Blog - Page 3

Visit to CoderDojo Manchester

Joseph has been a mentor for CoderDojo Scotland since the very start, supporting the Dojo at Glasgow Science Centre and then those in Castlemilk and Bridgeton. He is now expanding his horizons and moving to Dundee! Good luck with the new job Joe, our loss will be Dundee's gain.

Here is Joseph’s report from a recent visit to CoderDojo Manchester.

On 8th May 2016, I went on a fact finding visit to Coderdojo Manchester ( It was great to see a group of young mentors running one of the activities. They were doing a Roblox activity and had a couple of laptops up on a screen to engage everyone, which seemed to be working as their table was constantly full. This is something I’d really like to encourage, alongside input from adult mentors with experience of teaching coding, as who better to put on a workshop that young people are going to be interested in and engage with than young people themselves?

Something that came across very strongly during my visit to Coderdojo Manchester was the level of parental engagement. I met and talked to several parents during the four-hour session and all were getting really involved in the activities with their children. I had a long conversation with one dad in particular who told me he and his seven year old son had only started coming to the Dojo three months ago but had learned so much – both of them – in that time. The resilience his son showed whilst working on the coding challenges was incredible for such a young age and his dad echoed my amazement when telling me what they had achieved, together, in the last three months. Now that CoderDojo Castlemilk has moved to a larger venue, more parental involvement is something we could look at.

Coderdojo Manchester is a really large Dojo, run in a big, airy, open space. I wasn’t sure before I went how the four-hour session – twice as long as I am used to – would work, but the huge range of activities meant everyone could choose what they wanted to do and move between stations at leisure – a great opportunity particularly for younger coders who might not be able to concentrate on a single activity for very long. Furthermore, it gives everyone a chance to find their niche by trying out a variety of activities throughout the day and throughout the year at the Dojo.

CoderDojo Manchester

Some of the stations at Manchester Coderdojo were fairly standard – a whole table of Raspberry Pis, for instance, was full all day – but there were also some stations which took me a little more by surprise. In particular, my interest was piqued by a table hosting the “littleBits” kit, a huge set of electronics – colour changing LEDs, buzzers, motors, various sensors, programmable speakers, … the lot! See for more info. Younger kids, especially, seemed to take really well to this station and the fact that a circuit can be built and used in just seconds helped to keep them interested. Although littleBits is not programming it is possible to combine it with other tech, like the MakeyMakey, once kids have mastered the logic going on in the circuitry – logic being a hugely important aspect of programming.

Just along from the littleBits were a few novelty coding enthusiasts who were in the process of creating a robot orchestra by programming electronics like servos (basically a motor which enables you to control the angle of its spin) and had come along to showcase their work. Great to see how people are using the concepts being learned at the Dojo out in the real world! Might just inspire some of the kids to take forward an idea of their own.

It was great to know that, in addition to this huge Dojo, many of the mentors here also run or help to run smaller Dojos in the area, serving more local communities. All the young people – young mentors and learners –were very confident which was fantastic to see but I think this is no coincidence. Possibly, less confident youngsters are less likely to get themselves involved in such a large club, be it a Coderdojo or any other type of group. So I think we need the best of both worlds: these smaller, local Dojos will, I’m sure, serve these young people’s needs best, helping them to grow their confidence in a smaller environment. They may then one day search out the bright lights of Manchester Coderdojo!

To sum up, this was a great day from start to finish. I was made to feel so welcome by the team at Coderdojo Manchester and everyone (mentors, young mentors, visitors, café staff, parents, learners) was really keen to share their experiences with me and answer my questions. I think the Coderdojo community country-wide should engage in dialogue with each other – be that electronically or in person – because there are so many good ideas out there that the next Dojo might just not have thought of yet but which would be a fantastic addition to their Dojo. Finally, a big thank you to all at Coderdojo Manchester for welcoming me and I hope we stay in touch!

