Festival of Code and Young Rewired State
By Luc Delany
Festival of Code and Young Rewired State
7 Aug 2015 - Code

Give a kid and app and they’ll play for a day; teach a kid to code and they can build their future.

In 2009, I was approached to host a weekend event for a group of 50 kids from Young Rewired State (YRS) who were going to hack some open government data. At the time I was working for Google in London, data.gov.uk was just getting going and FourSquare was the hottest newest thing. We agreed to host the event and ran pretty much the whole thing in a single room. It was an amazing weekend with the fire alarm only causing us to evacuate the building once. Little did I know what this was the start of…

Fast forward to last weekend, to the Birmingham ICC (huge!), and to the Young Rewired State Hackathon. There were some 1,200 kids hacking for the ‘Festival of Code’ (plus hundreds of mentors, volunteers and parents). I had been invited back to be a judge for the semi- and quarter-finals and I couldn’t wait to get started. Finals judging was the reserve of YRS alumni this year, some of whom were 12 or 13 when they started YRS.

Over the weekend several thoughts struck me which I wanted to share here:

  1. Teach a kid to code. You know the old adage ‘give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach him to fish and he’ll eat for life’? I think today we can say ‘give a kid and app and they’ll play for a day;, teach a kid to code and they can build their future’. Children as young as 7 and 8 years olds were building apps to solve real world problems (you can read about the Festival of Code finalists here on TechCrunch). It made me wonder what I’ve been doing with my time.
  2. Take a week to try. I was truly blown away by the tools and services these kids built in just a week. Many of these young hackers had little to no coding experience. We have a world of free, or very cheap resources to learn how to code (or learn anything for that matter). There’s no excuse for ‘I’ve got this idea but I don’t know how to build it’ these days.
  3. The future is unimaginably bright. I look at new tech every day and sometimes I forget to consider the bigger picture. The other day I used Facetime to call my brother in Australia, I was walking in the street and he was in a cab; live video chat over 4G to the other side of the world. When my in-laws lived in Australia they would send letters to family members because calling was so expensive. Today you could build your own ‘Facetime’ using matrix.org’s APIs.

YRS is led by the amazing and humble Emma Mulqueeny (@hubmum). You should check out her blog, the Festival of Code site and it’s also not too late to do some judging of your own in the YRS Public Vote taking place on YouTube.

My baby boy is just 4 months old but if he ever finds this blog when he’s my age I hope he holo-calls me from the deck of his self-driving road-yacht before entering sub-orbit to cross the atlantic in less than an hour.

Photo Credit: Paul Clarke, Flicker