How to Hack a Christmas Tree

Have you ever hacked a Christmas Tree? Well we at CoderDojo did just that! CoderDojo members from the age of 8 transformed two bare 4 foot artificial Christmas Trees into programmable devices which people could from all over the world could interact with and control.

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2014 has been the year of Robotics in CoderDojo DCU and we wanted to end the year with a wow! Earlier this year we joined forces with Intel to run a pilot in providing Galileo boards to 6 dojos across Ireland. Using the Intel Galileo has proved a big hit and has so far excited and engaged the members. The Christmas Tree Hack was born.

So how did this crazy idea come about? In late November I was talking with our hardware and robot guru Alan Donnelly about how we could wrap 2014 with a Christmas party that would excite, engage, educate and wow the members in a way we have never done before.

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The Intel Galileo boards have enabled us bring the content at CoderDojo DCU to a new level by mixing both hardware and software. Making real objects move through hardware and code has really excited and engaged the members.

On December 13th, 80 members of created the coolest and most technical Christmas tree in Ireland. To do this we ordered programmable lights, 250 LED’s and Baubles (sorry the baubles got lost and arrived to late), the members used Intel’s Galileo board to control and programmable decorations they created. The ordinary had become extraordinary!

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On the day, members started cutting wire, adding LED’s to their decorations, wiring them up to and hooking them into the Galileo boards. Once this was done they were then programmed these using Node.js. To program the Galileo boards the members used an excellent online editor called wyliodrin. Wyliodrin made programming the Galileo Boards less complex and was the ideal platform to use.

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For anyone interesting in doing this at home. We wrote two programs. The first one (https://github.com/CoderDojoDCU/hackthechristmastree/blob/master/light-sequence.js) programmed a light sequence to activate. The second piece of code (https://github.com/CoderDojoDCU/ hackthechristmastree/blob/master/light-twitter.js) interacted with twitter and searched for a specific trend #ChristmasTreeHack. If tweets were found with this hashtag it would control the full Christmas tree in a sequence. By the end of session the Christmas tree was reading tweets and triggering sequences from it. This was Ireland’s first ever fully programmable and social Christmas tree, and it was great that it was powered by the Irish designed Galileo Board.

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What made the day special, was each member contributed. The members may have had a background in Scratch to Robotics to Gaming. But on the day, they were all one. Boys and girls were learning how to create electric circuits, I/O wiring and hooking them up to Galileo Boards. It was a day of creativity and fun that will live in our memories for years to come. It was so inspiring seeing the enthusiasm of the members and then witness them collaborate and create.

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I have been involved in CoderDojo for 3.5 years. For me personally, it was so special to see the parents and members work together to create this unique Christmas Tree. I am always amazed and inspired at how the members challenge us to always to think outside of the box to engage them. This is what makes CoderDojo DCU special.

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I would like to thank Alan Donnelly for his hard work and contribution. Without his vision, this day could not have happened.

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I want to give a huge shout out to our supporters that made this day possible.

First, Dublin City University has been our home for the last 2.5 years. They have supported countless ideas we’ve had and helped us explore new avenues. In the early days of CoderDojo, DCU stood up to support the movement and provided an amazing learning space which has enabled us to educate over 100 students each week the art of coding, creativity and technology.

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Like Dublin City University, Intel has supported CoderDojo from very early on and our latest joint effort in the Galileo Pilot offers such potential to our young audience. Coding is an important skill, but to be able to mix it with electronics hardware like the Intel Galileo significantly increases the potential for learning and creativity of every CoderDojo member. That members from the age of 8 are able to interact and program these boards is truly inspiring. With the level of ideas and engagement with these boards I cannot wait to see what amazing projects members create with the Galileo boards during 2015.

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I also want to thank wyliodrin for providing us with a pro account for their awesome platform for programming Galileo boards, it makes programming the boards very accessible for both the members and the mentor team.

The Christmas Party wrapped up an excellent 2014 and I cannot wait to see what is created and achieved at CoderDojo DCU in 2015. Merry Christmas to you all.

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CoderDojo partners with Intel to create cool on the Galileo Boards

On the 3rd of October last year Intel announced their new Irish designed product called Galileo. This product teamed up with Arduino to create the first Intel-Based Arduino-Compatible Development Board. On release of this board twitter went nuts with developers out there looking to get their hands on this new maker device. At CoderDojo there was also great excitement and curiosity about the potential of this board, while we also wondered could we get our hands on the Galileo Boards.

