CoderDojo - Fridays are FUNtastic for Kids, at Campus
13 Jul 2018

CoderDojo is a network of free computer programming clubs for young people between 7 and 17 years.

It happens here at Campus Mlyny, Bratislava every Friday at 4pm to 6pm. Know a kid who might like to give it a go? Or maybe you know a programmer who might want to help - maybe even plant a new Dojo…? Here, have a chat with some of the participants:

Hanka

So I got this LED to flash - like it's blinking.

Coder Dojo led lightAh - that's the kind of thing that'd annoy me - trying to find that.

Yes but when you figure it out, you’re like ‘Yess! I did it!’ 

That’s great. So what’s the next project?

SOS in morse code - I’m going to do dot-dot-dot-dash-dash-dashdot-dot-dot.

Oh - handy skill - but I hope you don’t have to use the SOS! Hey I’ll come back when you have that sorted…

Coder Dojo SOSWow - so with those skills you can program a bunch of stuff.

Yeah. You know the first spacecraft that went to the moon had less computing power than this laptop here.

Oh - so maybe you can program a ship to go to Mars! Do you think you’ll do this type of stuff when you leave school?

I don’t know. I like lots of things - like reading and adventure stories. This is just fun that’s all.

Hugo

How’s things Hugo?

Good. I’m making a countdown.

…a countdown…?

Yes — like a digit has these 7 lines. So I’m making it count zero through nine.

Oh, interesting. How do you think you’ll feel when you do it?

Very happy.

Coder Dojo countdown

Ha, great. And what about when you’re struggling with something?

 

A little bit sad. But only a little bit. It’s still fun.

But school is more fun, right?

Oh, no - this is way more fun. And you learn way more here at CoderDojo than in school.

Oh - you think I should put that in the blog?

You decide.

Ok, I think I will. You’ve been doing coding for a while, right?

Yes, I was in a competition — I built a game where you have to survive in the wild. You’re on an island and you have to collect stuff to repair a lighthouse — once you do that you get to level 2, which is a different island. You have to jump down the cliffs to a boat. Then in level 3 you have to avoid rocks in the water — get to another island and you win — here, I’ll show you. It’s in 3D.

 Coder Dojo GameIt took a while to make it. I made most of it on my own.

Wow. So cool. So what happens if you hit a rock?

You die. No second lives. Back to the start. Ha hah!

Erik

 

How’re you finding things Eric?

Great. It’s my second time here. It’s fun - just making stuff. I’m making traffic lights.

I can see the red is working, right? What happens if we press this?

I’ll show you here!

Cool, it works. So you’ve done this task then, right?

Well that’s just the first bit — now I want to make it so when you press the button it goes to the next light automatically.

It’s kind of amazing to make lights do that - isn’t it.

Yes — it’s pretty cool.

You’ll be back next week then, huh?

Yes, I want to come back, definitely.

Ernest (Volunteer Mentor)

CoderDojo Mentors

They’re having fun, huh.

Yeah - the kids love building stuff. And us IT guys like helping them. So it’s all good.

Why do you think there’s such a strong culture of helping in IT?

I don’t know. If you go on reddit or hacker news, people like helping others. Maybe they want to prove they’re the smartest! And some technical people are kind of introverted, so maybe it’s a way to socialise, too.

Maybe it’s in our genes, too - how we evolved - passing on knowledge.

Yeah, that’s it. The idea is that it’s free, no one’s getting paid. Some Dojos have sponsorship but that’s in the form of hardware or computers - stuff you need. Like in Poland there’s a big sponsor - and 90 Dojos. In Edinburgh I was a mentor in a group of 30 kids. In Bratislava we have one Dojo. That’s it. About 8 kids in a class on average. Then there’s another Dojo in Žilina.

So it’s sponsorship makes the difference?

Not just. I think it really needs someone pushing it full time, or close to full time. We’re always on the lookout for people who might want to help. It’s really worthwhile. The kids learn stuff they just won’t learn in school - there’s no way - because the field is changing so quickly.

Handy for their futures, then.

Absolutely - the technical stuff they learn here will be outdated in five years. But the fundamental brain skills will remain relevant. And there’s so much in the way of life skills - project management skills, the ability to work in a group, and communication skills.

Problem solving, too?

Oh yeah - there’s this process - ‘Ask 3 Then Me’. First they try to figure something out for themselves - with Google. Then they ask two peers. Then the mentor. Of course the younger kids jump straight to step 2.

So - big question - what contribution do you think CoderDojo will have to the future of humanity and our planet?

Oh - that’s really hard to say. I mean bringing up the next generation of programmers isn’t really the goal. Of course, as a career, it’s great right now - lots of interesting jobs, and lots of freedom to work from anywhere. But I just look at it as an opportunity for the kids to give the technology a try, and create stuff. Like we have people who want to study mass media, and all sorts of other things. They enjoy it here, and develop skills - that’s all.

P.S.  Here’s a video of a cat chasing a bat around the screen — the handiwork of CoderDojo-ers, Leah and Hanna. Enjoy…

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