I’m Conor, an Apprentice Software Engineer at Kainos, and this blog is on the last two weeks of July 2018 and what I got up to as a mentor at Kainos CodeCamp.

I didn’t know what to expect – I was amazed as I welcomed the kids as they arrived on day one, finally realising just how big CodeCamp actually was. 200 teenagers on paper doesn’t seem too daunting – but seeing what a lab full of 200 teenagers looks like is a very different experience. I went on to have two of the best weeks of my working life so far. The days were tiring – I slept like a baby after each of them. But the work was fun, rewarding and each day brought new challenges. Here’s a rundown of the two weeks and what we got up to!

What is CodeCamp?

Kainos CodeCamp is Northern Ireland’s biggest coding event for teens. Each year, 200 teenagers aged between 14-18 come along to learn to program, as well develop a whole host of industry skills. They also get to develop their own project and then enter their work into our Dragon’s Den competition where they can win prizes. This year, the torch had been passed onto myself and Lauren, another software engineer. We didn’t take this task lightly; we immediately began to start planning and getting everything together, to ensure CodeCamp continued to be a success.

This year, we introduced the Advanced course for the attendees who were older or had a little more coding experience. This allows it to be fun and challenging for everyone who attends no matter what their skillset was.

Week 1 – getting to grips with technology

Each day brought new challenges, new content for the kids to learn but also some fun to end the day. Throughout our first week, we ended each day with an activity. These ranged from group activities, to individual; technical challenges to problem solving and even some quizzes for good measure.

These activities were a fun way we could introduce some team work, some healthy competition and most importantly people could start winning some prizes. The activities were a lot of fun, some of the highlights include the stampede during our “pub quiz” to get their answer sheets in on time to the creativity displayed in our spaghetti and marshmallow building challenge ?

We brought in experts on a couple of the days to introduce new cutting-edge tech:

  • An introduction to robotics – delivered by Joseph Armstrong from University of Ulster Engineering Society. the kids got hands on with robots, helping build and program them to get through a maze.
  • VR workshop: the CodeCampers were pitted against each other as we gave them a taste of what VR is like.
  • ChatBots, Campers learned how to set up and run their own ChatBots.

Week one gave the students a great foundation of all-round knowledge, setting them up nicely for week two – luckily, we had a weekend to rest up and get ready for it!

Week two – learning into practice

In our second week, now that everyone has new skills – time to showcase them. Each of the 200 CodeCampers jumped into this week and began developing their own projects. This was an app for our Foundation campers and a website for our Advanced campers.

We got to see some amazing creativity, some real-world problems solved and had a lot of fun in between. The ideas and projects we saw ranged from a mental health awareness website, pothole reporter app to a recycling awareness app.

It was very inspiring to see the ideas they came up and watch them turn these ideas into reality. All that was left was the pitches – and facing the ‘Dragons’!

Dragons’ Den – no pressure!

For Dragon’s Den we had a diverse panel of judges from different industries. We had;

  • Søren Andreasen, Chief Digital Officer at Danske Bank
  • Chris Sherrard, Belfast Live editor
  • Cormac Quinn, Young entrepreneur, founder & CEO of Loyable

With our finalists and Dragons ready, we watched proudly as 10 young people aged 14-18 got up and pitched their ideas. It was amazing to see the progress our CodeCampers had made, not only in their technical skills, but their presentation skills, and confidence levels.

Two of the winners included an app which allows users to scan a food item’s barcode and it will tell them if it’s safe to eat or not based on their allergies; and “Surf Scope” – created by a finalist from the previous year. This website gave users advanced on which surf board to use, tutorial, tidal information to get the best waves and a chat room for local surfers to organise meet ups discuss surfing with like-minded people.

Opportunities for everyone

Kainos CodeCamp provides opportunities to more than just the 200 students who attend

200 teenagers aged between 14-18 receive the opportunity to learn new skills from Kainos staff and Kainos trained volunteers, to get a head start on their careers at a young age, to meet friends with similar interests.

But for us, the Kainos team, we had two weeks to prove ourselves, to make CodeCamp into our vision of what it should be. We are given a team of people to manage, a budget, we get experience in managing relationships with external companies, suppliers, building managers, caterers. It’s project management experience that will help us in whatever path our careers take in the future!

Register your interest for next year’s CodeCamp here.