Saturday 7 July saw myself and Anish Raja (DigiLocal@Bradley Stoke) heading up to London for the prestigious BAFTA Young Games Designer awards 2018!
BAFTA don’t release how many young designers enter the competition, but it’s run nationally across the UK. I know at least half a dozen other young people from the West of England region entered so Anish did exceptionally well to be selected as a Finalist.
In total there were 40 games on display across four categories:
Game Concept (10-14yr)
Game Concept (15-18yrs)
Game Making (10-14yrs)
Game Making (15-18yrs)
Anish was in the Game Concept (10-14yrs) and up against some very stiff competition.
In the end, the award went to Dalvia & Tiya Dhillon with their game concept for addressing mental health issues: Trapped
I was there as a Nominated Mentor of the Year. An amazing and very unexpected nomination, especially as you aren’t told who’s nominated you until they play the supporting video clips from your nominators.
I was completely floored when Primrose & Alex from DigiLocal@Barton Hill came up on the big screen!
Ultimately the mentor award went to Adam Syrop for his work with youth offenders.
However, as my nomination was the only one that draw a collective ‘Aww’ from the audience over Primrose’s statement, I think I was the real winner!
All told a fantastic day out, and I’ll be encouraging all young people within the DigiLocal communities to enter their ideas next year. We’ve developed some additional materials to help structure ideas and present them to the BAFTA judges.
We’ve also got more challenging projects to help develop those critical story-telling, and software engineering skills for a great game production.
One of the great challenges in supporting communities to run tech clubs for their young people is keeping a steady flow of really high quality projects for those young people to undertake. They need to be challenging and fun, educational and fun, embody good engineering principles and fun; did I mention they need to be fun?
At the start of the last academic year (Sept 2017) I put a proposal to the University of Bristol for their Physics Industrial Project module. I’d been in discussion with the School of Physics for about 6 months before this, understanding their needs and how to present a challenge that their students would appreciate, and that would give me some original new projects to share with our DigiLocal clubs.
The project brief I put in was selected by a crack team of four (Lily, Fiona, Lorna, and Ben) who would liaise with me as the ‘client’. My deliverable was (deceptively) simple, a new project guide that would enable DigiLocal® young people to build a Mission Mars game with at least 4 levels of difficulty. Their task was to incorporate ‘proper’ physics and produce a guide that had been tested with real young people from our network of DigiLocal clubs. This was not a lab exercise!
Fortunately the team took to it with huge gusto and immediately came up with a plan to incorporate the whole Key Stage 3 & 4 Physics Curriculum in a single game! At our first project catch-up meeting we discussed realistic deliverables and the time involved in producing high quality documentation as well as good physics code. This didn’t dampen their enthusiasm and they set off with renewed focus and unabated vigour.
Over the next few months they produced a range of games, from simple animation examples through to advanced computational models (Hohmann transfer orbits anyone?). All their ideas were rigorously tested with young people, the team worked directly with 4 clubs over the period and I hosted their draft guides with the main DigiLocal resources so all 16 clubs had access and quite a few tried them out unsupported.
One of the key objectives for the academic award was to use good educational theories in developing the project guides. The team researched and adopted the model of conceptual gain to evaluate the learning experienced over individual and multiple sessions (some of the guides went through more than 6 iterations). As well as an online questionnaire, they observed activity during the sessions (including the wonderfully titled ‘fiddle factor’ representing the confidence of the young people to experiment with the code to see what would happen), and had a number of conversations with young people about what was going on (semi-structured interviews). They were particularly interested in used model-driven code to challenge common misconceptions around physics, especially forces & motion.
Summerhill was separated out because it was a Primary School and the abstract concepts were thought to be more advanced than would be expected for that age group (typically 8-10yrs). Sample sizes weren’t sufficient to claim significance, however, there were substantial gains across the board. This is fantastic as DigiLocal isn’t a curriculum driven service, which means we can afford to be more challenging than might be found in general teaching. In fact my un-official briefing to the team was not to be afraid to ‘blow their minds’ a little!
I was also relatively unconcerned that the guides produced were much longer than ‘normal’ project guides from CodeClub and others. Generally a club session is 1 hour and you can’t always guarantee that young people have Scratch accounts or usb-memory sticks to save their work between sessions. So most guides have to be achievable in 1-hour.
All our DigiLocal laptops are on a secure Dropbox account so the young people have their own save folders, which means they can happily carry work across multiple sessions. This give much greater flexibility to tackle large, more complex projects and concepts.
Ultimately the team produced 4 ‘major’ project guides (Take Off!, Getting to Mars, Moving around in Space & on Earth, and Touchdown Mars), along with 3 smaller projects and a pack of additional resources!
So what did the young people think?
Well between 60% & 80% of responses on the anonymous questionnaire felt they could do the projects ‘with a bit of help’, suggesting the challenge was there but not insurmountable.
And what about the fun?
