Member Sign In

Au’Guest’ Blog post – Young Rewired State 2012

Written by Emma O'Sullivan, as part of the Wired Sussex guest blog month

Emma O'Sullivan

I spent last week running the Brighton outpost of Young Rewired State - a nationwide hackweek for young people, where under-19-year-olds have four days to put together a digital product that utilises open data with a focus on creating applications that will change the country for the better.

My co-organiser and partner in crime was Edd Parris of NixonMcInnes, and Cogapp and NixonMcInnes kindly sponsored the event. We were based at the Lighthouse for our four days of coding, and they were incredibly supportive and sympathetic about having a large group of young people taking over their basement for the best part of a week.

We had 17 participants – ranging in age from 11 to 17 – who worked in teams to create four mightily impressive products. Many of our participants were designers, animators, or fledgling programmers who started the week worried about their level of technical experience and daunted by the prospect of having to create their own applications. Its testament to the incredible generosity and community spirit of these young people that regardless of age, gender and experience everyone was soon working in teams, teaching each other and supporting each other throughout the project. As our mentor Donna – an ICT teacher – tweeted on the first day:

“Just watching 13yr old deliver HTML learning to peer faster than I've delivered it to classes ever!”

During the week, we had a fantastic group of mentors who donated their time to working directly with the kids, coaching them in skills ranging from teamworking and presenting to wire-framing, prioritising and programming. These were: Adam Pooler, Adam Yeats, Alick Mighall, Caroline Morris, Dan Wallman, Donna Comerford, Greg Hadfield, Ian Gilfeather, Jack Lang, Jesse Speak, Jessica Bowden, John Willshire, Max St John, Mike Parris, Prem Rose, Richard Freeman, Rob Sheridan, Ross Breadmore, Seb Lee-Delisle, Stephen Fulljames, Tim Falls and Tobias Quinn. Many thanks to all of you for your incredible patience and enthusiasm!

After the four days of intensive development, on Friday we jumped on a coach to Birmingham for the Festival of Code. This was a chance for all 38 Young Rewired State centres nationwide and their 400+ participants to get together, geek out, and present what they'd been working on all week to an audience of their peers, the press, and a panel of judges.

The judging panel was made up of 5 distinguished programmers, designers and entrepreneurs: Lily Cole (supermodel, actress and ethical campaigner); Conrad Wolfram (technologist and creator of WolframAlpha); Aral Balkan (Brightonian UX designer and developer); Jonathan Luff (advisor at No 10); and Thomas Grassl (Senior Director at SAP). We were extremely chuffed that they awarded a special prize to a project created by one of the Brighton teams - “Way To Go”, an accessibility app that crowd-sources and displays accessibility information about points of interest for wheelchair users.

Young Rewired State creates opportunities for young people that would not have existed before: it inspires confidence in their own abilities, in the eagerness of their peers to support them, and in the ability of adults to take them seriously and accept them into their communities. It provides an incubator for developing talent and empowering young folk, both in a technological sense but also in wider personal and social skills that will prove invaluable as they grow older. I can't wait to be involved again next year.

About the author