So why such curiosity in CoderDojo? All of us involved in the movement have looked to push the education and creative boundaries through exciting and engaging CoderDojo sessions. To date dojos have pushed the hardware software boundaries integrating Arduinos and Raspberry Pi’s into their dojo session. Galileo now offered a new creative opportunity mixing both Arduino functionality and general purpose input/out (GPIO) through Linux, thus providing members with the opportunity to program these devices using Processing, Python, Node.js, Ruby and even shell scripting.

Intel Galileo Board
Intel Galileo Board

Intel has worked closely with CoderDojo since the early days and we were delighted when they invited us to discuss a CoderDojo Pilot to create cool on the Galileo boards. We went to the meeting with such excitement and anticipation to not only see the Galileo boards but also see an opportunity for CoderDojo members to play, hack and create with these boards. We agreed to run a pilot with 5 dojos from all over Ireland.

  • Roscommon
  • Bray
  • Carrickmacross
  • Clonalkity
  • DCU

These dojos were picked due to geographic distribution and their initial interest in using the Galileo boards. Each of these dojos will receive 5 Galileo boards and starter kits in the coming weeks. Members will present the outcome of this pilot at this year’s Coolest Projects Awards (http://coolestprojects.org). We can’t wait to see what they create.

Already there have been some exciting projects suggested including a HTML5 Fitness game powered by the Galileo, a Galileo controlled car and even a new Galileo course being created by CoderDojo DCU to teach Galileo development. Don’t worry CoderDojo DCU will opensource the course on github.com.

We have created a community in CoderDojo around the Galileo boards and if you are interested in keeping up to date or helping out

  • Join Intel Galileo community http://maker.intel.com
  • CoderDojo Galileo Group https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/coderdojo-galileo

We have also setup an email address [email protected] for any questions on the Galileo program or feedback.

We look forward to seeing the creative and cool output from this pilot at the Coolest Projects Awards, so hope to see you there.

DCU member’s coolest project rocks UK education

A collaboration by Intel, eSkills and CoderDojo has resulted in a UK GCSE course which teaches algorithms. This course is a little different and hopefully a little cooler as CoderDojo DCU member Catrina Carrigan inspired it.

Catrina joined CoderDojo DCU shortly after it was founded in July 2012 and after only a few months of programming HTML, CSS and little JavaScript, Catrina developed this really fun project for the CoderDojo Coolest Projects Awards (www.coolestprojects.org) that effectively enabled you to create your own rock group from the comfort of the internet. The idea was a music instrument website teaching you how to play a piano, guitar and drums. This website just rocked and it was a lot of fun for everyone around as Catrina developed her website getting the notes to play and the drums to beat. After the Coolest Projects Awards I reflected on the contribution, learning opportunities and excitement of this project and felt other members would benefit from this so I asked Catrina could we create a game Piano Rock Star based on her project.

Catrina at the web summit launch last year
Catrina at the web summit launch last year

Fast forward to January 2013 when we were invited to brain storing session with Intel UK on content for a short ICT course for UK education. Immediately I thought of Piano Rock Star of how the game would relate to all students while also providing key programming principles including algorithms, objects, loops, function and variables. Intel (www.intel.co.uk) and eSkills(http://e-skills.com) loved the idea and we working on developing this short course since.

More details can be found here
http://www.e-skills.com/news-and-events/january-2014/new-coding-topic-for-gcse-students-developed-by-intel-and-coderdojo-through-e-skills-uk/

Phase 1 of the course is available
http://www.behindthescreen.org.uk/projects/code-with-intel-and-coderdojo/

At CoderDojo, we always like to spread across learning boundaries and when you create a project that you can personalise to people’s interests – in this case learning how to program a fun game that also teaches you how to play your favourite song on an instrument. This can really engage people in tech at a creative and exciting level, and they want to learn more. This is what Catrina achieved and why we are so proud of her project and the inspiration she has generated from it.

We want to thank Intel and e-Skills for all their great work over the last year defining and creating this exciting and cool course.

Coolest Projects 2014 – Be creative and you will amaze

We are delighted to announce the CoderDojo Coolest Projects Awards is coming back for 2014 and will run next June.

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This event is all about the members and we created it to encourage the innovators of the future who attend CoderDojo. The key ethos for the event is for the members to take what is being learned in CoderDojo to a new creative level, a level that we could not have imagined.  With this we challenge you to participate in Coolest Projects Awards 2014.  This a really cool opportunity to come up with an idea you are passionate about, develop it, then come to Coolest Projects awards and wow other members.

