Learning from the Masters: DojoCon 17!

Jack Simpson

Head of Marketing and Communications

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Our WebbieZone, also known as Oldham CoderDojo, is a weekly drop-in for young people from all walks of life where they can get involved with programming – mentored by our excellent volunteers, all full-time software engineers.

The weekend before last, myself and fellow WebbieZone mentors Dale and Gareth visited Warrington to take part in DojoCon17. It was a brilliant celebration of all things CoderDojo, hosted at the impressive Warrington CoderDojo at Beamont Collegiate School – with delegates representing Dojos from as far away as Japan and Australia!

It was an early start, and we were half asleep as we shuffled onto the 8:10am train to Warrington, nursing various caffeinated beverages. Having eventually woken up, we speculated on what was in store for the weekend. DojoCon promised to be not your traditional tech conference: there were no corporate sponsors – this was a grassroots event, taking place in the heart of the community.

The workshops were split into categories such as coding, maker, hardware and community. Dale and Gareth, being of a more scientific persuasion that I, had some interest in the more code-centric workshops, such as Mozilla Tools. I was more intrigued by the overtly creative stuff such as Laser Cutting and T-shirt Printing – but over the day, we’d find ourselves getting involved in a bit of everything.

Having arrived in Warrington very ahead of schedule, we decided to walk to stretch our legs and make the most out of the crisp morning. Warrington was quiet, but we arrived to find that BCS was already a hub of activity. It was clearly going to be a day that embodied the CoderDojo spirit, with children (hereafter ‘ninjas’) from the local Dojo on hand to volunteer with all aspects of the events!

The little Tardis merch bag came with a stack of stickers, a notebook and pen, a very red Raspberry Pi t-shirt, an awesome AstroPi patch and a BBC Micro:Bit!

The opening talk was a fitting introduction; it was lovely to hear about the great things being achieved at the Warrington Dojo, and Pete Lomas gave a wonderful introduction to the conception of the Raspberry Pi. We were also given some interesting context around the partnership between Raspberry Pi and CoderDojo – we love to see companies working together to achieve good things in tech.

Over the course of the day, we got involved with a bit of everything, from programming a little robot to move independently (in our case, while repeatedly shouting ‘Champion!’) across an assault course, to learning the ins and outs of 3D printing.

We met fantastic mentors and ninjas (sometimes both) from all around the world. I’ve got to give a particular shout out to CoderDojoLondon youth mentor James, who really impressed us with his knowledge of Kodu, a versatile tool to teach the fundamentals of game mechanics and level design.

The spirit of the event was very much about learning from each other. It was so refreshing to see the amount of Dojo attendees getting stuck in and contributing to the wider CoderDojo community, alongside mentors representing Dojos from across the world.

Day two saw the Mega Dojo take place, with Dojos from across the North West descend on BCA to check out some of the workshops that had been running over the weekend, with Gareth doing a bit of everything and Dale jumping in and getting involved with the Kodu workshop, which proved to be exceedingly popular.

During the opening talk for DojoCon 17, we were all tasked with a common objective:

To learn at least one thing that we could use back home to improve our CoderDojo. 

From programming a flight path for miniature drones using a phone app, to finding a way to bridge the gap between fundamentals and actually writing code with Mozilla Tools, suffice to say we had a very successful DojoCon. We can’t wait to get stuck in and bring some of what we experienced to our own Dojo – watch this space!