged 12 with Leo Scanlan, aged eight, and Niamh Scanlon aged 12.

We’ve covered the Coderdojo phenomenan before in the pages of NewsFour. An educational foundation of volunteer-led workshops that aims to hot-house technical skills in the young, Coderdojo aims to make learning fun, and seems to be succeeding.

James Whelton was only 18 when he founded the first Coderdojo in his high school in Cork. His inventive hack of an iPod Nano he won on a plane fight, re-engineering the device so he could play simple computer games on it, gained him some notoriety and this in turn attracted the attention of angel investor and entrepreneur Bill Liao.

The rest is, as they say, history, albeit very recent, with Coderdojos springing up around the country and abroad, to skill-up and foster the technical talents of the coming generation.

Coming to the RDS in Ballsbridge on June 13th this year is another Coderdojo endeavour, the Coolest Projects event. Free and open to the public, Coolest Projects is an exposition of individual and group projects from budding technicians and engineers from across the globe.

Coder kids aged seven to 17 from Ireland, Poland, Romania, Italy and elsewhere will be showcasing their own apps, games, robotics projects and hacking skills in the hope of winning a Coolest Project Award, sharing their know-how and learning from others.

NewsFour had a talk with Pete O’Shea, a communications officer with the Coderdojo Foundation and a volunteer at some of the Dublin-based dojos.

“We have no particular selection process. Everyone is eligible to enter until we reach our capacity for entries. It’s not a competition, we want to be encouraging.”

Coolest Projects was founded at DCU in 2012 by Noel King, Paul Phelan and Ben Chapman. “Twenty projects were submitted that year,” O’Shea elaborates, “and 60 the following year. Now it’s four years later and we’re at 550. We’re using the Main Hall in the RDS for the event, and well, it’s going to be crazy. Expect drones, robots, there’ll be a hackerspace. Every one of the participants will get a special USB belt – we run a belt system, sort of like a karate dojo. It’s a reward system of sorts, and it’s designed to be encouraging.”

Coolest Projects co-founder Noel King has stated that the events are intended “to encourage and reward creativity. Members create projects on their passions using the skills they have learned at CoderDojo. When you put no limitation on creativity the output can be truly amazing.”

The event has had no trouble in attracting assistance and investment from the business and technology industry, the first one in 2012 coming about with the endorsement and assistance of Intel. Intel are still supportively involved in the project as well as AIB, and RTÉ Player, among others.

Coolest Projects 2015 takes place on June 13th 2015 at the main hall of the RDS. The event is ticketed but free, and more information is available at www.coolestprojects.org.

By Rúairí Conneely

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