NASA Space Apps Challenge success 2023!

Over 50 people registered for the Bristol event this year, forming 12 teams and tackling challenges from planning a 6 year party through to predicting geomagnetic storms. We also welcomed 3 ‘critical friends’ as judges bringing experience from aerospace, data, games design, systems, investing, and more.

A core part of what DigiLocal aims to provide for marginalised young people are the opportunities that many take for granted. Events like the NASA Space Apps Challenge would normally not be visible for those families. DigiLocal has been the Local Lead for Bristol since 2020, ensuring that our young people have access to these amazing opportunities.

Parents and volunteers were notified of the event in August when we were successful with our bid to be the 2023 Local Lead. This allowed people plenty of time to help prepare the young people.

How do you prepare for an event like the NASA Space Apps Challenge? Largely by attempting new projects that don’t follow one of our prepared guides. Setting a challenge objective to build a new game. The volunteers mentor the young people through the problem solving challenges they face, relating back to the known solutions from the guides and showing how they can be generalised to other challenges.

That resilience is vital when faced with a blank coding screen and only 40 hrs to complete a new project!

It’s also important to pace yourself. We made sure during the event that young people took breaks during the day, and we don’t run over night (though many did carry on working from home after dinner).

The event was kindly hosted by the University of the West of England in their fantastic co-working project hub ‘The Works’. This space provides a wide variety of pods, tables, desks, and general space for everyone to find their own area to work in. We also had plenty of catering options right outside to keep everyone fed and watered throughout.

In addition to the young people from our clubs, we also welcomed engineers, scientists, and developers from local companies and Universities.

Over the 2 days (7-8 Oct) everyone worked incredibly hard on their projects. Several teams pooled knowledge and helped out other teams along the way. We had some late entries and lots of fun!

The local awards from this year’s event were:

Global Nominee (Bristol) & Best use of Data

Stormy Skies (Bashitha)

Smart Analyzer is an application that can predict geomagnetic storms using raw DSCOVR data directly as input. It uses a deep learning to predict the planetary index after analyzing a provided DSCOVR raw record. Smart Analyzer classifies this predicted planetary index to determine whether a geomagnetic storm is going to occur and if so, it’s severity. Using the corresponding speed of the solar wind at the relevant point in time, it also calculates how long it’s going to take for the predicted geomagnetic storm to occur. The application unleashes the power of machine learning (the core of artificial intelligence) to help address a major modern challenge.

Smart analyzer is a .NET Core console application written in C# and it was created in Visual Studio 2022. ML.NET was used to create and train the machine learning regression model used by the software. The dataset that was used to train the model consists of raw DSCOVR data from the experimental data repository and the corresponding planetary index values that were obtained from the CDAWeb Data Explorer. The raw data and the planetary index values were merged to create the final dataset which consists of around 800000 rows. A one hour time shift was also performed on the two datasets before the merging to ensure that the values are correctly aligned. When a purely raw data record from DSCOVR and the solar wind speed at that point in time is provided, the application uses the deep learning model to predict a value for the planetary (Kp) index. It classifies the the Kp index according to the standards used by NOAA to state whether a geomagnetic storm is going to occur, and if so, whether it’s going to be minor, strong, severe or extreme. With the solar wind speed, it will calculate how long it’s going to take (in hours to one decimal) for the storm to occur.

This is an extremely successful but relatively simple approach to address this issue. An application/software component like this can be simply plugged into a NASA system on earth or a satellite to get real time predictions with real time data.

People’s Choice & Global Connection

Girls in Black (Primrose)

We want to create a free open sourced document available to all, so decided on a PDF Party Plan tool data base that can be downloaded direct from the HTTP:// website, making our party package accessible to everyone. The database would contain both educational, fun and engaging information and activities that should enabled anyone to prepare and host a party for a wide verity of end users, and educate them about elements of space covering asteroids, Psyche 16 and the spacecraft that has been sent there to investigate it in fun, imaginative and creative ways. 

