Code Club Aotearoa Blog

News, updates and dancing robots

6 November 2018

The Electric Garden is ready to get growing!

Two former Papakaio School students plant the seed of an idea that will change the lives of thousands of Aotearoa children

In 2017, Papakaio School in rural North Otago celebrated its 150th anniversary. On that day, two former students, Gloria Hurst and Michael Trengrove, met and planted the seed of an idea that will change the lives of thousands of Aotearoa children: the Electric Garden.

Fifteen years earlier, Gloria had set about understanding the disenfranchised youth who hung around the Oamaru Courthouse. After listening to their stories, she opened her home garden to local children. Their positive reaction to being in nature inspired the Waitaki Community Gardens Trust.

Michael Trengrove, a former disenfranchised kid, was now the General Manager of Code Club Aotearoa. During the speeches at Papakaio’s anniversary, Gloria and Michael reconnected and brought their areas of expertise together: nature-based wellbeing and digital technology education.

The result is the Electric Garden – a hands-on, Internet of Things (IoT) solution to help schools deliver the new Digital Technologies curriculum to children. Using the Electric Garden, children install wireless sensors in their school garden, and then gather and monitor data through a secure online portal. This results in more than giant pumpkins! The Electric Garden supports digital learning, develops gardening knowledge, and promotes wellbeing through the children spending time in nature.


"The Electric Garden supports digital learning,
develops gardening knowledge, and promotes wellbeing through the children spending time in nature"


Since that first conversation at Papakaio School, the project has received close to quarter of a million dollars of funding from Microsoft Philanthropies, The Spark Foundation and Verizon Connect. From late October, 200 teachers from 75 South Island schools received their own Electric Garden, training, learning resources and lesson plans, and ongoing technical support.

Once the 2018 pilot is complete, the Electric Garden will be rolled out to the rest of Aotearoa. The mission: to give every child the opportunity to learn to code and play in nature, no matter who or where they are.

The Electric Garden will be launched at Papakaio School on Tue 27 November, 1-3pm.
Register
for the free event!

Join tech industry experts for a lively round table discussion: Preparing for a Digital Future: Discussing Resilience for the Regions, Tue 27 November, 10:30 – 11:30am, Oamaru.


5 November 2018

Nervous about teaching digital tech? Join Code Club 4 Teachers

Imagine this. You’re a teacher who doesn’t feel confident teaching digital tech. Your colleague Karen knows this, and one night after school she takes you to a workshop. You’re nervous when you join a group of teachers gathered around a table, laughing and talking. She’s assures you that the course is for everyone, from absolute beginners to experts. You’ll be fine.

Over the next few hours the group works together on programming projects, and hands-on activities called ‘CS Unplugged’ that teach computational thinking without computers. It’s a lot easier than you thought it would be, especially when working in a group. The group talks about how to bring Digital Tech into different areas across the curriculum. One teacher talks about a school that uses tech in English class to analyse rap lyrics. Another talks about how teaching maths alongside technology brings it into the real world for students.

You end up having a lot of fun, and as you leave you tell Karen you’re feeling a lot better about digital tech. You’re even looking forward to it.

This group is part of Code Club 4 Teachers – a fantastic way for teachers new to digital tech to learn the basics alongside colleagues. Code Club Aotearoa have partnered with Kiatakatū ā-Mathiko, the National Digital Readiness Programme, which was launched to support the new Digital Tech curriculum that schools are expected to integrate by the start of the 2020 school year. Code Club 4 Teachers will be taken nationwide over the next three years.

What does CC4T involve? Four, 90 minute workshops over a term for primary and secondary teachers! The workshops cover how to integrate programming projects and computational thinking (CS unplugged) activities into fun hands-on sessions in their classroom.

The workshop also give teachers the opportunity to work together and explore ways to weave Digital Tech across all curriculum areas. The workshops are lead and supported by regional digital leaders who, as well as running the workshops, will help build connected communities of learners across Aotearoa.

Code Club Aotearoa have created all of the content for CC4T, and it’s a lot of fun. The projects, which include native flora and fauna, are being delivered during term four to early adopters in both Christchurch and Taupo (with Kuranui and the far north to follow shortly). The themed content allows teachers to weave the projects into the classroom in meaningful ways.

We encourage all teachers, no matter what level of expertise, to come along. You will be able to learn and extend your knowledge of both the new digital technologies content and ways to implement key learning across the curriculum.

To get involved in an up and coming Code Club 4 Teachers near you visit Kiatakatū, sign up, and then head along to a local meetups. Bring along a friend and have fun!



