June 18, 2021

Twingenuity: brothers and 200 Waterford schoolkids crack the Code-A-Thon

Up to 200 local school children got a glimpse into tomorrow’s world when they attended a special ‘Codeathon’ event organised by Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) recently.

Thirteen WIT computing lecturers held the one-day event at the Gaelscoil Phort Láirge primary school.

All of the 200 students were involved and learned coding skills through Bee Bots, Sphero Block Coding and Scratch. The initiative was spearheaded by Dr Siobhán Drohan, Dr Brenda Mullally and Rob O’Connor.

Gaelscoil vice principal Kate Warren said: “We were very excited to host WIT’s first ever Code-A-Thon. Siobhán and I had been discussing such a project for over a year and were delighted to see our plan finally come to fruition. The children were really looking forward to it as they love coding activities of any sort.”

The Codeathon consisted of a suite of lesson plans designed for four to 12-year-olds. The Junior and Senior infants programmed a sequence of instructions to move their Bee Bot robots around a map and to arrive at a chosen location.

They even drew some of the maps themselves. Senior Infant teacher Fionnuala Knox said she was “amazed at how competent” such young children proved to be as coders.

The 1st and 2nd class children used iPads to code their Sphero Mini robots to knock down skittles and dominos. To drive the robot in a particular direction, they had to figure out the angle, the length of time and the speed. The 3rd and 4th class children also used iPads to program their Sphero Minis, but this time they had to navigate the robot around a maze consisting of a series of different angles and paths of varying lengths.

The 5th and 6th class students built a game using Scratch block coding. They connected their game to a Makey Makey invention kit and built a game controller constructed with PlayDoh.

Sixth class teacher Ciara O’Connor said: “To see children of all abilities working together in teams to create circuits was wonderful. A great mix of art, imagination and technology!”

Principal Deirdre Cullinane added: “The Codeathon was a great success. The pupils were very enthusiastic and interested in the activities organised by the lecturers from WIT. We hope this will become an annual event in the school. Bhí gach rud go hiontach. I would recommend other schools try a Codeathon! It was fantastic fun and provided a huge learning opportunity for all our children. Míle buíochas libh WIT!”

PHOTO CAPTION: Twins Cian and Cormac from the Junior infant class of Gaelscoil Phort Láirge working in a team effort to program their Sphero during their all-school codeathon

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