Nick Charlton

Young Rewired State 2012

Last week, I had the privilege of helping mentor seven young people as part of Young Rewired State in Plymouth, and then at the weekend up in Birmingham for the Festival of Code. It was absolutely fantastic.

It was hosted under the wing of i-DAT, the Plymouth University Institute for Art and Technology who provided rooms and other resources. We started out in the Dome (officially the Immersive Vision Theatre), with an introduction by iDAT’s Director, Mike Phillips. After talking through what iDAT did, Chris introduced what the week would be about and then we moved on to what would be are base for the rest of the week, one of the labs in Babbage.

For mentors, we had a pretty nice mix. Paul had come along with his brother, Gordon (who’s now somewhat internet-famous for his lower level work with the Raspberry Pi), and also the drop ins of two lecturers, Shirley Atkinson, one of Paul and I’s and then Chris Saunders from iDAT. And of course, Chris and myself.

We opened with a short brainstorm of resources we could work with. The goal of Rewired State is to do smart things with data and this was no different. I also made a suggestion of talking about some of the projects that we (the mentors) had worked on to try and give some potential inspiration for what could be done.

For the rest of the day, they split up into teams and started to formulate project ideas. By the end of day one, we had four distinct projects on the go.

Over the next few days, projects gradually developed; going from mere figments of imagination on day one, to most of a working product by the Thursday.

Our projects were:

ODPlayground in Action.

And on the Friday, we headed up to Birmingham for the Festival of Code.

The Festival of Code was hosted at Birmingham’s Custard Factory, a rather neat place[^1] which dubs itself as a “revolutionary new arts and media quarter”. It’s filled with small units, as well as a nightclub, bar, cafĂ© and other larger areas that were needed to host the Festival of Code. We arrived, registered and positioned ourselves in one of the lower room, as the teams worked on finishing off their projects ready to demonstrate the next day.

Whilst that was underway, Chris and I grabbed some lunch. We also met up with Neil Ford, Adam McGreggor and, briefly, Andy Piper, who are always nice to see. After this, we explored the venue, scoping out where everything would be.

After what must have been the biggest delivery of pizza I’d ever seen, then a set of talks by various different people, a dodgy night’s sleep on the Old Theatre’s floor was had. Saturday was judging day. As a group, we filed into Theatre 2 and then sat and watched a fantastic set of demos of projects in our category. This went on for the rest of the day (there were many projects), up until the main event in the evening.

The main event was huge. It bought everyone together to see the projects who had made it in to the final stages. One of our projects, TwitTone also made it into the final![^2] Then was the judging, followed by prize giving.

Seeing some of the many projects that had made it into the final was incredible. Even after going to hack days myself, I will be continually amazed by what people can do in a short period of time (very well polished stuff, too) on something that catches their eye. It’s even better when it’s young people.

Emma, the rest of the people from Rewired State and the many, many volunteers did a fantastic job, making it a very good week for everyone involved.

Want to read more? There’s a set of photos I took on Flickr and the YRS iDAT 2012 site. Some of the code made it’s way to GitHub.

[^1]: It was once a Birds custard factory. On the train back, I sat next to someone who had worked there. Amazing. [^2]: We did have quite a few technical problems in demonstrating, which was a pain. But, they did eventually get to demonstrate it at the end, after installing Chrome over a dodgy 3G connection, and trying it on many different laptops. But, it worked in the end.