It took months of planning, but it finally happened on December 3, 2016, TechBirmingham presented the first ever Kid’s Code-A-Thon at Daxko. We decided that we wanted to create an opportunity for kids to get a first hand look at App Development, from the inception phase to a finished product in which they presented to the whole group. Even with meticulous planning, none of us truly knew what to expect as the 64 young innovators joined the 25 adult volunteers for a day that was beyond memorable.
Trent Kocurek and Adam Aldrich from Airship led the kids in a brainstorming session in which kids between the ages of 10-17 years old gave ideas that were beyond their years. 100 ideas were written down onto whiteboards, flipcharts and post-it notes, and from there the pair helped kids nail down 11 concepts for apps to be developed by the teams of kids. From there the pair taught how to do story mapping to help the kids understand having a plan of action and how to organize their ideas into a working application to be used by a consumer.
The kids spent almost three hours working on their applications using Code.org’s App Lab. Daxko provided lunch for all the kids and volunteers, and Golden Flake Snacks provided snacks to fuel their brains for the coding and developing their ideas into something usable. At the end of the day, we had several Stormtroopers from Vader’s Fist 501st Legion round up all the kid’s from the meeting rooms. After the chaos of all the kids and volunteers wanting photos with the Stormtroopers, the kids were treated to Frios Gourmet Pops while they took turns presenting their projects.
Among the winning ideas, one team developed a game that was a combination of Super Mario Bros. and Trivia, and took the user to all the Birmingham landmarks. A princess had been captured by Vulcan and in order to save her, the player had to follow a map and was stopped at each landmark to answer historical or factual questions about that landmark. The player had to go to Sloss Furnace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Railroad Park and more in order to save the princess. Though they didn’t have a completed product, they presented their imagination what this game would look like from start to finish, including a sample screen on their app, and drawings on a whiteboard mapping the player’s quest.
Several of the other apps also strived to help needs in the community. One was aimed at helping people barter services who could not afford to pay for them otherwise. So if a woodworker needed help with plumbing, they could offer their woodworking services in exchange for plumbing help and so on. Another group focused on how debilitating living with allergies can be and created an app to help them navigate the trail systems of Birmingham and avoid allergy triggers.
Behind each team was a set of adults who volunteered their time and skills to aid these young innovators. Some were students, but most work as professionals at BCBS, BBVA, Help Lighting, Plum Choice, UAB, Regions, Daxko among others. One volunteer, Chris Branson said that he wanted to help because “these kids are the future of technology. The sooner we can get them to think like future inventors and innovators the more we can shape how they process the information that they are given. This program showed them a purpose behind coding.”
At the end of the presentations, the judges awarded prizes to 6 teams, the top 3 that fulfilled all the requirements, and 3 notable teams that showed excellence in other ways. The top three teams were awarded StreamBeams provided by Logista.
Local sponsors contributed donations to ensure the event had the necessary resources and made it possible to offer the event at no cost to the children attending. Sponsors include Daxko, DST Health Solutions, Vaco Birmingham, Think Data Solutions, Logista, Frios, CalidusCloud, Fetch, Big Daddy D’s Tees, Matrix Resources, InfoMedia and Golden Flake Snack Foods. Photos and videos of the day can be seen on TechBirmingham’s Facebook page. Over 300 pictures were uploaded from the event.
A sign of a great event is when people are asking when the next one will be, and our team at TechAlabama and TechBirmingham are looking forward to doing this again in 2017! We have other big ideas that we want to launch, so follow us on Facebook @TechAlabama and @TechBirmingham to get up to the minute information about our events.
Post by Christina Smith, STEM Outreach Administrator at TechBirmingham
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