26 September 2018

Handing over your Code Club

How to smoothly transition from one Code Club club leader to another

You’re a Code Club Aotearoa club leader and you’ve had a great time running your Code Club. Now you’re moving overseas, and although you’ve found a new leader for your club, you're not sure how to hand it over. We’ve put together our top tips to ensure a smooth transition.

Write up a handover document

If you’re like us, most of your processes are kept in your head. To help out a new club leader, write down everything you need to do or use when running a club session. This might include:

  • A list of any paper documentation the club has. This may include student and parent contact details, lesson plans, or printed Code Club Aotearoa projects.
  • Login information for club devices, the WIFI password, and any online repositories for student projects (e.g. a communal Scratch login).
  • Whether you take attendance and how it’s recorded (e.g. in a notebook or digitally).
  • Where the club’s devices are kept (if your club isn't BYOD), including security or access information for those devices. For instance, are they kept in a locked cupboard and do devices need to be booked.
  • How the club’s setup and packup is done. A club is going to be hard to run if the new club leader doesn’t know where the chairs are kept;
  • Login information for the Code Club Aotearoa website so they can manage the club’s information online

By putting all of this information in one place, a new club leader will know where to go when they need the answer to a question.


Photo credit: K V Soon

Arrange an induction

A handover document is a great start, but what’s even better is sitting down with the new club leader and talking them through the document. This allows them to ask questions about anything that’s unclear, and for you to add anything you’ve missed.

It’s also a great time to set up the new club leader with a Code Club Aotearoa profile, and to add them to your club. That’s as easy as logging in to the Code Club Aotrearoa website, clicking your club on your Dashboard, and then clicking on ‘Leaders’. There you will find an ‘Add Leader’ button!

Make sure to drop us a line, too. That allows Code Club Aotearoa staff to provide extra support to the new club leader if they need it.

Have the new club leader come to the club

Try to have the new club leader come to at least one of your club’s sessions. This lets them meet volunteers and parents, and creates a feeling of safety and support around the change.

It also allows the new club leader to meet students and get an understand of their coding ability. Some students will be just starting on Scratch whereas others will be tackling Python. Knowing what each student needs will help a new club leader plan future sessions.

Be honest about challenges

Every club has its challenges, so be honest about the ones you’ve faced. Maybe the club doesn’t have enough room or resources for the number of students who want to learn; maybe the club’s location gets very cold in winter; maybe the technology doesn’t always cooperate. To help a new club leader feel excited and optimistc, make sure to let them know what you’ve done in the past to solve any issues, and ideas you have for the future.



17 August 2018

Stop Learning by Rote, Start Thinking, and Get Creating

Code Club Aotearoa GM Michael Trengrove shares his inspiring trip to Raspberry Fields.

This July I was invited to spend time with the Code Club and Raspberry Pi Foundation team in London, England, followed by the two day event, Raspberry Fields, which was held in Cambridge. Raspberry Fields is an amazing place to be: young people, techies, educators and hobbyists getting together to give tech a go, or to show what they’ve created at their Code Clubs, CoderDojos, or Raspberry Jams.

The beauty of the Cubert v2.0 by Lorraine Underwood,
certified Raspberry Pi educator, at Raspberry Fields.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation run and support STEAM based initiatives throughout the UK and across the globe, with Code Club becoming apart of the organisation in 2017. The foundation recieves 50% of its support through donations with the remaining 50% coming from sales of the hugely popular Raspberry Pi computer, a small and affordable computer that helps people learn to program. With over eleven million units sold, the versatility and accessibility of the computer has put it at the forefront of the global maker movement. It’s not an exaggeration to say the Raspberry Pi has inspired the next generation of tinkerers and inventors.


“It’s not an exaggeration to say the Raspberry Pi has inspired
the next generation of tinkerers and inventors”


The story behind the team that brought the Raspberry Pi to market is remarkable in itself, and can be read in the latest issue of Hello World. In short, the founders wanted children to be able to create and experiment with tech, rather than simply use it as they did with early systems like the BBC Micro. Today, many children have access to high quality systems with seamless user interfaces, but most are not open to modification or experimentation. Think gaming machines like the XBox and Playstation, or imagine letting your 10-year-old open up your $3500 Macbook Pro to have a look at the circuitry!

Michael (fourth from left) with Code Club leads from South Korea, Australia
and the UK at Raspberry Fields.

While Code Club Aotearoa stands as an independent Aotearoa-based charity, our mission is very closely aligned with that of Raspberry Pi. The week-long visit gave me the opportunity to look at ways we can increase our impact across communities in our country. We are seeing that open source software and systems, combined with open access provided through our network of volunteers and teachers, is allowing young makers and engineers to get hands on with tech in a way that hasn’t been possible.