The Life of a Web Developer

CoderDojo Bridgeton mentor David Anderson recently visited St Matthew's Primary school in Bishopbriggs to share with the pupils what it’s like working in the technology sector.
He was interviewed by the Primary 7 pupils as part of their World of Work day and, oh boy, did they thoroughly quiz him! 
The pupils were really enthusiastic about what David does for a living (he’s a web developer) and asked lots of smart questions to find out more. 
Here’s what some of them said after they had thoroughly grilled him:
"When I spoke to Mr Anderson he was very interesting.  He told me all about CoderDojo and I learned that a lot of problem solving is involved when you develop software.  It is a very unique job and sounds fun!" (Clare, P7)
"Mr Anderson explained that teamwork is very important and so is patience! You need to be good at using technology and it is a fun job." (Layla, P7)
"I would give Mr Anderson 5 stars out of 5.  He has a great talent and shared a lot of useful information with us.  Working at CoderDojo sounds like a very exciting and interesting career!  I would love to learn more." (Lucy)
David is very proud of his ‘5 stars out of 5’ and has promised to add it to his CV and LinkedIn profile!
John Bell
CoderDojo Bridgeton

Meet the Mentors – Meet Carole

Carole is a web developer, a long-time CoderDojo mentor at a number of Dojos across Scotland and an advocate for increasing the number of girls and women in coding. Here she tells us about her top tips for young coders, her favourite programming language (or not!) and how she couldn't live without the wonder that is the World Wide Web.



What’s the best thing about being a CoderDojo mentor?

"I enjoy helping others to learn new skills and always thought about being a teacher when I was at school. This way I get to enjoy my career in something I enjoy: coding, but also get to teach in my free time.


The best thing about being a mentor at Coder Dojo is seeing someone who starts off not knowing what they are doing and leaving full of confidence with that I made something awesome look on their face."



What age were you when you started coding?


"I am not sure really, whenever it was first taught in high school, so I was maybe about 14. I always liked computers and was forever playing on our home PC so computing was an obvious choice for standard grades and highers at school."


How did you get into it in the first place?


"In standard grade computing at high school. I'm not one of these people who have been coding in my own personal projects since I was really young. I was pretty good at it at school because it was all about logic and following rules (an algorithm) but I just liked computing in general at that point. I didn't know I wanted to be a programmer until about half way through university!"


What awesome tip do you have for young coders?


"Don't be scared. To try things, to break things, to ask for help. No one gets everything right first time, even if they pretend like they do!"


What’s your favourite programming language (and why!)?


"I don't think I have a particular favourite, I just like using whatever is best for the scenario. If you pick a cool idea for what you want to make then make other choices like programming language or framework from there. Being a programmer, you can't get too attached to one particular language, it may be obsolete soon!"


What do you like about coding?

"I like making stuff. Seeing your code come to life and make your project work is great fun. That "It works!!" moment after running your code makes the challenging parts worth it."
What’s the one tech you couldn’t live without?


"Probably the World Wide Web (WWW). Without this I couldn't use my smartphone or PC for all the browsing/streaming/tracking/communicating I do all day…  or most importantly, I wouldn't have a job!"


And the one you wish you’d invented?


"The WWW. Life literally wouldn't be the same without it. In just a short amount of time it has become such an important part of our lives. It must be pretty cool being Sir Tim Berners-Lee getting to see how much he has impacted the world."


Sir Tim Berners-Lee
If you were a super-hero, who would you be?


"Being Iron man seems like it would be good fun: all the money in the world to buy and make cool tech. "

To find out more about why Carole thinks coding is such a 'must have' skill read her guest post on the Ayrshire College blog.

If you're interested in volunteering to mentor at CoderDojo, great! Get in touch here.

Gaming for a Greener World

Going Green at CoderDojo Moray
Going Green at CoderDojo Moray

On Saturday CoderDojo Moray held an all ages computing event as part of the 2016 Moray Science Festival's Families Day. The theme of the day was Going Green.

Four of CoderDojo Moray's regular members came along to help festival visitors through the range of Going Green activities. In addition, three adult volunteers from the local Maker-Space, T- Exchange, came to share their knowledge.

Going Green at CoderDojo Moray
Going Green at CoderDojo Moray

We created a small custom-made website for the event linked to a range of online age-graded Ecological/Scientific online games. Many of the visitors, young and old alike wanted to find out about Scratch and how to create their own games/animations. Several intended to download it themselves when they got home along with support materials from Scratch.

They could also make stop-motion games using webcams on the CoderDojo set of recycled computers. Boxes of Lego and recycled cardboard/paper provided the materials alongside plastic figures of dragons etc…..