Honorable Mentions

Best use of Science

Team Casini (Ece, Victor, John, Freya, Ibrahim, William)

An interactive website aimed at young and old to immerse them in the sounds of space, allowing users to collaborate and select different sounds to mashup and listen to space together. This project furthermore is designed with accessibility in mind, where it affords those with disability such as poor vision, to still partake in sharing the experience of enjoying the universe through sound. Finally, in future this algorithm could have the potential to be used in some form of early warning system, where fluctuations in audio can alert engineers and scientists to solar anomalies and the like, sooner than they can be observed by orthodox methods as seen in existing nuclear accident prevention systems.

Best use of Art and Technology

untextured (Sonny)

A game based on the fact that phytoplankton on the surface of the ocean photosynthesize, and create oxygen via sunlight and CO2. There are animal themed upgrades meant to symbolise the carbon dioxide and plankton themed upgrades to show the conversions.

Runners up

Local Impact

Eclipses (Imogen)

I have made a website that answers some questions about eclipses and then at the end, there is a quick scratch game I made. I used HTML to use videos, images, and formatting.

Best Mission Concept

Work In Progress (Thomas, Raymond)

We want to created an educational game that lets users to create their own exoplanet, allowing them to envision what life would be like (if any) on a world of there own making/design. Users play with the aim of making a planet that will sustain life for the longest time possible, but also to see how interesting this life on this new place could be. In total the game includes these feature: 1) create a planet of their choosing (this is done using sliders see miro board for app design) 2) create / import actual planet by matching the variables to current NASA data of said planets 3) compare the variables of the environment of their planet with current planets data provide by NASA and see if how their designed planet is likely to evolve over time. 

Best Storytelling

The Bubble Squad (Yashna)

Working on a scratch project, all about climate change and all about the global warming and to tell people to take care of our planet

ArchiEngies (Adriana, Anna-Tereza, Sophia, Nina, Diana)

The team comprised of Sophia(aged 8), Anna(aged 10) and Diana(aged 8) and two mums Adriana and Nina took the challenge of the VR application. The girls took a stab at GMAT and created the script for an elliptical trajectory around earth. VR connection from GMAT was not obvious so instead the girls explored with the existing features in the VR set.

Cosmic Codebreakers (Liam, John, George, Reece)

Unity game in first person showing an experience on the moon Titan, showing how it could look and allows you to explore and collect artifacts for scientific research. Solves the challenge by giving the player an experience of Titan and having to replenish oxygen to survive.

Unplaced teams

A number of teams joined the challenge but did not enter the Global Judging part of the weekend. This included Pierogi People, Future Space, and Teen Titans(+1) 

BAFTA Young Games Designer success for Alex

DigiLocal clubs run throughout the year, with loads of cool projects for young people to build. We also encourage people to enter external challenges. This is a great way of stretching your coding & problem solving skills!

One great example of an external challenge is the BAFTA Young Games Designer competition. This runs every year with two categories of Game Concept, and Game Maker, each for young designers between 10-14 years old and 15-18 years old. In the past we’ve had success with our young people in both categories, and we’ve also had Nominated Mentors recognised for the support our volunteers give.

Alex coding his game SerialBus

This year it was the turn of Alex to succeed with his game ‘SerialBus’ in the Game Maker 10-14 years category. We caught up with Alex between his many media appearances as the latest star games developer to ask how he began with DigiLocal and what he enjoyed about the sessions.

I heard about DigiDocal from a friend in primary school so I signed up to my local club and from there I just found making games really fun…

(I really enjoyed) meeting new people and challenging myself.

Alex attended our club at Yate Library for nearly 2 years before COVID-19 lockdown. During COVID he attended our online club sessions.

DigiLocal projects start with very simple introduction activities on Scratch and extend through to very complex projects in Python. We wanted to ask what he found challenging about the club sessions and the projects?

I was a bit confused in the beginning about how things worked, but I definitely grew from my experiences

Coming up with a great idea is often challenging for folks. How did you arrive at yours, and can you tell us a little more about the game?

“Use the idea generation cards that they provide – they’re really helpful! Explore the YGD website as there’s loads of information there”

The game is called serialbus and its about being stuck inside of a computer …

the only way out is through the usb (universal *serial bus*) port on the computer …

your character must explore the circuitry of the machine to find their way out.

Although only 13, we want to know if Alex had any plans once he leaves school?

I want to go to uni and start a business

We’re sure lots of businesses will be watching out for his next release!