A common value of the coding education organisations at Raspberry Fields was that children are quickly taught the basic concepts of computer programming, and then are given the opportunity to create their own unique things with code, be that a game, a website, or a digital music track. Code Club Aotearoa students have that the same opportunity, they quickly stop learning by rote, start thinking and get creating.


“As we look to the future, we can see that by working together we can inspire a generation of digital makers”


And that sums up my main take-away from Raspberry Fields: we need to support creative and aspirational people who want to create these opportunities for our children. We see such people in our volunteers, school teachers and club leaders, but there are many more out there. They aren't afraid to think big – they see opportunities rather than limits, and they create environments that teach children to think, create and experiment with tech. As we look to the future, we can see that by working together we can inspire a generation of digital makers that will change the shape of Aotearoa in ways we can’t yet imagine.



1 August 2018

Code Club Aotearoa supports Verizon Connect to teach coding in schools

For the last few months, Verizon Connect and Code Club Aotearoa have worked to establish a partnership that will see up to 60 software technologists from Verizon Connect volunteer to teach coding in Christchurch schools.

Verizon Connect staff join Code Club Aotearoa’s current 260 Christchurch-based volunteers, and will be working in 12 schools to engage 720 students with lessons in coding. Code Club Aotearoa founder, Michael Trengrove says, “Verizon Connect want to help Code Club Aotearoa in our mission to give every kiwi kid the opportunity to learn to code, no matter who or where they are.”

Volunteers will be placed in lower socioeconomic areas of Christchurch, with a focus on priority learners who do not have access to technology education. A key goal is to support Māori and Pasifika students who are underrepresented in technology roles in Aotearoa.

“We will be introducing many children to coding for the first time,” says the connected vehicle software company’s Social Impact lead in New Zealand, Mark Dunlop. “We hope this first step inspires them to explore a career in technology.”


"Many Aotearoa youth are not learning digital skills at school... We have a wealth of community-minded technical staff and are committed to making a difference"


“Canterbury is already a hub of excellence in tech,” says Trengrove. “We need to leverage these skills into parts of the city where they are most needed.” Trengrove emphasises they are focused on creating sustainable clubs, with many to be located in accessible and community-focussed Christchurch libraries. “Clubs must be able to flourish beyond the end of the project,” says Trengrove.

Verizon Connect is rolling the project out as part of its global social responsibility programme. Dunlop says, “Many Aotearoa youth are not learning digital skills at school, or don’t understand how they can transition those skills to the workforce. We have a wealth of community-minded technical staff and are committed to making a difference.”

Both Verizon Connect and Code Club Aotearoa are gearing up to begin the project at the start of August. Dunlop says, “It’s inspiring to bring our two great organisations together to achieve more than we could on our own.”

   

For more information contact:
[email protected]
[email protected]



19 May 2018

A celebration of the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa with girls, women and of the girls, women, and other marginalised gender (omg) coders. We asked nine girls, women, and omg people about how they succeed in tech, and they had some amazing things to say #SheCanCode

Amelia Lockley
Catherine Fromont
Charlie A Ablett
Kelly Kellective
Grace Fox
Jevon Wright
Amy Harman
Kelsey Scheurich

Laura Bell


AMELIA LOCKLEY | WhatNow Kidtuber | Auckland

Q. How did you get into coding? What is your advice for girls and omg children who want to be coders?

I discovered coding around 4 years ago when I was in a STEM school holiday program called The Mind Lab. At the holiday programme I really enjoyed the coding and robotics area and wanted to do some more. I'm very fortunate that my dad works in IT and knew where to go. He found me a coding club at a place called Orion Health which was part of Code Club Aotearoa, and I decided that I would go and have a try. After the first time I never wanted to stop. I loved it!

We need to encourage more girls into STEM and coding. Parents and teachers should encourage and expose their girls and young women to STEM related subjects otherwise the gap between boys and girls in the industry will keep on growing. If you are a girl be involved and be brave and take that first small step of joining a club. I know you will enjoy coding as much as I do.

Q. Tell us about a rad piece of code that you’ve written? What are you most proud of?

Last year, with the help of the club’s volunteer mentors, I made a web application to help immigrants settle in New Zealand. It is not 100% finished yet but I endeavour to complete it. Coding has taken me to so many places and given me amazing opportunities that I am thankful for. I went to Parliament during Techweek last year and gave a speech and helped teach MPs how to code. I have met so many awesome people, including Dr Michelle Dickinson aka Nanogirl who is my biggest role model. Having a role model is very important to inspire me on my journey and I believe this applies to everyone. I’m also proud to be one of the WhatNow Kidtubers! As a kidtuber I make videos to do with STEM, and that are aimed at teaching younger kids.

