It's been almost 2 years since I last wrote about CoderDojo. It was when they started their activity in Oradea. I remember that just a few months later, the young participants had their first project presentations. Now, Andrei Munteanu, the founder, is happy to celebrate 2 years of CoderDojo Oradea this week.
But wait a minute, I haven't told you what is this CoderDojo I'm talking about! Well, CoderDojo is an international network of free programming clubs, where children aged 7 to 17 years are encouraged and helped to learn the secrets of programming. The youngsters are mentored by professional "tech guys", who volunteer to devote their free time to teach them.
Now back to Andrei. I met him right after he brought this project to Oradea; he was a young man with a strong desire to help children learn programming. He studied in Timisoara, and that's where he got his passion for CoderDojo. As Oradea is his birthplace, he wanted to bring this project home. In order to achieve this, in December 2013 he started talking his Oradea friends into starting a local CoderDojo. Given his persuasion skills, the project began taking shape a month later, in mid-January 2014.
How were these two years of Coder Dojo Oradea and what plans they have for this year - we'll find all about it in the following lines from Andrei:
What plans do you have for this year with CoderDojo Oradea?
The main goal for this year is to develop ourselves. We don't want necessarily to increase our numbers, but to become an established team. So we want to bring as much value to the organisers, mentors, and children, of course.
I understand that you prepare a series of national and international projects…
Yes of course. This year we have 5 main directions:
- First of all, we have the two local presentations, where the children present their projects they have been working on with their mentors. One of them will be for the preselection for Coolest Projects in Ireland. Presentations are open events where everyone who is curious about CoderDojo is invited: parents, developers, local officials and so on. At the end of the presentations, we choose a team that will represent CoderDojo Oradea at Coolest Projects in Ireland.
- The next direction is to participate in this international competition, Coolest Projects, on the 18th of June, in Dublin. For this year, they expect a total of over 1.000 participants from all over Europe. I must mention that in 2015, the Romanian Coder Dojo team won the 2nd place in the Web category. Note that there were over 600 participants with 400 projects. Regarding this year, we want to increase our delegation; last year there were 4 children with 3 projects, and for 2016 we want to have 6 children and 3-4 organizers. On this occasion, we want to show that children in Oradea really, really know how to carry out educational projects. The application they developed last year was web-based, with Apps from Google and web technologies, and its function was to help tourists get to different places.
- Next this year will be Coder Night, which was held two times until now; we'd like to hold one or two of them this year. These "evenings" start on a Friday afternoon and takes the whole night. In this series, the children work on different projects in teams, they learn to brainstorm, and on the following Saturday morning, they have to present their work. They also watch a movie about children who developed great IT projects. Another benefit of Coder Night is that they have the chance to develop their soft skills, such as communication and teamwork. At the end of their presentation, children are rewarded with symbolic prizes, all of them receiving certificates of participation.
- Moreover, we will attend a national camp (in the past, there were also people from CoderDojo Moldova invited), which will take place somewhere in Romania. Last year it was held in Sibiu, and in 2014, in Moneasa. By attending this camp, children will have the chance to know other children from other CoderDojos in the country, with whom they will work on projects and attend programming workshops. Naturally, there will be recreation workshops and free time to enjoy the summer. Also, the mentors will get the chance to know each other and thus to share their experiences with each other.
- Last, but not least, we want to participate in local/national/international contests (e.g. HackTM, ekaHack, various Google events, etc). Usually these are organised in Timisoara or near the city. Last year CoderDojo Oradea competed at HackTM in the adults category, and they won the podium, being on the 2nd place.
Very nice! It’s been 2 years since CoderDojo is here in Oradea, how do you recount these years?
I'm happy to have reached a stable team of 45 children who learn constantly, children between 7 and 17 years old, some of whom have been with us right from the beginning. We currently have 7 mentors, among which one from Qubiz. In these two years in which I've helped CoderDojo Oradea I got to learn a lot. For instance, one of the most challenging experiences was to keep these meetings weekly; it wasn't easy to do it without having many breaks and interruptions. Hiatuses are bad because students get out of context, and our curricula is not light either. There's a lot of information and hands on techniques to teach them… Anyway, the children here in Oradea are very smart and motivated and I'm proud of them. I feel happy that I can make a difference and that I can help them.
What must a child do to enrol in CoderDojo?
A kid or his parent can write us on our Facebook page or visit us on Saturdays at Trade Center Oradea. We will subscribe him or her on the spot, and then they can see in which group they fit, whether they like it, and so on. They can later move to any group they want. I think the most important thing is that we allow them to learn at their own preferred pace while still enjoying the experience. Interaction is also very important. The point is to make the experience a pleasant one, to learn a lot together, to have fun a lot together, and finally to present the projects they've been working on to a broader audience.
How is CoderDojo Oradea organised?
CoderDojo Oradea is organised into several groups:
- the Scratch Group, which includes the youngest children (or beginners), and where we have a programmable LEGO
- the Unity and Web Development Group, with 3D modeling and C # development
- the Web Development Group, where they do basic things, like front end development
- the Google API Group, where they learn advanced technology, like robotics, Raspberry Pi (by the way, we just received five Raspberry Pi models from CoderDojo Ireland).
What means to be a mentor at CoderDojo Oradea?
Our mentors are volunteers who dedicate their time every week to help children. They are usually high school students, college students, high school teachers, assistant professors, professors, developers and so on. Basically anyone with programming skills and a willingness to devote their time to share their knowledge. As a side note - we are constantly looking for new mentors, so if you're interested, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
They are (little) children, how do you attract them towards programming? I'm sure you have something catchy for them!
With the youngest, we use the Scratch visual programming language, which is very attractive. It's quite interactive, because they can work on something, make changes and see the results immediately. It's fun for them to see immediate results. They can use a lot of trial and error without studying tons of theory.
Children who are a bit older are always presented with new stuff, the latest technologies, like Makey Makey, an electronic invention tool that allows them to connect everyday objects like bananas to computer programs, using a circuit board. Sounds fun? Well, it is!
Where and when do you hold your meetings?
We meet every Saturday from 11:00 to 14:00 at Trade Center Oradea. Children are recommended to have a laptop with them, a charger, an extension cord, and some snacks.
At the end of our discussion, do you have a message for Qubiz?
Thank you, Qubiz, for being there for us every time! The children participated in various competitions and due to your support, we were able to give them prizes. We really appreciate it!