Finally we asked if he had any tips as a BAFTA YGD Winner for other young people considering the competition. He shared these tips for entering YGD:

Get started early! It will often take longer than you think!

make sure the game will be enjoyable to play!’

You can view the recorded stream from BAFTA announcing Alex’s win below.

DigiLocal Announces Support from Tech Consultancy Grand Bridges 

DigiLocal has announced that specialist technology marcoms consultancy Grand Bridges is supporting the charity in its work to give marginalised young people the opportunity to discover and grow their digital talents.   

DigiLocal is a Bristol charity charged with supporting marginalised young people in developing their problem solving skills and building resilience through weekly, free, community-hosted coding clubs with volunteer mentors from industry. This provides those young people with opportunities they otherwise would not have access to, and industry with a diverse range of future employees.

We cannot thank you enough for the knowledge and experience that being part of Digilocal has given to Charlie ….  [He] is doing really well with his Computer Science GCSE and iMedia and is planning to stay on at school next year to do A-Levels in Computer Science, Maths and Physics, with the hope of a future in Software Development. He has had a couple of interviews at school and attended a few Apprenticeship open evenings and they have been so impressed by the coding and Python he has learned through being part of DigiLocal and the experiences such as the NASA Code Jam that you have offered him.

Gemma (Charlie’s mum)

Grand Bridges CEO, Simon Flatt states: “As a consultancy specialising in the electronics sector we understand the fundamental need to encourage people from all backgrounds to engage with and build a passion for technology. We are pleased to support the work that Digilocal does to ensure that nobody is prevented from having access to the tools and mentorship they need to achieve this.”  

In addition to the weekly clubs, DigiLocal has distributed over 2,000 laptops to disadvantaged young people. These have been donated by members of the general public and businesses local to Bristol. DigiLocal then repurposes them by data cleansing and installing a new operating system and software. They are then gifted to disadvantaged young people by charities and social organisations working directly within key communities.

Grand Bridges works across the tech sector and is very aware of the skills challenges facing high-growth and established global firms alike. Supporting DigiLocal allows them to contribute to tackling that challenge by engaging children from eight years old with fun projects in Scratch and Python. This ensures that when young people are making career decisions, the tech options are there for them.

Charity CEO John Bradford commented “Our clubs run throughout the year with young people welcome to attend as long as they are enjoying themselves and making progress. This investment in young people and their communities is critical to DigiLocal’s success and we’re very excited that Grand Bridges is getting behind us and the future generations of tech innovators.”

  • Ends –

About Digilocal

DigiLocal® is an independent registered charity (Reg: 1185746) for the public benefit, to advance the education of young people in the UK from groups that are under-represented within the technology industry, in particular but not exclusively, by supporting free technology clubs. It supports communities to run free tech clubs for their young people. Its mission is to support a tech club for young people with every community in the UK that would like to provide one.

About Grand Bridges Marketing

Grand Bridges Marketing is a results-oriented technology marcoms consultancy dedicated to helping high-tech businesses build powerful global brands and develop effective new product introduction and go-to-market strategies. From start-ups to established players, Grand Bridges provides a truly unique outsourced marcom model, offloading the burden of campaign planning and execution to free up internal resources to concentrate on what they do best.

DigiLocal welcomes Sharon Foster JP as new Patron

Sharon is passionate about opportunities for education for children and young people. She has been a school governor and she is also a Trustee of Beira Mozambique Trust, a project of the Southern African Resources Centre.

DigiLocal exists to support marginalised young people in discovering and developing their digital talents. We support communities in hosting free coding clubs for their young people, and provide repurposed laptops for home access to educational online resources.

We are both working to give young people the confidence and opportunities to realise their potential.

In a meeting just after her appointment as High Sheriff of Bristol, we discussed her ambition to focus on young people suspended or excluded from formal education within Bristol. DigiLocal has worked with many of the agencies in place to support young people since we launched in 2015, both supporting community based clubs and through provision of repurposed laptops for home access to online education. There was a lot of connection sharing and idea formulating on how we could work to better support those excluded and suspended young people.

While the absolute number of young people permanently excluded is low, the impact on those young people is undeniably significant. Equally worrying are the large, and rising, number of young people suspended from school for varying periods of time. Once thing the COVID-19 pandemic threw into stark relief was the impact on young people of being excluded from education and social interactions at school.