Q. What big dreams do you have as a coder?

In the future I want be a Mechatronic Engineer and work somewhere like NASA or Rocket Lab. This is my dream goal because I find space and technology so interesting and fascinating. Just think – by using technology we can explore space in so many new ways. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet Peter Beck, the founder of Rocket Lab. His belief in what he wanted to do since a young age, becoming a rocket scientist, despite people not taking him seriously is inspirational.


"Every child should have
the opportunity to learn to code"


I truly believe that every child should have access to technology. Having access to technology becomes a basic need just like having access to electricity and running water, especially as we are living in a digital world now. Every child should also have the opportunity to learn to code at school, just as they learn how to count or write. We use STEM and coding in our everyday lives already, and technology will only become more advanced and used in a wider range of things. When my generation grows up there will be so many more jobs and opportunities that technology has created.

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CATHERINE FROMONT | Web Development Intern | Cambridge, Waikato

Q. How did you get into coding? What is your advice for girls and omg children who want to be coders?

For secondary school, I went to Waikato Diocesan School for Girls. We had no classes for IT or programming because it had never been recognized as a popular potential career pathway for girls. So I actually had never been interested or been exposed to programming until after high school. I moved to Wellington straight out for school to study a Bachelor of Law at Victoria University, but soon realized that it wasn't for me. I moved home, and soon after was offered a web editing position at Waikato Regional Council where I was introduced to coding. I grew a passion for it straight away, and decided in the short three months that I wanted to study.

I went on to complete a Diploma of Web Development and Design where I passed all my assignments with A's, A-'s and A+'s (which surprised me so much, I was always mediocre at most things during school), then an eighteen week intensive Web Development Boot Camp with Enspiral Dev Academy. Now, I am working at a start-up company in Cambridge called Nyriad as a Web Development Intern. My biggest struggle during this whole process is the fact that in the tech Industry being a woman is still reasonably rare – but it is becoming more and more common, which is amazing!

My advice to girls and women who are wanting to join the tech Industry is to not let the typical stereotype that "coding isn't for girls" stop you! I work in an company where the majority of employees are male, and yes it can be intimidating, but be confident and believe that you belong in this industry. They NEED us! Technology is the way the world is going, and it is where we need to be. Acquiring these skills is so important and valuable to any job you go into.

Q. Tell us about a rad piece of code that you’ve written? What are you most proud of?

Well, my biggest achievement so far is a Web Application called Mārama that a team of myself and five others created as part of a final project at Enspiral Dev Academy. When we presented it at our graduation to potential employers and family and friends we were given so many positive accolades that we decided we wanted to pursue it further.


"Be confident and believe
that you belong in this industry"


Mārama is a centralized information platform for study and funding opportunities available in Aotearoa targeted specifically towards Māori and Pasifika students. It aims to reduce obstacles students face when accessing grants, scholarships, and financial support information online. Our database pairs unique courses with all applicable grant information – finding help is easier. Mārama’s first focus is tech-based fields of study, as Māori and Pasifika perspectives are specifically underrepresented in the growing technology sector.

Our aim for Mārama is to inform and empower students to seek broader study and employment pathways, and to make available financial assistance more transparent. The outcome being more graduates moving into fields where their voices matter most, and where they can help build world-leading technology. We are currently still in the development phase but we are also in the process of applying for funding, creating a kick-starter for our app and hopefully grow from there.

Q. What big dreams do you have as a coder?

I have huge dreams for my career! Currently, my focus is gaining experience in a NZ start-up company in order to expand my knowledge and work experience. But in the future I am looking teach myself a few more programming languages and hopefully head to Melbourne to become a Junior Web Developer, and then to work my way up from there. Ultimately, even further down the line I would love to be able to work remotely and travel at the same time. Catherine codes predominantly in Fullstack JavaScript (ReactJS for Client-Side and NodeJS for Server-Side), but has experience with PHP, C++, SQL, HTML and CSS.

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CHARLIE A ABLETT | Senior Developer/Systems Architect | Motueka

Q. How did you get into coding? What is your advice for girls and omg children who want to be coders?

When I was a kid I'd dabbled a bit with our 8086 family computer, modifying existing games in MS-DOS and seeing the results. My dad encouraged this – he didn't get it but he supported what I was doing. When I was a teenager in the mid 90s, I taught myself HTML and some CGI, and later took the opportunity to become a GeoCities community leader.

When I went to university I had no idea about "real" programming, and I struggled a lot with my sense of belonging as the pedagogy of the first two years did not suit me. Once, however, I started putting things into context and learning shifted from tools and techniques to solving actual problems, I went from Cs to As overnight. Despite laughing off the suggestion of grad school from a professor ("Are you kidding me? Grad school's for smart people," I remember saying), I ended up getting a Masters in Computer Science and then doing a robotics research internship in Japan.