With over 60 projects and nearly 500 hundred attendees 2013 was awesome.   This year members, mentors and parents were inspired and amazed by the projects, so keep being creative. There some really exciting projects presented from a cooking game in scratch, to a website teaching you CoderDojo, to a website about famous people, to an app that thought Irish, to a games engine.   We can’t wait to see what you come up next year.

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Keep an eye out on Coolest Projects website http://coolestprojects.org and @coolestprojects for updates.

 

Code EU Week CoderDojo Rally Cry

This is CoderDojo Rally Cry for Code EU week from the 25th to the 30th of November.  We are looking for CoderDojo members everywhere to get involved, code and teach others to code.    As part of our participation in Code EU we felt that CoderDojo could do more than participate as we code every week.  So this challenge is to every CoderDojo member out there to help us build our new website for Code EU http://www.learntocode.eu.

This website is the brain child of CoderDojo DCU member Niamh.  Niamh’s project was to create a website which taught others, including CoderDojo members, how to code. This was a great social orientated project entered in this years CoderDojo Coolest Projects Awards that wowed and impressed so many of the attendees. Great idea Niamh and what a project to share with all CoderDojo members.

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Niamh at CoderDojo Coolest Projects Awards

So this is CoderDojo’s challenge to you, register at www.learntocode.eu and during Code EU week login and using HTML & CSS code or just write free text to share with others what cool code and techniques you have learned.  Every member who registers will get a section on the webpage to  make their own.  So we are really looking forward to the creative learning output you create.  The website allows members register / login and

  • Add HTML code where they can teach others what they have learned at CoderDojo
  • Members can write about any language to teach others
  • Add CSS to style their HTML and make it look cool
  • Once saved, their lessons would be appear on the webpage
  • These lessons will help others to start coding, CoderDojo style

We are hoping hundreds of CoderDojo members from all over will get involved and teach others how to code.  It would be really cool If this website created by you teaches a range of languages from Scratch to HTML to Java.  It’s all about sharing your knowledge and passion.  We also welcome foreign languages too and I am not talking about C++.

A cool part of the CoderDojo ethos is to give back and share with others what you have learned at CoderDojo.   This is an unique opportunity to share your insight and knowledge with the global development community and inspire others to start coding.

Well done Niamh and thanks for your amazing contribution to teaching programming all over Europe. Can’t wait to see how CoderDojo members help extend your idea.  

We will pick 5 cool entries on the website and send you a CoderDojo T-Shirt and stickers.  So get coding and share.

CoderDojo DCU member coolest project goes European

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Learn to Code EU Week is a European initiative to encourage coding, running from the 25th to the 30th of November. More details can be found at http://codeweek.eu. CoderDojo is supporting this initiative.

This event was introduced to me by Prof Brian MacCraith of DCU, he was wondering how could we at CoderDojo DCU participate in this European wide coding event. Honestly this wracked my brain for the following couple of hours, I was excited by the concept. But how could we get kids from all over CoderDojo to code together? What would they program? So many different interests? Most dojos have not conceived the concept of code sharing.

I then remembered a Coolest Projects Awards (www.coolestprojects.org) entry this year from Niamh. Niamh’s project was to create a website which taught others, including CoderDojo members, how to code. This was a great social orientated project that really aligned with the CoderDojo ethos to share the knowledge you gain. What a great idea from one our youngest members, but that was what Coolest Projects is all about. I just had a feeling then that this project was going to go beyond coolest projects and impact a greater audience than those who attended. So seeing Niamh’s project idea extended to take part in a European coding initiative is something at CoderDojo DCU we are very proud of.

Thanks to Niamh we had the project concept sorted and it was now time for us to extend this and allow members from all over Europe contribute what they are learning at CoderDojo. Next challenge was to come up with a domain to launch this CoderDojo European initiative. After a night of restless sleep and hours of brain storming learntocode.eu was born. Domain bought, was time to launch the webpage.

The website would now allow members register / login and

  • Add HTML code where they can teach others what they have learned at CoderDojo
  • Members can write code to teach any language
  • Add CSS to style their HTML
  • Once saved, their lessons would be appear on the webpage
  • These lessons will help others to start coding, CoderDojo style

We are hoping hundreds of CoderDojo members from all over Europe will get involved and teach others how to code.

Well done Niamh and thanks for your amazing contribution to teaching programming all over Europe.

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So this is the rally call to all CoderDojo members out there for Code EU week, sign up at http://learntocode.eu and start sharing, we can’t wait to see what you achieve.