Bristol is unfortunately well above the national average for suspensions. The data from DfE also indicates that young people from Black African, and / or, those on Free School Meals are disproportionately represented in the suspensions. DigiLocal doesn’t filter attendance by ethnic or social economic background but both identified groups are ones that our clubs are very familiar with.

DigiLocal will be working with Sharon and other partners to try and provide additional educational support for those young people.

We wish Sharon every success as High Sheriff of Bristol and look forward to a long and position partnership for the city region.

The report from CHOPSY, analysing the DfE data for 2021/2022 was used in the above assertions. (accessed 18 May 2023, 09:31 UTC+1)

Evaluating resilience & problem solving

Disclaimer: This is not a formal, rigorous academic study. It is an attempt by a small charity to understand how young people might be benefitting from our activities, beyond the qualitative feedback we receive in-club and from parents.

We began asking young people to complete a resilience feedback form in February 2021. This is voluntary and anonymous to our volunteer mentors. The evaluation form was developed in partnership with University of Bristol student as part of a community engagement placement.

Since then we have collected data on 242 project completions (n=76 young people). Of these data sets, 14 contain >5 data points (project evaluations). The evaluation is not intended to assign an absolute score for a young person’s resilience.

Each snapshot has 3 key pieces of information (4 if you include the timestamp). We haven’t included timestamps as they could be used to identify young people (attendance on specific evenings equating to a particular club session).

The three pieces of information are:

  1. project complexity,
  2. confidence in completing the project, and
  3. support from volunteers in completing the project

Our projects are (roughly) ordered from easy to more complex. This happens across three difficult ‘levels’, White, Yellow, Blue. This general colour grading allows volunteers to quickly recognise the relative complexity of the project the young person is working on, and suggest other projects to undertake.

The null hypothesis is that if our activities are of no benefit, then young people should be less confident / require more volunteer support as projects get more complex.

Fortunately, none of the data sets show this!

There are some interesting profiles that can be seen within the data.

‘Aha moment’

This chat shows an ‘aha’ moment on completion of our ‘Painting with Scratch’ project. This is classed as a starter project, but is actually quite complex. There is an important element of abstraction involved, with a single sprite (the pen) being controlled by several other sprites (the buttons).

The subsequent dip is the transition from White (starter) projects, to Yellow (intermediate) projects. Sentence Creator, and Secret Messages, are both quite complex list manipulation projects in Scratch. However, confidence is maintained and increases with Balloon Pop (introduces cloning) and password generator (more lists and string contamination).

Throughout this journey, the mentor support has been sustained.


This chart shows a young person’s journey from Scratch to Python over nearly 10 months. The project titles are hard to read but the last one is the transition to Python with ‘Hello World’.

The decreasing support over the first few projects suggests that they were making good progress and not requiring additional support. Their confidence remains high throughout. Password Generator, and Clone Wars are conceptually challenging projects, reflecting the increased volunteer support given.

The Memory Game (the second confidence uptick) is often a challenge for young people as there’s an abstraction between the main sprite and the buttons you press depending on the sequence of random values chosen. Once that is overcome, it’s relatively easy to complete and is a great springboard to more complex projects. 

The flat line over the last few projects suggests that the young person’s confidence is matched to the increasingly challenging projects. The uptick on completing their first python project ‘Hello World’, shows a significant increase in confidence on transition to python. This is likely due to their experiences and successes in Scratch previously.

More profiles

As we continue to collect data, we’ll continue to post interesting profiles to demonstration different trajectories through our projects.

DigiLocal People – James

James began volunteering with DigiLocal in May 2022. He is one of the volunteers supporting young people at Filton Community Centre. You can see the full programme of current clubs on our calendar.

DigiLocal Calendar of club sessions

James’ colleague Elisa with young people at our Filton Club.

We asked James why he spends an hour of his time each week supporting young people as a volunteer mentor with DigiLocal.

With the world changing so quickly around us, it has never been more important to support the young people that will build the society of the future – particularly in understanding how we can make the best of technology and the opportunities and challenges it brings.

There is an obvious focus within the clubs on supporting young people. We know that participating in coding activities helps to develop key problem solving skills and build their resilience. However, it’s also important that our volunteers feel benefit for giving their time. We asked James how he benefited from volunteering.