Part of the penny dropping for me was that the feeling of I don't know what I'm doing (which everybody experiences) is reinforced by a lot of very subtle wording and actions by many people in this industry. In my third year at uni, I read the book Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing and it validated what I felt. I learned so much about how words that seem harmless but can be damaging to a community's most vulnerable members (e.g. "Oh, you didn't know that? You just have to...").


"I can encourage others to open up about
their own vulnerabilities, and we can thrive together"


Knowing I wasn't alone in feeling in over my head allowed me to embrace my vulnerability as part of a learning process. I was learning and recognising where gaps in my knowledge and experience were, and that allowed me to put it in perspective: I don't have to know everything. I try my best to fill in gaps where I encounter them, recognise my own worth, and not be afraid of new things. I can encourage others to open up about their own vulnerabilities, and we can thrive together.

Q. Tell us about a rad piece of code that you’ve written? What are you most proud of?

I wrote Romanesco, a tree-based engine that recursively evaluate maths expressions. I wrote it for a client's project 3 years ago, open-sourced it, and it's been in production since. It's a challenging piece of code – it uses metaprogramming, recursion and a deterministic finite state machine.

Q. What big dreams do you have as a coder?

I avoid "rock star" talk since I'm not interested in the limelight. I'm interested in quietly solving interesting, complex and difficult problems – for tangible social impact! I'm also interested in helping people identify behaviours that can harm and help people to thrive, be vulnerable with each other and learn from each other. Charlie codes in Ruby, Javascript, Java, C/C++, C#/VB, Python and uses the pronouns: They/them.

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KELLY KELLECTIVE | Front End Developer & UI Designer | Wellington

Q. How did you get into coding? What is your advice for girls and omg children who want to be coders?

First of all, if you want to get into coding try to understand why. Is it because everyone is saying you should? I wanted to code because I saw it as a way to help me design the things I had in my head. From a young age I wanted to be a video artist and there weren't tools that did what I wanted. So I thought, well if these tools don't exist I need to hack around and make something work. For me, coding was a creative thing. When I was young and making websites time would fly by and I loved the feeling that I was able to think up something, make it happen, and put it online.

I never saw the separation between code and creativity. At high school I was into design and art, and at home I would play computer games and play around with designing my own worlds. I always felt limited by what was offered by existing software and had to get creative with how I made the things I had in my head. At university this led me to want to learn to code so that I could have more control and ability to design. I wanted to build tools for designers.

I learned about creative coding and this was my path in to get really interested in generative design and audio reactive visuals. On the side, from a young age, thirteen perhaps, I was making websites and I felt like my brain worked in just the right way to take an idea and code up the structure of a page. I considered myself to be self taught in terms of code; I played around until things broke then I worked backward to figure out why. For me, learning was about making and experimenting. My advice would be to find something you are passionate about and use that as a project for your leaning. Build something real!

Q. Tell us about a rad piece of code that you’ve written? What are you most proud of?

I collaborate a lot with other people. I've done projects with people who are fantastic programmers and I work with them to do the more visual side of things. One thing that has stuck with me is this feeling that I’ll never know enough and never be an expert. Technology is always changing and it is very hard to decide what area to focus on. I'm learning that some people will want to focus on a particular language and become an expert in that area, and it took me a long time to realise it’s okay for me to sit in a multidisciplinary space where my area of expertise is not in a language but in pulling together the vision of the project across a team of engineers and designers. I make all the parts fit together.


"I never saw the separation
between code and creativity"


One of my most fun projects was almost 8 years ago. It was pre-iPad, and a friend had this fancy new touch screen interface. We worked together to design and build an interface that I could take into a club and use it as a controller to make live audio responsive videos. This was a fun project because we got to play with videos, code, controllers, and had to learn to pitch our idea to a club owner, design posters, arrange DJs to play, and learn how to promote events. I discovered a passion for live performance and event creation, and have been doing similar experimental video work for festivals and clubs in Wellington ever since. Note, I do this all as a side venture while working for a software development company!

Q. What big dreams do you have as a coder?

Professionally I’m building user interfaces for a company and we are working on something right now that the User Experience industry will end up using. I'm inspired by knowing that we are working on something that will impact a lot of people. In my artist life I’m hoping to carve some time soon to work on some more interactive ideas working with projections and dancers perhaps.

