Festival of Code announce winners

The Festival of Code has announced its competition winners and uncovered budding young entrepreneurs and coders in the process

An app which connects councils and townspeople and lets users report broken potholes, streetlamps and bus stops; and a personalised tourist app which calculates a holiday plan based on your own interests were two of many winners announced at Sunday’s Festival of Code annual finale in Plymouth.

CityRadar and Tourify were two of five winners announced to an audience of over 1,000 budding young coders – all of whom had less than five days to create apps, games and websites using open data to solve real world problems and present them to an elite panel of judges on the weekend.

Young Rewired State’s week-long Festival of Code saw 58 centres across the UK welcome an army of kids through their doors as part of the festival. The contestants were granted access to open government data – including exclusive data from The Met Office, TfL and the police – which allowed them to combine their coding know-how in order to create projects and come up with working solutions to the problems that people experience every day.

Taking home the prize of ‘Code a Better Country’ were students from Knowle West Media Centre in Bristol: Chris Chapman, 17; Rhys Marsh, 14; and Owen Mark, 13. They were awarded for CityRadar by judges, including co-founder of CoderDojo, Bill Liao; Head of Partner Solutions at Google, Sathya Smith; and Acting Vice President, GNICS Technologies at American Express, Katrina Roberts.

The team used Google data as well as data from local councils to create the solution which aims to help people generate as much content as possible which will help councils resolve problems as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

Seb Klavinskis-Whiting, 15; Louise Slater, 17; Luca Marchal, 13; and Gerard Glowackil, 12; won the ‘Best Example of Design’ category for their idea, Tourify. Using data from Yelp, Bing, Google Places and others, their app is designed to improve people’s experiences of holidays in unknown places.

Created at the Swift Key centre in London, team member Gerard said: “When you go on holiday you have to ask locals, go on Trip Advisor, walk around or get a really old guide book – so our design wanted to give users an option that gets them out and about quickly. You give us a time, ground you want to cover, and time – and Tourify gives you a complete guide that’s personal to you.” The team now hopes to take the design to the Google Play store and get a full website up and running.

Other winners included German coders: Daniel Petri,16; Leander Berg,17; and Bjorn Ternes, 16. They took home the prize in the ‘Best Example of Code’ category for Let’s Combine; an app which utilises smart watches and apps and correlates the weather against crime statistics. The team, who were based at Plymouth University all week, were one of many international coders who flew in especially for the festival.

In the ‘Should Exist’ category, Miles Per Pound won for its unique use of data which allowed users to calculate the exact cost of a car journey before turning on the engine. The app was created by Ben Roberts, 15; and Loic Deraed, 15; at the Reading Microsoft Centre.

Loic said: “You can look at the cost of your bus ticket ahead of taking a journey and the same with a plane ticket – so why can’t you do the same with a car journey?”. Their app has already proved a success: the team has been offered introductions into the insurance comparison and sales business.

Finally, YouDraw, a website which lets users create unique animations of any YouTube video, won in the ‘Best in Show’ category – the brainchild of Niklas Vengeow, 16; Guy McClenahan, 16; James McQueen, 17; Bobby Dilley, 17; and Matthew Lewis, 17. YouDraw was created to be something fun, collaborative and global. Judges were bowled over with their unique use of data and a design which brought people together. With the win under their belts, the teens are keen to partner with YouTube and music labels to get their design up and running.

For the majority, technology has become a necessity in everyday life resulting in a need for a workforce with the ability to code. Coding is needed to create software that provides us with our smart phones, computers, apps, games, household appliances and much more. Young Rewired State believes that if children with a natural desire to code are encouraged to delve into their passion, they will be well-equipped with a set of hugely desirable skills for their future.

Another hotly-anticipated design was The Hook, a coatrack which used Met Office data to choose an item of clothing each day for the busy city worker. Darci Hawkins, 10, from the BBC centre in Birmingham, said: “We started with loads of ideas and what we wanted to do was come up with something for busy people who are rushing to get to work every day. The Festival of Code is great because it brings coders together to find solutions to make the world better.”

During the week, the youngsters had access to open data from a host of sources including data.gov.uk, which hosts over 9,000 datasets from central government departments and a number of other public sector bodies and authorities.

The projects stand a great chance of being taken forward now that Young Rewired State is running Hyperlocal. Here the participants at the Festival of Code can continue to meet at their local centres over the coming year and will be supported by business experts on an online platform.

Emma Mulqueeny, CEO Young Rewired State, said: “We’re bowled over by the designs which came out of this year’s festival. It’s been a fantastic celebration of the coding talent that we’re sitting on right here in the UK and we’ve been able to see just what we can achieve if we foster this talent in the right way.

“Our ambition at YRS is to find and foster every child driven to teach themselves to code and connect them to a community of mentors, and the Festival of Code is our chance to get these kids together to work in partnership with their coding peers, learn from the experts and create new digital solutions to problems we all face.

“Last week’s celebrations saw some ground-breaking designs from kids who are coding away in their bedrooms year after year, and we hope to see many more coders get involved with our community and sign up to the festival of 2015.”