Last week, saw groups of young programmers – in Manchester’s case, including someone as young as 7! – working together on a week of coding projects as part of “Young Rewired State.” This national not-for-profit initiative sees developer communities across the country get together for a week’s “summer school” where young coders are given access to skills and data to develop new creative projects.
This year, the project has grown in stature, and in the Manchester session, which took place in “Madlab” – the Manchester Digital Laboratory – over 30 young people came along and worked on a range of different projects. A number of “open data sets” had been provided to work with – including an images archive from Manchester’s Libraries and Archive service, and Television programme listings from the BBC.
The culmination of all this hard work saw young programmers and their mentors go down to the Custard Factory in Birmingham – a multi-arts venue just outside the city centre – for a weekend where they could meet others from around the country and pitch their ideas to a panel.
Popping into Madlab to see how the event was going midweek I was struck by the dedication of both the young people and their mentors – as well as by the vast amount of pizza and crisps that they got through! There has been a lot of talk recently about the lack of programming skills in UK school curriculums as Business IT courses concentrate on applications not programming – but initiatives such as this show the gloom can be overstated.
Whilst I was there, a group of young programmers were outside testing an Alpha version of their “bump-o-meter” – which attached a mobile phone precariously to a bicicle with gaffa tape, and used its accelerometer to check the “bumps” in Manchester’s sometimes uneven roads – a scourge for urban cyclists in the city. By matching the “bump” with the GPS location they were hoping to generate a bump map of the city!
Other projects included the development of a simple booking system for a local charity, Wood Street Mission, which helps families and children in poverty by providing clothes and other essentials; and – the one that caught the eye of the judges – Jack Needham’s “before and after” mapping historical images of Manchester onto locations to provide a visual time machine of hwo the city has changed.
A full list of the projects from Manchester can be found on the Young Rewired State website here.
Lots of people and organisations helped make a success of this year’s event, and there’s also a useful list of resources that was provided for participants.