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GRACE FOX | Junior Backend Developer | Wellington

Q. How did you get into coding? What is your advice for girls and omg children who want to be coders?

I got into coding from attending a talk at Enspiral Dev Academy. It was a panel interview of IT professionals in Wellington. After the talk my mind was fizzing with the possibilities. Developers and coders are the inventors of our day.

My advice: coding is problem solving, it's a series of small steps. Take it one step at a time. Try not to measure yourself against other people.

Q. Tell us about a rad piece of code that you’ve written? What piece of code are you most proud of?

I work with legacy code, so making changes can sometimes have unintended impact (bugs!). My team often uses a Test Driven Development approach (write a test, then write the code) to make sure we aren't introducing bugs. I wrote a test that checks one of the most complicated scenarios of a transaction.


"Developers and coders
are the inventors of our day"


Q. What big dreams do you have as a coder?

I'm passionate about diversity and inclusivity in tech, and interested in using tech to balance inequality in society. I'm hoping to drive change on these issues from the inside. Grace codes in C#.

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JEVON WRIGHT | Founder/Senior Developer | Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington)

Q. How did you get into coding? What is your advice for girls and omg children who want to be coders?

I got into coding when I was twelve, with a tutorial book my dad had lying around, and his work computer that he had brought home from work. The book encouraged learning by doing, and I fell in love with being able to make computers do things, and to be able to show others what I could make. I made little games for my friends and later made my first websites (before I had the Internet).

At university I earned my Bachelors of Software Engineering, and a PhD in Computer Science, but it's always been my love for making things, learning things, and being creative that has kept me going. I definitely recommend learning by trying things, breaking things, and trying things out again; no matter how long you spend on a problem, or how many dead ends you hit, you're always learning and improving.

Q. Tell us about a rad piece of code that you’ve written? What piece of code are you most proud of?

I'm really proud of my current project, CryptFolio, which I've designed, coded and managed all by myself. It's all in Ruby on Rails and I'm super impressed with how well the site works and how clean the backend architecture is. The website started from a really simple prototype I put together in a weekend for myself, and while I continued tweaking it, I found out other people wanted to use it too. Now I'm trying to build it into a successful business.


"No matter how long you spend on a problem
you're always learning"


Q. What big dreams do you have as a coder?

I find it really interesting how hundreds of people can work together on software and generally remain productive, yet every code base feels different, and some are more enjoyable to work on than others. I want to learn more about how one can code in such a way that other people can get up to speed quickly, write awesome code too, and have fun while doing it This means I need to learn more about people, about management, and other "soft" (they're actually really hard!) skills. When I was working at Flux they were really, really awesome at helping me grow! Jevon's favourite languages are Ruby and Java.

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AMY HARMAN | Gameplay Programmer | Dunedin

Q. How did you get into coding? What is your advice for girls and omg children who want to be coders?

We didn’t have any coding classes in high school and I didn’t even realise it was a thing until I had nearly finished a film degree. I read a book where the protagonist was coding and decided to try it for myself. I loved it and thought learning coding through making games sounded super awesome and decided to study it even though it meant another 3 years of being a student. My advice is to try tutorials online and see what interests you. There are so many different things you can learn about. It’s not easy, but stick at it and it will be rewarding. Also most cities in New Zealand have game dev meet-ups where you can meet others, share what you’re working on and see what others are working on.

Q. Tell us about a rad piece of code that you’ve written? What are you most proud of?

I am really inspired by the game The Sims because there are so many different objects in that game that the sim people can interact with. In the game we’re making, the player can place down different objects that characters can interact with, and I wanted to try copy The Sims system. They have a thing called “smart objects” which means the object tells the agent how to interact with it rather than the agent knowing how to interact with each of a bazillion objects. For example, a table tells an agent to play the animation to sit down in a chair and then play an animation to eat some food. This has worked for our project making it simpler to add new objects and have agents use them in the game. So far, so good!


"I would like to see and make more games
where there are interesting social interactions
between the player and the characters"


Q. What big dreams do you have as a coder?

I do artificial intelligence (AI) and gameplay programming, but I want to specialise in AI programming. My first piece of AI programming was doing A* pathfinding, and while I didn’t understand how it worked immediately, it was amazing seeing a path appear and twist around obstacles. At work, we’re hoping to release our game sometime this year, and after that I would like to work on a project that has more AI as well as continuing to watch talks, do tutorials and practice AI programming in my own time. There are so many games where the combat is awesome but I would like to see and make more games where there are interesting social interactions between the player and the characters. Amy codes in C# and C++.

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KELSEY SCHEURICH | Programmer | Dunedin

Q. How did you get into coding? What is your advice for girls and omg children who want to be coders?

I had a bit of a roundabout entrance into game programming! I was first exposed to programming in high school, where two of my teachers noticed I had really enjoyed working with HTML, and after much persuasion convinced me to join the programming class where we made little games using Visual Basic.