Along with the fulfilment of contributing to young people’s learning, I believe volunteering is a two-way street with many opportunities for mentors to develop too. For instance, young people often apply incredible creativity to problems and this is particularly true when combined with the technology and coding skillset that DigiLocal provides.

Data from STEM Learning on the benefits of volunteering.

Many leading firms have volunteering programs for their staff. There are lots of opportunities to volunteer with a range of charities, so we were interested to know why James chose DigiLocal.

DigiLocal has been a great fit for me, and I would recommend it highly to anyone in a similar situation – the density of engineering companies close to the DigiLocal hubs in Filton and Patchway particularly make for a very convenient stop on the way home for many. Also, I feel DigiLocal’s focus on placing hubs where they are most needed goes a long way to improving equality and community cohesion in the future.

Volunteering with DigiLocal is a commitment to the young people. Our clubs run every week throughout the year, including holiday periods. We do try and add in external challenges and opportunities to keep things fresh for both young people and volunteers. That long term engagement isn’t always easy to balance with hectic work life and other pressures, so we asked what kept James coming back each week.

For volunteers, DigiLocal offers a great balance between flexibility and structure. New mentors are supported their initial sessions and there are regularly new activities, challenges and themes to follow.

There are always things that go well, and some things that could be improved. We asked James for some of his highlights and lowlights of volunteering.

DigiLocal is all highlight! My only minor feedback as a volunteer would be that the number of young people can vary quite a bit between sessions.

Each club supports up to 10 young people, with at least two volunteers in a session. We send out reminders to parents before each club session and most are very good at letting us know if their young people are unable to attend. We do maintain waiting lists for our popular clubs and if young people don’t attend without giving notice three times, then we offer their place to the next on the list.

DigiLocal People – George

George began volunteering with DigiLocal in April 2018. He supported our weekly club in Yate until the COVID-19 pandemic closed all our in-person clubs. George then joined our move online and supported young people every Thursday evening. For many young people, our clubs were the only educational content they were receiving as many schools were not able to operated online at the start of the pandemic.

George supporting a young person with their Scratch code at Emerson’s Green Library

With the return to in-person clubs, George joined our club at Emerson’s Green. A change in work place meant this was easier for him to make each week.

We asked George why he spends an hour of his time each week supporting young people as a volunteer mentor with DigiLocal.

So the key reason is that I really like being a software developer and learning about computers so helping out the next generation in terms of educating, I am all for it. 

There is great evidence on the benefits of volunteering for those volunteers. DigiLocal works closely with STEM Learning and other volunteering support organisations to ensure our volunteers are fully supported and beneficial to volunteer mentors, as well as those being mentored. The statistics are great, but we wanted to know what George gets out of volunteering with DigiLocal

What I get out of volunteering is a lot of satisfaction!

As I have already mentioned, I really enjoy being a software developer and seeing the young people having a eureka moment in terms of understanding how computers work, gives me satisfaction. 

It is like putting a seed in their mind and watching that seed grow. 

There are lots of opportunities to volunteer, with national organisations as well as smaller local charities like DigiLocal. Why did George choose DigiLocal?

They are local! I was born in Bristol and lived there the most of my life. It was the right choice. 

As noted before, George has been volunteering with DigiLocal since 2018. When volunteers join there’s no formal commitment to keep volunteering for a specific length of time. Our clubs run for as long as we have young people that would like to attend, and volunteers willing to support them. Keeping the club experience fresh and exciting for volunteers over such a long period is a key part of why we try to do at DigiLocal. So what kept George coming back?

It has and still is, a great experience. Truly wonderful working with young people and the other volunteers.  An enjoyable experience. 

Inevitably over such a long volunteering period, there will be many memorable moments. We were keen to hear of a couple that stood out for George in particular.

When a young person ask for assistance after trying to code at home – in a environment of teaching 

Young people showing initiative and going for it. 

There are also, inevitably, times when things don’t go well.

This is a tricky one as it has been really fun. Prior to volunteering at DigiLocal, I have never really worked with young people but everyone is very supportive. I was able to get in the swing of things. 

Supporting the volunteers is a core part of what DigiLocal does to ensure that young people from underrepresented backgrounds have the opportunity to discover and develop their digital talents. We’ll leave the final words to George.

