Young Rewired State Festival of Code 2015: Encouraging Kids to Code

Written by Alex Embling

Aug 11 2015
StrategicFestivalOfCodeFinalists-1Image: Paul Clarke

The Young Rewired State Festival of Code is a not-for-profit event run by Young Rewired State, and the largest annual hack event in the world. Helping kids ages 7-18 learn to code and prototype digital solutions, this was Strategic’s first year mentoring at Horsham's first YRS FOC centre. 

2015's brief was to build something digital using open data (a website, game, app etc), within the week.

What is the Festival of Code?

Founded by Emma Mulqueeny (voted one of the top ten women in technology by The Guardian), Young Rewired State is an impressive force in encouraging kids into coding and the tech industry.

Now in its 7th year, the Festival of Code has gone global - with over 1200 kids involved, coding from 66 centers; nationwide across the UK, and as far reaching as New York City and Kosovo. That’s an impressive crowd of budding developers!

Girls in Technology: The Facts

See our Festival of Code infographic: Teaching Kids To Code Is Key To Tech's Future.

There is a growing awareness of the need to get girls and women involved in STEM subjects (Science Tech, Engineering, Maths) - a presence clearly felt throughout the Festival of Code.

As an Inbound Marketing and open source web design agency, this message - the need to get more kids, especially girls involved in tech is very important to us. Talented children create future digital talent assets, something we’re well aware of through our success hiring via internships. And in a month where #ILookLikeAnEngineer is trending, this message takes on even more value.

Did you know for example, that:

  • At Google, women make up 30% of the company's overall workforce, but hold only 17 percent of the company’s tech jobs.

  • At Facebook this is 15%, and at Twitter it’s just 10% in technical roles

  • The uptake of women in tech seems to be decreasing; In the mid-1980s, 37% of computer science majors were women; in 2012, 18%. As there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs available in the US by 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s something we need to change - starting with younger kids.

So why are so few girls excited about tech?

Emma Mulqueeny’s ‘8 is too late’ blog highlights that girls may be put off; largely resulting from a lack of school-taught digital literacy, plus that good old-fashioned fear of being ‘nerdy’ or uncool. But the Festival of Code goes far in reversing that - this year 32% of participants were girls!

And as our all-girl, ‘should exist’ category finalist team of 7-8 year olds proved (inventors of the ‘Intelligent Elephant Alarm Clock’), the world of tech for girls can be just rewarding and relevant as for boys.

Image: Paul ClarkeIntelligentElephantAlarmStrategicTeam

How the Festival of Code went for us

2015 was Strategic’s first time participating in YRS (special thanks to our mentors Craig and Jeremy!), and Horsham’s first time as an FOC center location.

For 6 days from July 27th to the finale on the 2nd of August, Albany house (home to Strategic and Horsham FOC hosts Red River Software) was taken over by 11 kids.

Out of the 202 total projects built over the week, 5 were built by our Horsham teams:

Intelligent Elephant Alarm Clock

Built by Maddie Embling (8), Emily Kent (7) and Charlotte Dargue (7), the Intelligent Elephant Alarm clock uses a range of open data sources (from weather to temperature, to knowing if the concert tickets you want are being released) and wakes you up at the right time to suit. Special thanks to the Horsham Rotary Club who donated the Elephantastic Elephant - which will be auctioned off in association with the Born Free Foundation.
Noted as ‘ones to watch’ by TechCrunch’s Mike Butcher, this project made it through to the finals in the ‘Should Be Made’ category. You can watch the presentation here (all views contribute to a score in the People’s Choice category, TBA 13/8/15)

Chicken Walker

Built by Tom Kent and Joe Murtagh, this web app is designed to keep users fit but still allow them to eat fast food! Using the Google Maps API as well as data of all the KFCs in the UK, it lets users choose menu items, then uses postcode data to say how many times they would have to walk between home and their local KFC to burn off the calories.


Created by Jamie Jarrett, CrimeSpot is a web-app designed to allow people to search for crimes in their area. Each crime is represented with separate markers, and users can send themselves a text message for the details of the crime (using the Clockwork API). The crime data comes from and the app uses HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Jquery, and PHP.

EEA Explore Endangered Animals

Given a special mention in the contest, this app was built by Ben Embling, Alex Kent and Greg Dargue, and uses the Google Maps API to not only help users see what endangered animals there are around the world, but give them the opportunity to adopt them.


Created by Aidan Dargue and Jonathan Tyler-Moore, TUTA is a unique travel app, which aims to revolutionize the travel experience by adding features that have never been combined before such as overlayed parking, points of interest, local social media posts and news - in addition to maps and general travel information such as traffic webcams.

With the teams using languages like Java, python, php, html, scratch, jquery, mySQL nodejs, bootstrap and more, YRS provides a full immersion into a week in the life of a developer. We saw some very impressive skills, and even had local MP Jeremy Quinn come in to see the good work and understand why coding is so important!


The Finale

After 5 days of hard work, teams nationwide headed to the finale at Birmingham’s ICC to present their creations to Industry experts from Rewired State, Google, BBC News, Raspberry Pi Foundation, TechCrunch and more, plus Emcee Dallas Campbell. With the Finale Judges all YRS alumni this year, the Festival of Code is starting to prove its power in keeping young people in tech!

There were five competition categories in the finale:

“Should Exist”: Winner - Pedal Plan:

An app designed to provide the safest possible route for bike journeys.

“Best Code”Winner - Festable:

An app to simplify upcoming festivals; telling users upcoming events and lineups based on preferences. Preferences data also is also used to match people with other users of the same interests.

“Best Design”Winner - ArduDuck:

A lightweight USB keyboard emulator, designed as a personal accessibility device.

“Best In Show”Winner - PUMPS:

Designed to help drivers, this is an app that works to display or hide petrol pump locations depending on what fuel the user’s car uses.

“Code a Better Country”Winner - Buoy:

Buoy is an autonomous Raspberry Pi powered boat that records and posts data including temperature, humidity, and UV readings, risk and more, with live PiCam feed from the boat sending data to a web and mobile app.

Festival media coverage

Covered by the BBC (Breakfast, lunchtime, News at 6, Newsnight) and the finale by ITV News, awareness of the festival, the incredible work these kids are doing, and the value in encouraging kids to get involved in tech is growing year on year!

The Festival of Code will return in 2016. To mentor, or get your kids involved, you can sign up here.

The People’s Choice Award category winners will be announced on 13/8/15. You can watch the nominee presentations here.

Special thanks to the Horsham centre team:

RedRiver Software
Hack Horsham

The Elephantastic Horsham Rotary Club

Creative Assembly

The parents and mentors

Young Rewired State

and of course the kids themselves!

young-rewired-stateImage: Paul Clarke


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