Meet the Mentors – Meet John

After volunteering with CoderDojo Stirling and helping out with CoderDojo Glasgow events in the summer of 2014, John started Dojos in Castlemilk and Bridgeton to reach out to young people who sometimes lack opportunities to use digital technology creatively.


propriano 3

What age did you start coding?

"I started when I was 12 when I got a ZX Spectrum computer for my Christmas. I was SO excited. It had a whopping 16KB of memory, a rubber keyboard (yes, really), and plugged into the TV. I tried to teach myself BASIC on it but it was a real struggle. There was no-one to help me, no internet to look stuff up on (the web hadn’t been invented!) and none of my pals were interested. Sad to say it but I gave up and didn’t do any more coding until I was 23. I wish CoderDojo had been around when I was 12!"

Why did you start coding?
"I wanted to build my own flight simulation game. It was slightly harder than I expected!"

What do you enjoy about being a CoderDojo mentor? 
"I love helping young people be inventive, be creative, and do things that they didn’t know were possible. I love the smiles of surprise and joy that comes from making things. Not all young people have technology at home to help them learn to code and I think it’s really important that all young people get the chance to try it. I also really enjoy working with the other mentors. The volunteers I work with are a great bunch and we have a really good laugh. It's also been brilliant to collaborate with other organisations like Thenue Housing Association, MadeBrave and BeYonder – it's amazing to work with others who are supporting young people in developing their skills (and having masses of fun at the same time!)"




Coding’s not creative, is it?
"What?! Yes it is! Coding is an amazing way of being expressive. You can use coding to make art, music, animation, clothing, loads of things!  Coding is a skill that’s increasingly being learned by people like artists, musicians and designers because it helps them realise their ideas."


What’s your favourite programming language (and why!)? 
"I really like Ruby because you can do a lot of stuff in just a few lines of code. It’s also easy to read (when it’s written well!) and easier to write than many languages. (One of the first languages I learned was C, which was really hard to learn!)"

What do you like about coding?
"I like solving problems, being creative and doing things that are challenging. Coding ticks all these boxes! I also love learning and, because technology is always changing, there are always new things to learn."


What’s the one tech you couldn’t live without?
"I love a note-taking app called Evernote. It’s brilliant. I use it many times every day. It’s really helpful and helps me stay (sort of!) organised."


What one tech do you wish you’d invented?
"The World Wide Web. It’s totally transformed our lives and has dramatically increased the amount of information we have access to and the way in which we communicate with each other."

If you're interested in volunteering to mentor at CoderDojo, great! Get in touch here.

Meet the Mentors – Meet Joseph

Next up in our series about our amazing mentors is Joseph. As well as wearing cool (and sometimes very cryptic) t-shirts, Joseph has a natural talent for witty one-liners and a passion for maths. He's volunteered as a mentor since the inception of CoderDojo Scotland. Over to you, Joseph!


  If you were a super-hero, who would you be?

"Oh… I’ve never been good at superheroes. I was off school that day! One up is that my comic-book-mad pal is impressed that I’m getting better at knowing who’s Marvel and who’s DC! But what superhero?… well.. Sheldon likes The Flash and I like Sheldon so …. I’m gonna go The Flash! (Which is DC!)" How did you get into coding?

"I’ve always been into computing and technology in some way. When I was 8 or 9 I sat and typed out lyrics to a show we were doing in my primary school, at a speed of about 5 words per minute and on an old, hand-me-down Windows 95 computer my aunt gave me! I sort of took it from there, taught myself what I could about computing and became known as the tech support guy in my primary and then high school! My first experience of coding of any sort was some web design, but other than that I was pretty late to programming – hadn’t really done much until I studied Higher Computing and into University. It’s important to remember coding doesn’t always have to mean writing a brand new piece of software or game to stand on its own – I’ve used my coding ability to help me with things like my Maths courses at Uni and even organising our Grad Ball (prom) there!"  


What awesome tip do you have for young coders?

"Do what interests you. Start small and work up. You can maybe even apply your coding skills in situations you never thought you’d be able to – I’ve done some work as a technician in a theatre (really fun btw!) and coding skills are really useful there for things like programming the lighting. It’s all about logical thinking!"  


