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CoderDojo Brisbane Launches

We live in the age of software. In fact, much our world is being consumed by it, having serious implications for many an industry. Just ask a bricks and mortar retailer. Cities, states and nations, therefore, might want to prepare their future workforces for this new landscape.

It is within this context that the Brisbane City Council has launched CoderDojo Brisbane, through Brisbane Marketing as part of its Digital Brisbane Strategy. CoderDojo is aimed at teaching kids to code in a fun and safe environment. It provides an outlet for those kids, typically aged between seven and 17, who want to experiment with and learn software development at a level beyond what is taught in school.

Launching the initiative last week, Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said demand for programming expertise was growing as the world became more reliant on digital technology.  “We want Brisbane to meet this demand, by ensuring we have a generation of children fluent in the language of coding.”

Judging by the first CoderDojo Brisbane session on Saturday, the initiative could be a hit, with around 24 children (CoderDojoeys?) coming along to the Brisbane Square Library with their parents, most of whom chose to take an active role in the day’s proceedings. Working beside these parents and kids were a dozen experienced mentors, including the Code Heroes team who facilitated the session, and John Passfield from Right Pedal Studios.

Most of the kids got busy building things in Scratch, MIT’s well known environment for programming interactive stories, games and animations. Scratch teaches the necessary building blocks of programming (like control flow) without requiring kids to type into a text editor. Instead, programs are constructed by dragging various elements, like sprite movements and sounds, for loops and conditionals, onto a canvas. Only the parameters need to be changed via the keyboard.

Those who became bored with Scratch moved onto Codea, which lets you “create games and simulations — or just about any visual idea you have” on the iPad using the Lua programming language. Several kids also chose to learn Javascript using Codecademy, an online, interactive platform for teaching and learning how to code.

Here’s a summary of the first CoderDojo Brisbane session from John Passfield and his daughter, who attended as a participant.

CoderDojo Brisbane will roll out to more Brisbane City Council libraries in the coming months.

(Disclosure: the author of this article is a mentor in the CoderDojo program, and provided input during the consultation phases.)

About Ricky Robinson

When he's not writing for The Tech Street Journal, Ricky's working at NICTA, Australia’s ICT Centre of Excellence, where he performs a mix of industry engagement, research and, of course, software engineering. Ricky holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Queensland and spent some time in Mountain View, California, at Sun Microsystems Research Labs. Ricky's the prime instigator of TSJ.