I really enjoyed programming, but I enjoyed art more, so I did a computer graphics degree which was mostly design with a few programming classes thrown in. After I finished, I worked for a bit as an interactive designer before I realised that I really didn't enjoy art and design as a job; I just wanted to do purely programming. So I went back to university, did a software engineering degree, and now I make games!

Some advice I have is if you ever get stuck on a problem, break it down into the smallest pieces you can manage and do it one step at a time, even if it is as simple as "open my project." Also, everyone will always have an opinion on everything, so basically "ignore the haters" because they are not worth sacrificing yourself, your time, or your happiness.

Q. Tell us about a rad piece of code that you’ve written? What are you most proud of?

It’s not a "rad piece of code" per say, but one of my favourite projects was one I did for university. We were learning basic AI, Networking and DirectX 9, and our final assignments for each subject were combined into one super project. It was a 3D twin stick shooter game, which needed to have networked multiplayer capabilities, utilise a bunch of DirectX 9 graphics techniques, and to feature certain AI behaviours. It was absolute chaos, but it was a lot of fun and it was very satisfying to get to the end and go, "I made that!", especially when all my characters were cats with little kitty kibble shooters.


"If you ever get stuck on a problem,
break it down into the smallest pieces you can"


Q. What big dreams do you have as a coder?

I really love games, so one day I want to make the kind of game that I would also like to play. I would also like to do a technical talk at an international conference, as soon as I can think of something I want to talk about! Kelsey codes in mostly C++ & C#.

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LAURA BELL | Director of SafeStack Limited | Auckland

Q. How did you get into coding? What is your advice for girls and omg children who want to be coders?

By accident! Seriously! I wanted to do languages and law when I was older but circumstances changed and I needed a job. I found that my skills in learning foreign languages helped me to learn to code. I took a junior development position aged 16 and took it from there.

My piece of advice for people starting out is to follow your passion and stay curious and flexible. My career path has been very wiggly and full of opportunities I would never have imagined. Be brave, say yes to new things (even if they are a little scary) and don't be afraid to fail. Failure is how we learn.

Q. Tell us about a rad piece of code that you’ve written? What are you most proud of?

In 2015 I published an open source security tool prototype called AVA. It gathered information about the people in an organisation in an attempt to identify who would be most vulnerable to social engineering attacks (people based security attacks like phishing). I presented this at Black Hat 2015 in Las Vegas and got to be in a few magazines. It was an exciting adventure. Avasecure has a link to the coverage in Wired Magazine and MIT Tech Review. You can also find the video of my talk here.

Q. What big dreams do you have as a coder?

I now work in software security. I try to make tools and approaches to help people keep data safe inside their software systems.


"Be brave, say yes to new things
...Failure is how we learn"


I would like to work on de-centralised communication and networking tools to allow us more data control as well as helping groups that aren't traditionally very technical, stay safe online. The Internet gives us some amazing tools and opportunities, I believe we all have the right to stay safe when we use them and want to work hard to make this happen.

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4 April 2018

Running your first Code Club: Five tips for Success

It’s the first session running your new Code Club and you’re feeling a bit nervous. Here are our top tips to make that first session a success, and beyond.

1. You don't need to be an expert

One fear that prevents people starting a Code Club is the thought that they need to be a tech expert. The truth: you only need to one step ahead of your students, and after a few weeks you’ll be learning and problem solving together.

To feel prepared to run your first Code Club session, do the coding project yourself. The beginner projects are quick to do, and you’ll be surprised how fun and satisfying they are! Remember, being a great club leader isn’t about knowing all the answers, it’s about encouraging your students to problem solve with confidence.


"Being a great club leader isn’t about knowing all the answers,
it’s about encouraging your students to problem solve"


2. Plan your Code Club and you’ll feel more relaxed

Before advertising your Code Club, you need to think about what a session will look like. Most Code Club sessions run for one hour and start with a small group, usually around 10 - 15 students. Once your club has been running for awhile, you can take on more students or create a second session. We can help you find volunteers to help out!

Many clubs have a set routine, which helps students know what to expect each week and encourages them to be more independent. All clubs are different, but here is a routine that might work for you:

  • Students turn on their devices and, where necessary, log in.
  • The club leader demonstrates a completed version of that week’s projec.
  • Students open a browser and go to the Code Club Projects page.
  • Students code that week's project with the help of the Club Leader and volunteers!
  • After forty minutes, students are given a five minute warning that the coding session will end. There’s nothing worse than being told to save your work when you’re right in the middle of a problem!
  • With ten minutes to go, one or two students demonstrate their project to the group and share what they learned.
  • Students pack away their devices. High fives all around!