You need to be a real genius to code, don't you?

"Well I code…. and I don’t work at the Apple store…."  


If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be (and why!)?

Maybe Bill Gates or the like – I’m sure I could learn a thing or two from him about coding AND about entrepreneurship. But then again maybe just Santa Claus – I really wanna check if that beard is real!    


Why did you start mentoring with CoderDojo?

"Well I thought I was doing my good companion Craig Steele, founder of CoderDojo Scotland, a wee favour for a couple of hours one Saturday – now look what he’s roped me into!! But no, Craig graduated from the course I studied at University a few years ahead of me so I felt quite connected to and interested in the idea. I still remember that first ever session back in July 2012 in Glasgow Science Centre. Batman: The Dark Knight Rises had just been released and we were enjoying the soundtrack which could be heard loud and clear from our spot right outside the Imax cinema in GSC. The organisation has grown hugely since then of course, which is great. For the next 2 years I mentored at the GSC Dojo most months, but moved to Castlemilk when John decided to start up that Dojo and was looking for mentors. And the rest is history!"  


What do you like about coding?

"It’s really useful sometimes (see above!) and I like the logical thinking and problem solving skills it helps you develop!"  


Ant or Dec?

"Potato or potato? I’m easy!"  


What’s the best thing about being a CoderDojo mentor?

"It’s great for meeting new people – mentors and young people and hearing about their experiences and helping them develop great ideas. I love the fact that we get so many returning young people at Castlemilk – after a while it started to feel like our little family-away-from-home!"

Robotics Unplugged with Joseph
Robotics Unplugged with Joseph

What one tech do you wish you’d invented?

"The smartphone! I don’t know where I’d be without one! It’s just such an incredibly useful pocket sized device! I never thought when I started using computers on that Windows 95 machine my auntie gave me, that less than 15 years later I’d have a device a fraction of the size, which did about 100x as much stuff in about a hundredth of the time, which I can easily carry around with me at every minute of the day. What a great invention! Kudos, smartphone inventor! Kudos!"

  If you're interested in becoming a volunteer mentor with CoderDojo, great! Get in touch here.  

Meet the Mentors – Meet David

CoderDojo wouldn’t exist without the amazing work that our mentors do to help young people develop their tech skills. In the first of a series introducing some of our mentors in Scotland, we meet David, a web developer and mentor at CoderDojo Bridgeton who has been volunteering for the past six months.




 What age did you start coding?

“I didn’t start coding until I was about 15.”

 How did you get into it?

“My interest with computers started, like most kids, with computer games, around the age of 10. Aged 12, I began taking apart our family computer and invariably breaking it. This gave me a basic knowledge of what goes on inside a computer, that I think is important to understand for any coder and also gave me a passion for computers in general. This meant I was sure to take the Computing class when it was offered at school.”


 What do you enjoy about being a CoderDojo mentor?

“I love the idea of being able to help guide and support kids in showing them how exciting and diverse the world of computing can be.”


What awesome tip do you have for young coders?

“Ask questions! Learn from those around you. The reason we’re all getting to do what we do is because we were able to build and share upon the work done by others before us.”


Coding is boring. No?

“Coding (Web Development) is not only what I do for a living, but I count myself very fortunate to have fallen into a profession that I actually enjoy and look forward to. You’re a software engineer. You build something from nothing, much like with Lego… and who doesn’t like Lego?! Every day I’m presented with some sort of problem I’ve not yet encountered, some hurdle I’ve got to work out how to solve. Every day is different and that’s why I like it.”



What’s your favourite programming language (and why!)?

“CSS – Although not a language in itself, it is the backbone of web design and something I feel doesn’t get enough attention. It’s what makes the boring and mundane, fun to look at and interact with. It allows you to show your creative streak and develop an artistic style of your own. Just take a look at websites here built entirely with CSS.”


Ant or Dec?

“Both, obviously!”


What’s the one tech you couldn’t live without?

“Chromecast. I recently sold off two large PCs that were connected to a couple of TVs in my flat and replaced them with Chromecasts. They serve the same purpose as those computers did for me, yet are so much more convenient. This feeds into my passion for minimalist design which involves stripping away the unnecessary elements and focusing on what needs to be there. This is a philosophy I carry through to my coding.”




