This Summer’s Coding Competition

A huge thank you to everyone who took the time to enter their games they made into our summer competition. We’ll be going through them all shortly and we’ll announce the winners at the end of the week. I can already tell that this is going to be a tough job, the standard has been excellent. Well done to everyone who entered and thank you once again for supporting First Coding’s creative summer challenge.

Retro Gaming Workshops

First Coding will now be running two Retro Gaming coding workshops this month. They’re being held at The Old Fire Station in Salt Lane, Salisbury and each one costs just £20 for the two hour session. The times of the workshops are below:

Saturday 11th August 2pm – 4pm
Saturday 18th August 2pm – 4pm

If your child is aged between 10 and 14 and would be interested in attending one of the workshops, then please drop me a line.

We’ll be using Scratch, a visual programming language that is used in most schools. Scratch can be used in very clever ways (including designing this video for the workshops) and is a great gateway into learning to code.

Birthday Party

This week saw First Coding host its very first children’s party. The parents were looking to host a party with a difference and approached me to see what I could do to help. So this weekend we had eight young coders all working away on their own games to then go head to head to win prizes at the end. The prizes I gave away were copies of this rather fab Scratch coding book based on Star Wars, check it out here.

It was a great deal of fun for all, including myself who got to work with some great kids with some very creative ideas, all whilst being fed cake.

First Coding Birthday Party

Water Quality Monitoring

In today’s sessions we were looking at how we could use the Microbit to measure water quality. One idea was to use the light sensor, shining a light through the water to then have its intensity measured. Another great idea was to measure the conductivity of the water, as impurities would influence the readings. Here we’re just getting some base readings from ordinary tap water.

A New Podcast

As part of the teaching resource subscription package, I’ve started a series of podcasts covering a multitude of topics designed to help teachers and educators. As a little taster, here is the introductory episode for you to listen to.

Episode One: You don’t need to be an expert to run successful coding lessons.

Jez Whitworth, the co-founder of First Coding introduces himself and talks about how with his background in training and software development, identified a real need to teach coding to the younger generations. He also offers tips on how people who have little or no experience in teaching coding can become computer coding educators like himself and appeals for ideas on how best to encourage more girls to take up the subject.

A Musical Challenge

I set a challenge recently to see if pupils could make a simple note sequencer whereby you load notes into a loop and the Scratch programme  cycles through the sequence, playing them one by one.

This is one of my favourite attempts. The variables at the top allow you to change the notes in the five note sequence. You can also amend the tempo up and down too. Really nice job.

The Scratch Chatbots

I want to share one of the projects my group are working on at the minute. The task was to build a convincing chatbot in Scratch, homing in on particular keywords to give the impression that it understands the statements given to it.  I’ve posted this in a couple of Scratch teaching forums and the response has been great. I can’t wait to share the comments with my pupils.

The Motor Control Kit

The school talks I recently gave on electronic toy hacking highlighted a problem that motor control for the Raspberry Pi and Microbit could be made a great deal simpler (and cheaper) when you see what’s already out there. It only took two prototypes of my pack before I was happy. Each pack contains example code, components and creativity.

First Coding - Motor Control Kit for the Raspberry Pi and Microbit

I have made the component list, assembly instructions and sample Scratch block code available to download here: Motor control instructions for the Raspberry Pi and Microbit

The Code Machine

I love hearing about the journeys pupils’ projects have taken them on, so I thought I would share one of my own.

At the end of last year I put together a little code machine in Scratch (you can see it here), it used a simple Caesar cipher to allow you to send secret messages. This got me into reading a great many books on codes and it wasn’t long before I wanted to create an unbreakable code of my own.

First Coding Spy Month - The Secret Code Machine
I also met a few people along the way, including someone at the Secret Army Museum who discussed with me methods to check whether a coded transmission had been tampered with. All really interesting.

The Code Machine - First Coding - Salisbury Spy
I have now packaged up what I’ve learnt and built an app titled The Code Machine, soon to be available for free so all can enjoy.

The Code Machine - First Coding - Salisbury Spy

The Code Machine - First Coding - Salisbury Spy