Yesterday I was fortunate to be involved with the UK launch of Hour of Code. With the vision of allowing every student in every school the opportunity to learn computer programming. Whilst many know that programming is a tough and challenging task to do well, demonstrating the concept to parents, teachers and students in a fun introduction across the nation will hopefully eventually lead to an inspired young generation of students going into skilled STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses and eventually jobs.
The morning involved 50 students from primary schools in the area wandering around the hall being introduced to different coding labs showing off Touch Develop, Kodu, Programming without Hardware and Project Spark, which was my involvement of the day. Myself and 13 year old developer Ross Lowe where setup attached to two large screen taking part in an hour long code-off using Project Spark, best game wins. We each received a theme on the day, Ross receiving “Retrieve the treasure” and I received “Escape the evil”. We set off as people roamed about watching how we progressed. Hugely pessimistic until the last 5 minutes I thought that I’d set myself too large of task I managed to pull something playable together.
The judges, 3 staff from Microsoft including Gary Carr from Lionhead checked out each of our games in turn and went away to make their decision whilst I showed some young students what and how I’d produced the game.
Speaking to a lot of the kids afterwards they were very excited at what they had seen and it had opened their eyes to what can be achieved with knowledge of computing. The difficulty is to make the idea of coding attractive and accessible dumbing down the idea too much which is what I hope we all achieved.
Visit http://code.org/ and http://uk.code.org/ for ways to get involved. http://blogs.msdn.com/b/uk_faculty_connection/archive/2014/02/11/inspiring-the-next-generation-of-programmers-developer-tools-from-microsoft.aspx for developer tools for all ages and check out the BBC’s report (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-26424115) and video about what the day involved.
Also, see what 13 year old developer Ross Lowe does in his spare time: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ukschools/archive/2014/02/26/the-benefits-of-learning-to-code-young-views-of-a-13-year-old-developer.aspx
You can check out what Project Spark is all about in this E3 reaveal below. Or you can get access to the Beta and play on either a Windows 8 device and now the Xbox One.