‘Code Skool’ with Plymouth University School of Computing

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Today 15 year 8 students from Sir John Hunt School¬†came to join us at Plymouth University for ‘Code Skool’; an intense day of digital product development with undergraduates from the school of computing. Working in the purpose built games development lab with students on the BSc computing and games development, they had just 6 hours to create a product to solve a problem in one of three key theme; esafety, password encryption and online bullying.

The day began with students being introduced to the scrum workflow used by our own ‘Interactive systems studios‘, which would form the structure of the day. Teams were formed, and individuals given roles they would focus on, all with the aid of coloured post it’s and stickers.

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This was followed by presentations from designers from ISS, and undergraduate computing students on some of the technologies they would be using. Despite the importance of understanding terms such as CSS, HTML and Javascript, the core message from these experts was that ideas come first.

Therefore, for the next stage the room full of Macs lay dormant as the students began ‘paper prototyping’; a method from the games industry for developing ideas for products. Almost an hour was spent sketching out ideas, but the value of this became clear after the break as students got their hands on the technology and quickly began shaping up their ideas.

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Team members split up to create graphical assets for their projects, begin coding interactive elements using ‘Stencyl Works‘, and create the website which would house the project in Dreamweaver. Games design students, ISS staff and lecturers were on hand to coach the teams into realising the technical side of their ideas, but it was clear that it was the students leading the process, and merely calling on these experts when confronted with something beyond their experience.

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Having learnt some key concepts in CSS and Javascript from students before lunch, after lunch things moved on to the intense development phase, with students working closely in teams to realise the ideas they had planned. As all had chosen specific roles, team work was paramount and rather than that meaning working together all the time, students were darting between their teammates and their own computers, all contributing key elements to the project. As the products began coming together it was clear that they were the result of real collaboration, with everyone adding their piece to the overall design.

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The day culminated in each team giving a one minute pitch of their product, with the students voting for the best product to win the ‘Code Skool’ cup. All of the teams were commended for different aspects of their projects, with some producing the most complete finished project, some tying their ideas most closely to the theme, and others showing the highest degree of technical skill.

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The winners were the yellow team, who produced a website including interactive elements with questions testing their users on their skills for creating secure passwords. They were singled out by the judges for their excellent teamwork and workflows, and won the popular vote to receive the ‘Code Skool cup’.

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As events like ‘Game Jam’ and ‘Startup Weekend’ show, intense¬†project based work is often close to the heart of developing digital products. Whilst these year 8 students learnt a thing or two about coding, they also got a taste of the atmosphere of working in the fast moving world of games development studios like I.S.S., developing a product for a purpose. Having got this taster, hopefully for some of them this will be the start of a journey into the creative side of computing and coding.

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1 thought on “‘Code Skool’ with Plymouth University School of Computing”

  1. Pingback: Webmaking with Mozilla #mozparty | Oliver Quinlan

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