For those who don’t know, Young Rewired State Festival of Code is:
Young Rewired State is a worldwide community of digital makers aged 18 and under. We introduce them to like-minded peers, and expert mentors, at free events around the world, where they use freely available open data to build apps, websites and algorithms to solve real world challenges.
Young Rewired State aims are to (from their website):
- Find and foster a community of young coders and digital makers
- Get them ‘civic hacking’ together: using their skills, to improve their communities
- Promote peer to peer learning
- Provide a fun, inclusive and supportive environment
- Equip these young people with the skills to become the tech stars of tomorrow
I’ve heard and followed YRS for a few years but it always seemed like I was travelling during the events. But this year Emma and Ruth caught me early in the planning and I was able to put it pride and place in my calendar. I was honoured to be asked to be a judge even though I had no idea what that meant….
When I arrived at ICC in Birmingham, a place I have been to many times, I felt an electric vibe I have never felt before. I walked up the to the main floor of the event and BAM! The explosion of excitement hit an elevation I didn’t know possible. Kids coding, excitedly, happily – with a splash of annoyance when it wasn’t working.
Passion, heart, sweat and tears.
I made my way to the judges area to find out what was required. We had a list of teams we would judge and then had the challenge of putting four forward, one in each category:
- Best example of Code
- Best example of Design
- Should Exist
- Code a Better Country
Luckily I was with 3 seasoned judges who helped guide the conversation a bit but I was soon in my element asking questions from the teams. However, choosing just 4 was HARD. Very hard. Our group had 14 incredible examples of why our future is looking bright. Their concerns far outweigh anything I cared about when I was their age!
At the same time our group was judging, there were 10 other groups of judges doing the same. Once we put our names forward, I was able to relax (after beating myself up for wanting to put everyone through and not being a very firm judge…).
For our group, we narrowed it down to:
Best of Code: Smart Scrawl – a virtual street art app.
Should Exist: Food Points – a food bank related app to not waste food in schools etc
Design: Hydrate – an app to keep hydrated. Used weather, weight/height.
Better World: Cosmic Junk Collector – a cosmic game using real time space information.
The semi-heats were even harder and I was so glad not to be a judge anymore! And you can image how hard the finals were.
The finals were on Sunday. I wasn’t scheduled to be there but came home talking a mile a minute about what I witnessed on the Saturday my family told me to go – and I am so glad I did.
The excitement from Saturday somehow was larger – stronger – more powerful. Everyone was working to help teams. Kids that were kicked out of the heats on Saturday were seeing if the could help the teams in the finale. It was about the project, not the rewards.
We hear the media put this generation down consistently and yet here they were once again, proving what a caring, supporting, empathetic generation they are.
Each finalist had 3 minutes to display their project. Other than those I saw on Saturday for my heat I didn’t realize the high bar that was set.
Repeat: So thankful I wasn’t a final judge!
In the end, the judges decided on:
Although there were many things I overheard eg ‘The door isn’t staying open.’ ‘LET’S HACK THE DOOR!’ I want to share a conversation I had with an 8 year old who has never coded before.
8YO ‘ Hi! Is this your first time here?
Me: Yes, and you?
8YO: Yes but not my last! I learned to code!
Me: Did you know any coding before YRS?
8YO: No, and I wasn’t interested but thought I’d sign up and give it a go. She (points to 11yo next to him) helped me.
11YO: Yes, 8YO came in and didn’t even know scratch (a coding platform) but we got him coding and learning about design and how it works together.
Me: Wow – and how long have you been coding?
11YO: This is my third year here. I get more out of helping the new kids … but I still hope we win!
8YO: ME TOO!
(At this point I desperately had to hide my judging notes … and the happy tears slowly falling)
I’d encourage everyone to look for a hyperlocal center or to become a mentor if you can. 2016 is already being planned and it is very much all hands on deck to make this work. I can’t tell you how many parents, mentors, volunteers, and more I seen clearly not there for the pay but because you can see how much it matters to the kids.
There is currently a competition to vote for the favourite finalist. See here to vote.