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Local authority street app among winners at Festival of Code



A prototype app which automatically reports street problems to the relevant local authority when the user takes a picture of them is among winners of this year's Festival of Code, a national event aimed at encouraging young people to make software.

The annual event is run by Young Rewired State, a non-profit body that aims to help young people learn coding and collaborate on projects.

More than 1,000 software coders aged 19 or under took part in festival events at 58 centres across the UK from 28-31 July ahead of a final weekend gathering at the creative open research lab i-DAT at Plymouth University. There, teams were asked to solve real-world problems using open data from a range of sources including; Met Office; OurAirports; Transport for London; UK crime and policing and World Bank.

A team from the Knowle West Media Centre in Bristol - Chris Chapman (17), Rhys Marsh (14) and Owen Marsh (13) - won the 'Code a Better Country' award for their app "CityRadar". The team used Google data and local council data to help people report street problems to their local authority, without having to know which council deals with which problem. Users can take a picture of the problem they want to report and write a description, after which the app automatically detects their location and reports the issue to the correct council.

Team member Chris Chapman said: "It's so difficult and confusing for anyone to report any problems to their councils - we come from Bristol and you have to fill out a five-page report for something like fly tipping. We wanted something which helped this process along and made it easier for people."

'Best Design' category was won by Seb Klavinskis-Whiting (15), Louise Slater (17), Luca Marchal (13) and Gerard Glowackil (12) for Tourify, an app and website using data from a range of sources including Yelp, Bing and Google Places to help people enjoy holidays in unknown places.

In the 'Should Exist' category, Miles Per Pound won for a solution that uses various data sources to calculate the cost of a specific car journey in a particular make and model of car, to allow cost comparisons with other forms of transport such as coach or rail travel. Users simply enter their car number-plate and journey details and the software combines calculations on everything from fuel consumption and insurance costs to tyre prices and car value depreciation.

The system was created by Loic Deraed (15), Edwin Hughes (13) and Ben Roberts (15), working at the Reading Microsoft Centre. The idea came from their own real situation in trying to work out the best way to travel down to the Festival of Code event, Deraed told "We were thinking about it at the beginning of the week - how to travel down to Plymouth?"

He and his team mates are all self-taught developers, learning at home, he said.

"I have always enjoyed being able to make something that is useful. I started aged about 7 trying things out, learning a computer language and messing around with it. It is quite unusual to do this, but I am not sure why - it is such a needed skill. I think the issue is people are not introduced to it young enough - thing you need to start quite young to get into it, like playing a musical instrument."

Learning programming skills at a young age is becoming less unusual now, thanks partly to the work of organisations such as Young Rewired State, and coding is set to become part of the mainstream schools curriculum, Deraed said. However in his own school career, this has never been a formal option up to now, so he had to set up his own programming club.

"At my school we don't really do much at school on programming, there are no GCSE or A level options - though I think it is changing from next year." The two boys are now set to approach a car insurance company for possible support for their project, and hope to turn Miles Per Pound into a business.

"Best in Show" award at the festival was won by YouDraw, a crowd-sourced video animation platform which allows anybody to submit a video for animating by the community, whose members are each given a random frame to draw. An interview with members of the YouDraw team will be published on next week.

Judges for the event included Bill Liao, founder of CoderDojo, a global volunteer-led movement of free coding clubs for young people; Kerensa Jennings, head of strategic delivery at the BBC; and Sathya Smith, head of partner solutions at Google. Sponsors and supporters included Google, American Express, SAP, Pearson, Computacenter, TalkTalk, Plymouth Council and The Met Office.

The projects will continue to be supported at their local centres by the YRS "Hyperlocal" programme, under which young people are helped by business experts on an online platform.

Pictured: Festival of Code judge Bill Liao of CoderDojo (centre) with two of the three young creators of Miles Per Pound: Ben Roberts, 15 (left) and Loic Deraed, 15.
Young Rewired State:
Festival of Code:
i-DAT at Plymouth University:

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