Kids into keyboard kings: Manchester CoderDojo shows children secret behind apps, computers and websites

Manchester youngsters are logging onto a global dojo movement which teaches them how to computer code – and is giving a karate chop to the rest of the world.

CoderDojo has overseen more than 370 coding clubs, or dojos, in 41 countries with Manchester’s the largest in the world with turnouts bigger than in Sydney and Tokyo.

Coding is the script behind computer software, apps and websites and is essential in bringing Facebook to your phone or the latest Windows version to your desktop.

This weekend’s monthly session was no exception as 150 youngsters attended the fully subscribed workshop.

The Manchester CoderDojo was founded by Steven Flower and has been running since December 2012, during which time it has grown immensely.

“It started very small, as a part of Mad Lab, then became a summer holiday project. It has gone from being held once a year to once a month,” Flower told MM.

“It’s incredible how quickly the Manchester dojo has grown and how popular it has become. Tickets go within two hours of sending out the newsletter.

“We have a waiting list and could easily have 500 attendees at each session.

“Unbelievably, we have bigger sessions than in places like Sydney and Tokyo.”

The CoderDojo movement was founded in Ireland in 2011, with the aim of making learning to code a fun and sociable experience.

The free sessions in Manchester are organised and taught by a team of 30 volunteers and involve a variety of activities and games using software such as Minecraft, Python and Scratch.

At this month’s session, participants began work on a Rube Goldberg machine – a complex mechanism for creating a chain reaction (essential an elaborate version of Mouse Trap) – which will be an ongoing project into the next few sessions.

Young people who take part in these activities will learn how to code, develop websites, apps, programs and games with the average age of children around ten.

Manchester CoderDojo moved into the Manchester City Council-owned Sharp Project nine months ago.

Located in Newton Heath, it is home to a number of digital entrepreneurs and production companies, having once been a warehouse occupied by the electronics company Sharp.

Flower said: “The only downside to the growth of the project is running out of space – the Sharp Project has allowed us to expand more.

“The campus there is ideal as we create an environment more akin to a youth club than a school.  It’s a perfect space for parents to learn with their kids and teenagers to hang out.”

And the hope is that this environment can benefit Manchester’s economy in the future.

Tom Clarke, marketing manager at the Sharp Project, said: “There’s clearly a huge demand for such large scale coding events in Manchester.

“We hope that by providing an exciting venue to host CoderDojo we are inspiring a new generation of skilled coders and developers that will only help the wider creative digital sector develop in the North West.”

However, for that to become a reality the project will need to branch out, as it is already starting to do, and Flower highlights other dojos set up by local volunteers in places like Bolton, Burnage and Wilmslow.

For CoderDojo to further establish itself in the Greater Manchester area, more volunteers are needed – so the project has developed relationships with schools and universities in the region – and they also take donations of equipment, such as laptops and monitors, for use in the workshops.

Image courtesy of Roz Hughes, with thanks

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