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Coding Ed Takes Root in Tauranga

Simon Eskow, TechBlog Editor. 26 January 2015, 1:31 pm
Coding Ed Takes Root in Tauranga

An international campaign to encourage people to learn code left a permanent mark in Tauranga.

More than 70 people attended the December 8 Hour of Code, which apparently left participants wanting more.

"Many parents asked us: What's next?" says Pascale Hyboud-Peron, one of the three organisers in Tauranga. "Codebrite is the first response."

Codebrite is a summer holiday activity that complements the arts and physical activity offerings the Tauranga City Council provides for local young people. Housed in the city's Venture Centre, Codebrite provides two-hour hands-on workshops to explore coding, built on the same resources implemented by code.org, the organisation behind the hour of code.

For a programme that launched in under two weeks, Codebrite has hit the ground running. More than 100 children, most between the ages of eight and 12, and about 33 percent of them girls, attended the first Codebrite installment.

Codebrite matched participants with volunteers including a software developer, librarians and a teacher, who were trained to facilitate the programme using Code Avengers as a resource. 

"It was a great way to introduce children, and, by extension, their parents, to the world of coding," says Agnes Peyron, a local teacher and one of the Codebrite volunteer facilitators. "The self-paced tutorials are fun, fast-paced and designed to challenge the children's logical thinking and problem solving skills. What is so interesting and empowering about coding is that it gives them an understanding that spending time on a tablet or laptop doesn't have to be a passive experience."

The programme received support from the IITP, but was very much a local initiative, with help from Project Tauranga (a city-private partnership) and Tauranga's Venture Centre. The Venture Centre is a combination work-share space and community centre, which describes its goal as connecting "people, places, tools, resources, knowledge and support needed for sustainable success."

Hyboud-Peron, a Venture Centre co-founder, took the lead in developing Codebrite with fellow IITP members Mike Lee and Steven Vincent.

"We had a few tremors, since we started promoting Codebrite two days before Christmas," says Hyboud-Peron. Ticket sales started slow, she says, with Codebrite admission costing $20 plus a registration fee. Sales picked up later in January through word of mouth and some local media promotion. The experience has made Hyboud-Peron optimistic about offering Codebrite again.

"Venture Centre would like to develop Codebrite 'byte-size' workshops in collaboration with other stakeholders to provide a more in-depth experience than the hour of code," she says.

The Venture Centre has more immediate plans to coordinate and facilitate the start of a Code Club Aotearoa in Tauranga with support for Code Club on the Codebrite website.

"Codebrite has validated the interest in learn-to-code activities in the city and we believe code club can support the development of this interest for school aged kids with its structure and curriculum," says Hyboud Peron. "Also we have received a lot of interest from adults who want an introduction and find ways to get started with coding."


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