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Inspiring a new generation of coders

It’s been two years since we first began running coding clubs at OVO, combining our focus on providing educational opportunities for local children and young people with our in-house coding expertise. Our coding clubs are part of CoderDojo’s global movement of free volunteer-led clubs (called Dojos) for young people. Over the last two years, our dedicated volunteers have introduced 250 7-17 year olds to the magic of coding. 

In that time, we’ve come a long way from just teaching kids to code. OVO volunteers have helped them to get to grips with different programming languages and introduced them to the huge variety of ways that coding can be applied in real life, from creating animations and games to programming robots.

In September 2016 we ran our first girls-only Dojo in response to the fact that only 17% of those working in tech in the UK are women. Our volunteers are always encouraged by the number of girls regularly attending our code clubs and we think it’s important to provide more opportunities for young women to experience coding.

In our 2017 Dojos, we taught young people to programme their own interactive stories, games and animations using Scratch, including their own version of Pac-Man! In these sessions children also learnt how to create emojis using HTML and  JavaScript to animate them, as well as the basics of Python (a coding language, not the snake!). Using Makey Makey, they also used code to turn everyday objects like bananas and stairs into pianos.

In October, to celebrate our second CoderDojo birthday, we took it to the next level and introduced robots to our coding clubs. We used Code-a-pillar, a robotic caterpillar with multiple segments which kids can connect in different sequences to make the insect go forward, left, right and even play music. The children could also set up targets throughout the room and programme the Code-a-pillar’s segments to reach their goals. 

We also introduced a BB-8 robot, which connects to a smartphone or tablet allowing kids to write their own code and programme the robot to move around the room and change colour. Our volunteers were really impressed by how these simple programmes and robots got children to think like coders and push the limits of their imaginations. We’re really proud of how far our CoderDojo coding clubs have come since they started and are looking forward to plenty more sessions in 2018!

We run monthly CoderDojos at our Bristol office, led by expert volunteers. Showcasing role models from across the business, it’s designed to encourage kids to get into technology and build their confidence. If you know any code-curious children (7-17-year-olds) who’d like to get involved, sign them up now.

If you’re looking for ways to introduce and encourage children to code, you may find the following resources helpful:

  • Not in Bristol? Find your nearest Dojo here.
  • Scratch is a programming language and an online community that teaches children age 8 - 16 to programme their own interactive stories, games and animations and can be accessed for free along with resources for parents. 
  • Blockly is similar to Scratch, but allows you to code in several different programming languages. Blockly is suitable for children age 10 and over and can be accessed for free.
  • Swift Playgrounds is an iPad game designed to teach kids how to program in Swift, the language used to build iOS apps. You can download it for free on your iPad.
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