To ensure that the week got off to the best possible start we organised a get together on Friday at our building with everyone who could make it. It was largely a team building exercise focussing less on what we would do the following week and instead helping them get to know each other. Lots of ice-breakers, some group discussions and a quick overview of what was achieved in 2011 during YRS. During this session we saw the dynamic of the group begin to come together.
For the Monday, the first official day of YRS2012, we had a huge amount to get done and not a lot of time to do it in. Our group in full was Alex, Anthony, Louis, Jahnvi, Fiona, Emmanuel, Mubina and Saul. Plus we had two mentors, Laurie Ainley from Rightster and Radu Grigore a researcher at Queen Mary University.
Being a new centre there was a little uncertainty about how to proceed best, so it was invaluable that one of our young people had participated last year and one of our mentors was a hack weekend veteran. We spent the morning getting to know each other, not focussing on apps or coding or data, but instead discussing our interests, our skills and also what we all wanted to get out of the week. The word that kept coming up was ‘fun’, which was a promising place from which to start.
Once we’d settled we began brainstorming ideas, whittling them down before we eventually voted on our three core ideas: a phone app that would act as a ticket in place of traditional paper tickets for events; an alerts service for cultural updates; and a social network for dog walkers with route plotting functionality. We split into three teams and began work looking at the visual design, the UI, the scalability, logistics, the data sets necessary, and the platform it would be written in before getting to work. We had visits from Councillor Theo Blackwell and Dr Sue black from UCL. They were hugely impressed with the work achieved in one day. By the end of the day we had three almost entirely designed apps that were ready to be built: Scantic, Alertify!, and Dog Journeys.
Our second day was spent refining our ideas in terms of the pitch (what makes this idea unique, exciting and useful?) and in terms of the logistics of what needed to be done to make it a fully functioning app. We investigated what makes good and bad app design, and tried to keep these things in mind before launching headlong into the build. We spent much of the rest of the day searching for data sets and researching entirely new coding languages, just for the challenge of it! We had a lighting talk from Rasmus a computer programmer turned Medical Researcher for Microsoft which gave a great insight into the career paths open to our young coders.
On Wednesday we had the task of dealing with the nitty gritty: finding the data, working with the api, getting the keys to the api, synching up various platforms - sql databases, php forms, map data, event data, new release data. We began drawing support from the YRS community, other online forums and increasingly the group began to support each other so that our three teams became one large team working on three projects.
Thursday was all about preparing for Birmingham. In the morning each group gave a short presentation and took answers from the floor, a great learning experience for them all. Our apps were beginning to take shape and were no longer simply theoretical pages of code but were applications with a front end and design characteristics. We had a celebratory lunch in the summer sunshine before we focussed all our attention on wrapping things up for Birmingham. .
Friday meant getting to the Custard Factory and getting our apps ready for the presentation day. We arrived early and set up camp by the power sockets. We spent a few hours finishing off our apps, before a mountain of pizza turned up and the ‘fireside’ chats, so to speak, began. We heard some great talks by some really inspirational people, including 3D printing evangelist Leo Dearden, James Gill (co-founder of Go Sqaured), Mike Little (Co-founder of Wordpress) and TV presenter Dallas Campbell. The coding went on long into the night before finally we set our sleeping bags out for some well-earned rest.
The morning of Saturday, and the word on everyone’s lips was, who was the last one up still coding? Rumours of 6am finishes were abound, and it was hard to tell if the subdued atmosphere was due to grogginess of trepidation at the day to come. The morning heats soon got underway, with Saul, Louis and Fiona being the last three up. The competition in the heat alone was fierce, but all three coped really well with the pressure and the judges seemed impressed, asking thoughtful and incisive questions.
Our heat over it was time to file into the main hall for the announcement of the finalists, speeches from Emma Mulqueeny and to introduce the main judges: actress and model Lily Cole, Wolfram research founder Conrad Wolfram, designer and developer Aral Balkin, No.10 advisor Jonathan Luff, and senior director of event sponsor SAP Thomas Grassi.
We were delighted that Alertify!, designed by Jahnvi and Fiona made it into the final, and Fiona was given her chance to present again, this time to hundreds of people and the that special line-up of judges. Either side of her presentation there were fantastic presentations of a whole host of apps that covered everything from comparing MPs, ala Top Trumps, to finding the best area for you to live, based on the demographic data that matters to you.
It was an inspiring and motivating afternoon and a fantastic way to round off the week.
I wish I'd thought of that:
Best example of code:
Nice Day Out
Streets of London
Code a better country:
World Wide health
Why Waste A Vote
Best in show:
Way to go
Manchester image archive