Between 72% & 80% said the sessions were excellent (rising to 100% if you include good, it was a 4 point Likert scale). So yes, I think the team nailed it!
This was a fantastic experience for DigiLocal and the University of Bristol students. I’m currently drafting the brief for next year’s Industrial Project teams!
The next generation(s) of high tech innovators came together on Saturday 10 March 2018 for a morning of sharing ideas, code, and enthusiasm for building cool stuff! We had representatives from Barton Hill, Bedminster, Bradley Stoke, Docklands, Malcolm X Community Centre, Redmaids, and Shirehampton clubs.
Our celebration events are an opportunity for young people from across our DigiLocal communities to gather and share their ideas and enthusiasm. Some have been working on projects guided by CodeClub materials, some have been working on their own side projects, and some on our larger Challenge project. All came on Saturday to showcase their work and learn from others.
In September 2017 we launched a major Challenge across all our DigiLocal clubs. The invitation has been for the young people to develop an idea for a business or environmental simulation / game, and to then build it in Scratch or Python. We’ve provided them with additional resources to help structure their development process. Many of the young people on Sat were exhibiting their projects and seeking testers for the next iteration.
One of the major announcements on Saturday was the launch of this year’s BAFTA Young Games Designer competition. Not by coincidence, the resources we’ve been using with our young people are from BAFTA. We expect these projects to be further enhanced over the next couple of months ready for the 25 April deadline for BAFTA. Volunteers have access to additional resources to help develop the applications and support our young people.
The second major announcement was the launch of our LINKS scheme for recognising the achievement of our young people. We want to encourage young people to 1) learn new things in their club activities; 2) put that learning into practice through our projects and challenges; and 3) to be rewarded for their achievements.
At each stage of LINKS, we review the projects our young people have undertaken, assess their commitment to their community club, and then reward them with a coloured USB wristband. As they undertake more complex projects, and become more involved through peer-mentoring, we reward them with different colours and higher capacity USB wristbands.
Alongside the LINKS scheme we’re introducing new projects, such as our Mission Mars series and our ongoing series of Challenges to give young people even more opportunities to enjoy tech and practice what they have been learning.
This will provide us with a structured approach to maintaining engagement over the long term, whilst recognising the huge contribution our young people make to their communities.
Another really positive feedback from the day was the number of parents that asked to have access to their child’s saved work folder so they can continue working from home (where they have access to a home computer). We’ll be adding that parental access over the coming weeks to encourage more participation in high tech.
We were very grateful to Redmaids’ High School for the use of their fabulous Redland Hall for the day.
Redmaids has been an early supporter of DigiLocal and their club has produced a number of fantastic projects from the girls participating.
On Saturday 1 July we welcomed young people from 8 DigiLocal local clubs across the West of England to share their visions of life in the year 2030!
We saw Scratch games for managing the ecology (and the importance of bees), through house delivery systems by helicopter, to health apps, and even a resource gathering game in python / Minecraft. A huge range of projects developed from original ideas the young people had, and taken through to functioning code over a period of roughly 6 months.
The future is in this room and even though you may not yet know what you’ll be doing when you leave school, it’s hugely encouraging to see your enthusiasm for science and technology.
Tim Bowles, West of England Regional Mayor
We were honoured to host Tim Bowles (West of England Regional Mayor) to say a few words of encouragement opening the day. He was then completely drawn into the enthusiasm and competence demonstrated by the young people, spending the whole morning talking to each young person about their ideas and how they’d produced their final game.
DigiLocal is designed to support local communities run tech clubs for their young people. Each club meets once a week for about an hour. We’re currently supporting clubs every day of the week (with 2 on Tuesdays and Saturdays), representing around 100 kids every week having fun with tech and learning about building their own projects.
Clubs take place all over the West of England, and we’re working to start more where there is greatest need.
What to do in the half-term? Tech Takeover, of course!
We’ve been working with Nia at the Bristol Libraries Service for some time and were very happy to help support her Tech Takeover day at Stockwood Library on 16 Feb 2017.
Stockwood already runs a very successful CodeClub so I took some Raspberry Pi 3’s along. We soon had kids building games inside Minecraft using the Python API.
All the kids managed to get a working game running, a couple even completed the extra challenges at the end. The guides were all on the Raspberry Pi’s, I was just there to help trouble shoot syntax errors. Although coding is sometimes seen as a solitary activity, there was lots of social interaction with kids helping each other out; usually before I could get around the table to them myself, which is brilliant!
The focus for DigiLocal has always been supporting communities to run their own high quality tech clubs. The engagement from the young people was evident, one young lad stayed for over two hours and was asking for more Python projects (even ones that didn’t involve Minecraft)!
Stockwood Tech Takeover was unusual for us in that it was a single day. DigiLocal is normally a weekly activity in a community centre, library, or youth group. We work in partnership with other providers to provide the diverse communities across the region with regular, high quality, engagement with high tech.
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