3. Start by showing students what they will create

Start the session by showing the students a completed version of the project they’ll be doing. Completed examples can be found at the start of each project, or you can show them your own completed version! They will think you’re cool, it gives the students a clear idea of their goal for the session, and it's a fun way to kick things off.

If you want, you can also demonstrate the code from a small part of the project. For example, change a value or a sound and show them how that makes the project changes. This small piece of knowledge will give them confidence to explore.


Image: Lucélia Ribeiro CC BY-SA 2.0

4. Have all students work on the same project

When first starting a Code Club you want to make the sessions easy to run. This allows both you and the students to find your feet. Our best tip to achieve this is to have all of the students work on the same project, and to only do one project per session. For your very first Code Club start with the easiest project, ‘Rock Band.’ Each week move onto the next project. Once you feel like a pro running the club, students can start to complete multiple projects each session, or revisit old projects to do extra challenges.

TIP: For students who are fast workers, point them to the challenges throughout each project. If they still finish the project with time to spare, ask them to help other students.

5. The devil is in the details

As with any new adventure, there will be details you’ll miss. So we’ve put our heads together to think of what they might be.

Before the first session, consider whether students can bring their own devices from home, or whether they will use devices supplied by the school or venue. Some clubs go for both! If your club is working online, consider making each student an account. For instance, when using Scratch online, students can create their own account and share their work with the Scratch community. Put aside time during the first session for students to create an account, and we think it’s wise to get permission from parents first. One last detail – before each session write the WIFI password and the web address for that week’s project up on a whiteboard or on pieces of paper to hand out.

TIP: If possible, have students save the WIFI password on their device and bookmark the projects page for future sessions.

A copy of these tips can be downloaded from our Resources page. Have a great first club!


1 March 2018

My Love of Coding

9-year-old Miles Wilson tells Code Club about how he got into coding.

My friend James introduced me to coding when he came over to my house for a play and he showed me Scratch which is a drag and drop program. I got to know Scratch and made heaps of games which was really fun. After I made 50+ games on Scratch I started making tutorials on my YouTube channel.

I like coding because you can make your own unique games instead of playing other peoples games. You don’t just make games, you can do much more! You can code robots, rockets, computers and much more. So learning to code games is preparing for my future - I could be coding robots when I’m older!

I think it is important to learn how to code because this is the way of the future. I think that writing in books with a pen, and making toys with your hands will be a thing of the past.

Coding should be taught in all primary schools, intermediate, high schools and universities because coding will be a big thing in the future. It also is inter-curricular as there can be maths and reading involved when you’re coding. You also have to take risks in your learning as a lot of coding is trial and error.

I don't know how to code in a lot of computer languages but here are my favorite ones that I code in: Python, rbx.lua which is how to code a game on roblox and HTML.

I have a coding tutor that teaches me Python - and I love seeing my coding tutor!

My goal in my future is to code my first game that goes on the app store or Windows PS4 or other types of app stores. Another goal is to make a lot of money doing it and the most important goal having fun doing it. My number one rule in coding is to have fun.


26 February 2018

Why join Code Club?

Sarah Barnett asks Code Club Aotearoa founder Michael Trengrove the big question: Why join Code Club?

Sarah: Why is it important to teach children how to code?

Michael: Our children need to learn to code if they want to take their place in the digital world. I’m not talking about the future, but right now. Our children need to learn how the internet works, how data is sent from A to B, how to read and write to an API, and how to protect themselves online. If they have the basics of coding, they’re going to feel a whole lot more comfortable interacting and creating these tools. Also, coding is insanely fun!


Michael Trengrove talking to Steven Moe about Code Club on the Seeds Podcast

Sarah: Most children already have after school activities – swimming, soccer, dance. Why should parents choose Code Club? What about parents who say, ‘But my kid doesn’t want to be a coder’?

Michael: It’s not only about supporting the next generation of coders or tech entrepreneurs. All children need coding skills to become digital citizens. And let’s face it, the world is increasingly digital. That’s why we’ve seen digital technologies introduced into the New Zealand school curriculum, in year one. It’s an urgent matter.

We aren't expecting or wanting all of our students to become software developers. Some will, but just having a basic understanding of computer science massively broadens their perspective and worldview. We don’t expect all students to become molecular biologists, but we teach them the basics of science! Learning to code will open up a whole new creative world for a child.

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Code Club Aotearoa is a part of Code Club World Ltd, a not-for-profit organisation with the aim of giving children the chance to learn to code. Site materials sourced freely from Code Club World. You can download and view our terms and conditions here.