If you were a super-hero, who would you be?

“I’ll have to go with Iron Man. He has a passion for technology. I can relate to that.”


If you’re interested in volunteering to mentor at CoderDojo, great! Get in touch here.

3D or not 3D

At today’s Dojo some of our young people used Roblox for 3D games making, and blender for 3D animation. (Thanks to first-time-mentor Kieran for sharing his expertise in 3D modelling!)

Others, who felt in less of a 3D mood, developed their own websites using CoderDojo’s Sushi cards for guidance, learning the fundamentals of HTML and CSS on the way.

Next month we’ll be taking the websites we made and zhoozhing* them up using JavaScript. We may even publish them online to let everyone have a look!

Thanks to everyone who came and everyone who helped out.



*technical term meaning ‘to improve’ 😉

Welcome to TNT Towers

At Castlemilk and Bridgeton this week we’ve been learning about how to control Minecraft programmatically using Minecraft Pi, a version of Minecraft which has a Python API.  We had a lot of fun creating huge TNT structures (and then blowing them up!) and lava which followed us around.

If you want to have a go yourself, you’ll need a Raspberry Pi. We used this tutorial:
and this reference for the Python libraries:
By the end we had lots of ideas about how we could develop our programmes further such as automatically tunnelling through all blocks, controlling the movement through the Minecraft world using a different kind of controller (such as a Wii controller) and actuating objects in the real world in response to what happens in the Minecraft world (e.g. lighting up the orange and red lights on a PiGlow when you’re walking on lava or vibrating a haptic motor when there’s a TNT explosion). There’s so much you can do!

Family Day at Castlemilk

You know that buzz you get when everything's going right? When everyone's enjoying themselves and having fun? Well we had it in spades yesterday at our first CoderDojo Castlemilk Family Day at Castlemilk Youth Complex.

Meet the Parents

20151212_133909We thought it would be good to share with parents what we do at the club and give them a chance to have a go themselves. It was amazing to have so many parents attend and get involved (and also to just have a chance to have a cup of tea and a chat with them!). The positive feedback we received from parents about the day (and about our club in general) was brilliant and it has really got us thinking about how we can give more opportunities to parents to get involved in what we do.

On the day a number of young people who live locally also dropped in and had a chance to try a variety of activities. Most of them really enjoyed the day and we're looking forward to seeing them at future sessions.

Glowing Robots

During November's session our young people each designed a model robot using Google's Sketchup CAD software, which our friends at MAKLab 3D-printed for us. We gave the finished models out at the Family Day (to much ooohing and aaahing). The thermo-plastic models (which change colour when you apply heat to them) and glow-in-the-dark models were especially popular.

"Here's one I made earlier"


Get Creative Daddy-o (and Mummy-o)

As we had a larger venue to work in this month we had lots of space to do lots of cool things in, such as (big breath)…

Robotics Unplugged (Joseph's fantastic activity that helps you learn how robots follow instructions.)


Robotics Unplugged with Joseph
Robotics Unplugged with Joseph

Keep Calm and Carry On (Ashritha's activity was to create your own web sites using Mozilla's Thimble.)

Keep Calm and Keep Coding - making websites with Ashritha.
Keep Calm and Keep Coding – making websites with Ashritha.

Bling Bling Disco Lights (Emma showed everyone how to program a PiGlow board on a Raspberry Pi using python. The young people made everything from a spinning wheel to sparkly Christmas tree lights!)

Twinkly Christmas tree lights


Hour of Code (John's activity involved building your own Star Wars, Minecraft or Frozen game as part of the world-wide Hour of Code.)

Music Making with Sonic Pi (Simon showed everyone how to knock out some phat beats using Sonic Pi, the excellent music-making creation tool.)

Check out the beats!

Crazy Musical Instruments and Games Controllers (those who worked with Shay got a chance to play banana and apple pianos and play 'barefoot tetris' with the help of the wonderful maKey maKey.)

Barefoot Tetris - getting creative with a maKey maKey
Barefoot Tetris – getting creative with a maKey maKey

Thank You!

We'd like to take this chance to thank everyone for coming along and making this such a creative and enjoyable day. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!