I have been volunteering just over 4 years and it has been nothing but pleasure and will recommend volunteering to anyone to get involved.

George recently spoke about his volunteering on the Laura Rawlings Show, listen below

From left. Laura, Souya, Pandora, John, and George
(BBC Radio Bristol, Laura Rawlings show, 24 July 2022)

DigiLocal People – Souya and Pandora

Souya is a new volunteer with our club in Southmead. Pandora is a young person attending our Southmead club. Both attended our morning with Laura Rawlings at BBC Radio Bristol and you can hear their pieces at the end of this post. We also wanted to give Souya an opportunity to share her thoughts in written form.

From left – Laura, Souya, Pandora, John, George

We started by asking why Souya began volunteering with DigiLocal.

I took advantage of free clubs that were part of the community in my youth such as swimming lessons, sporting initiatives and IT introductory sessions. 

Due to that experience, I feel that it is important to volunteer in clubs that are part of the community and benefit people who may not have the means to access certain opportunities.

I believe it is important to have the representation of people from many walks of life. 

Although I am now a Graduate Civil Engineer I believe we are going into a cyber influenced future so introducing subjects such as coding to young people helps equip and empower them for the future.

All our DigiLocal volunteers work in industry and bring their real-world experience to the clubs. This gives young people the opportunity to see real engineers in action, solving problems alongside the young people. This is obviously a huge benefit for the young people but we wanted to know what Souya got from supporting the young people.

Satisfaction!!! Being able to encourage and facilitate the learning of young people from under-represented backgrounds to get involved in something different inspires me.  Being able to play a small part in a young persons’ learning and development – even if it is just one hour of coding a week provides me with an incredible sense of achievement.

There are lots of charities and groups that rely on their volunteers to bring benefit to their communities. We asked Souya why she choose DigiLocal over the many volunteering options available to her.

At the beginning I didn’t know anything about DigiLocal. I wanted to volunteer at a club that is consistent, was within the engineering or technology sector and was an accessible location so that I could incorporate the volunteering opportunity into my schedule. 

As DigiLocal managed to meet my criteria, I chose to volunteer there.  Now that I know more about it – I wouldn’t want to volunteer anywhere else!

Our clubs run for 1 hour each week. This is quite a large commitment for someone with a busy professional and personal life. We wanted to know what kept Souya coming back to the club each week.

Watching the progression of the young people every week is encouraging and exciting. 

The improvement is gradual but consistent and very evident in how  much their confidence grows from one week to the next.  

I feel  that there is a huge shortage of volunteers and it is important to have the representation of people from many walks of life so I have decided to carry that mantle.

With everything we do there are high lights and low lights. We asked Souya what some of those high lights were.

Watching the young people show their creativity and enthusiasm. 

An example of this is when a young person asks questions which are very different to what is mentioned in the instructions booklet.  Showcasing their abilities.  I am reminded that young people’s minds are open and eager to learn and we should encourage that.

We also asked about the times things don’t quite work out.

Inevitably life gets in the way and I am not able to volunteer all the time.  That is one of the reasons I believe there is a need for volunteers.

If you’d like to volunteer with DigiLocal, check out our volunteering page for more information. You can hear Souya and Pandora talking to Laura on the audio links below:

Souya talking to Laura Rawlings, BBC Radio Bristol, 24 July 2022
Pandora talking to Laura Rawlings, BBC Radio Bristol, 24 July 2022

DigiLocal People – a parent’s perspective

The following note was sent to DigiLocal by Gudrun, Thomas’ mum. We’re very grateful to her for sharing her thoughts and insight into supporting young people to discover their digital talents.

Thomas (left) at the 2019 NASA Space Apps Challenge co-hosted by DigiLocal

Thomas joined DigiLocal in July of 2016, at the age of 9.  We had no computer at home up to this point  and the only exposure he had to computers was at his primary school where 3 children shared a computer during computer lessions.  He saw a coding club in the library and I then found DigiLocal.   His learning curve was so steep thanks to DigiLocal at this time where he learned to code in scratch. 

