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European award for Kinsale Bill's CoderDojo coding clubs

June 18th, 2016 7:25 AM

By Siobhan Cronin

Sean Kelly MEP with CoderDojo co-founder Bill Liao and CoderDojo global CEO, Mary Dunphy Moloney.

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KINSALE resident Bill Liao’s Coderdojo organisation has won the prestigious European Citizen’s Prize, following a nomination by Ireland South MEP Seán Kelly. 

The non-profit network of free coding clubs for young people, which originated in Cork, is the only Irish-based organisation to win the award this year.

MEP Kelly congratulated the organisation, saying the clubs had inspired thousands of children and given them the confidence to pursue a career in technology and entrepreneurship. ‘It is a wonderful success story – a truly deserved accolade,’ he said in Brussels last week.

‘In 2013, I hosted the first ever EU Dojo event in the European Parliament,’ he added. ‘At the time, CoderDojo was little over one year old and was active in 10 member states. Now, there are over 500 clubs in 60 countries, 350 of those clubs are Europe-based.’ 

That’s remarkable growth, he said, praising the volunteer-led CoderDojo initiative which was co-founded by Corkman James Whelton and Bill Liao from Kinsale.

A quarter of Irish people have above average digital skills, slightly lower than the EU average (28%). However, just 44% of the Irish population have basic digital skills – below the EU average of 55%.

‘It’s estimated that there could be up to 825,000 EU-wide ICT vacancies by 2020, because the workforce lacks specialised technology skills,’ said the MEP, adding: ‘We urgently need to increase the opportunities for young people to study and work in ICT, through the mainstreaming of coding and related ICT skills from early school days and via non-formal education such as CoderDojo.’

Mr Kelly also launched the ‘EU CoderDojo Ambassadors’ involving MEPs from across Europe acting as ambassadors helping to roll out more clubs across Europe.

The awards ceremony will be held in the European Parliament in Brussels in October, while an event will also be organised in Ireland. 

Meanwhile, Cork’s brightest young coders will reveal their latest creations when they appear at Ireland’s biggest technology event, the CoderDojo Coolest Projects Awards next week.

About 30 young coders from local CoderDojo clubs including Kinsale, Clonakilty and Skibbereen will take part in this year’s event at the RDS, Dublin on June 18th, from 9.30am-6pm.

Their projects include a remote controlled hovercraft that can stream video, a computer game that encourages recycling and a website to promote horse welfare.

Over 10,000 people are expected at the RDS for the free event when the local youngsters join more than 800 young innovators from across Ireland and Europe to take part in the fifth annual awards.

Ireland’s largest technology event this year will feature gadgets, robots, blogs, games and sites designed by our coolest young coders – the kids who can write an app as easy as they can read a book.

This year also sees the introduction of Launch’d – the essential platform for the Coolest Projects kids, tech professionals and anyone considering a career in coding.

Hosted in parallel with the Coolest Projects awards, Launch’d is a unique one-day event aimed at inspiring and supporting the next generation of technology entrepreneurs and professionals.

Launch’d features 100 of Ireland’s top tech start-up companies, as well as 50 speakers over four stages.

A host of start-up founders and international thought leaders and top game developers will provide amazing tech skills and insights to Coolest Projects participants and the start-ups involved, as well as the wider tech community.

Coolest Projects has seen young people deliver projects across the latest technologies from Cloud, to Internet of Things (IoT) to Virtual Reality. 

There are Coolest Projects Awards across a range of age groups in the disciplines of websites, apps, animation and games, scratch, advanced languages, enterprise and hardware. ‘Coolest Projects provides the bridge from learning coding skills at local CoderDojos to innovating and creating future employment. We are the piece in the middle which makes the connection,’ said Coolest Projects co-founder Noel King. 

‘These digital skills are vital if Europe is to address the coding skills shortage which has led to 500,000 open job postings across the region in 2015.’

Coolest Projects is supported by Intel, Microsoft, Symantec, Bank of Ireland, Folens, Openet, Virgin Media and RTE.

Some tickets are still available, for free, at coolestprojects.org and launchd.io.

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