He went from the bottom of the classs to becoming so good at coding scratch that he was able to run an after school coding Club in his primary school teaching his peers.  It was the most popular after school club during that term.  When he left Primary school he then went back in Year 7 to run the club again, but COVID-19 got in the way and this ended.

Thanks to DigiLocal work at providing recycled computers to children, Thomas now has his own computer at home and his coding skills have progressed on to python and now he has just started learning C.

DigiLocal did not only teach him coding but valuable life skills, confidence and opened his world up to endless possibilities.  Through DigiLocal he has spoken to influential people from the West of England Mayor (Tim Bowles, DigiLocal Celebration 2017), to university engineering professors, and employees from leading manufactures all about his coding aspirations and projects he has collaborated on.  He has learned that his ability is limited only by his own or others skills and as such works hard to learn more and keeps pushing boundaries.  

Coding is not book work, but fun, something he would happily do 24/7. And thanks to the internship opportunity he had at DigiLocal,  he feels confident this is something he could do as a living.

He is currently doing computer science for GCSE along with triple science and Product and Design Technology.  He would not have found a love for coding and working with electronics if it had not been for John and DigiLocal who opened this world up to him.

He and his family would highly recommend DigiLocal  to anyone who has a passion for coding or simply wants to learn more.  The possibilities are endless, the people are amazing and there is no learning just lots and lots of fun!


  • See the full write up of the 2019 NASA Space Apps Challenge here.
  • Thomas also took part in the 2020 NASA Space Apps Challenge (online) and his project BioEnterprise was a Global Nominee from the UK.

DigiLocal People – Rishita & Thomas

DigiLocal is there to give young people the opportunity to discover and develop their digital talents. That generally means they aren’t into gaming or coding. Quite often there isn’t really anyone in their family or social circle that works with technology.

We were interested in why Rishita and Thomas started attending our clubs (other than just because their parents took them).

Rishita at home on her repurposed DigiLocal laptop during COVID-19 Pandemic

The reason why I am attending DigiLocal is that I have wanted to try something new such as coding and have learnt a lot. 


I can’t really remember!! 

I went to the library one day and witnessed a club taking place and was interested in computers. 

Prior to joining the club, I didn’t know much about computers or coding.


The projects are DigiLocal are all supported by written guides for the young people to follow. These give the structure and basic functionality for games and applications. We then encourage young people to continue those frameworks with their own ideas. This is where our volunteer mentors like George and Souya really come into their own, supporting the young people to challenge themselves to make more complex projects and experiment with how far they can take their ideas.

I enjoy starting and finishing new projects  – I feel really happy when it works. 


What I enjoy about attending the sessions is that the sessions are really interactive and I can work independently. It is not like school where I would have to wait until the teacher set out the work and will have to wait until everyone has finished. 

I only ask for help when I need it and there are lots of fun guides. . 

There is no set group to join. So if I find something easy, I can move on to harder stuff. 

With the online sessions-  I am able to do more coding and give me more opportunities. 

Thomas (left) with mentor Gabe and Abdirahman at the NASA Space Apps Challenge 2019

A key part of learning to overcome challenges, of any sort, is being able to enjoy the process of figuring out the answer. Sometimes you can do this alone, but often it’s easier with others (whether they are friends, colleagues, or mentors). It’s also important to set yourself challenges so you keep extending your abilities.

We wanted to know what the young people had found challenging while attending DigiLocal clubs.

What I have found challenging is using multiple windows at once. However, when i do find something challenging, I ask one of the volunteers and we are able to find a solution. 


Personally, I did not find anything challenging/hard. I found it really enjoyable! I tend to make things harder than they actually are.


DigiLocal doesn’t have a set curriculum. Young people follow project guides and learn by doing. While it’s useful to know a particular language (python being very popular at the moment), it’s more important to learn how to think a problem through and recognise core programming concepts to building a solution.

I have learned how to use scratch. 


I have learnt scratch and python. Generally, I have learnt a lot more about coding than before. I did not have a computer at home and only used a computer once a month at school. 


DigiLocal wants to help prepare young people for the world of work after our clubs. We were interested to know what they thought about their future activities after DigiLocal and school.

I want to get into the tech industry and in terms of a job, to be a CEO for a tech company. 


I definitely want to get into coding. Not sure about jobs at the moment. 

Possibly a software engineer or making electronics stuff.