Kids cracking jobless code

The world’s youngest app developer was just another kid beside the dozens of Irish students teaching Europe to write code in a European Parliament meeting room.

Harry Moran, whose PizzaBot game was at number one in Apple’s app sales for three months when launched two years ago when he was 12, was writing code with other boys and girls for an app to drive a remote controlled toy-car and fly a mini-drone.

Their presence created a buzz around the huge parliament building where lots of people wanted to know what exactly this CoderDojo club was and what were these youngsters doing.

Those who dropped in saw kids as young as eight working with their laptops, writing computer code with the men who started it all, Corkonian James Whelton and Australian Bill Liao.

James found fame when he hacked the system underlying the iPod nano, but after winning an internet award was inundated with questions from other students at his school — and he and Bill came up with the idea of creating a coding club.

But it’s not just all fun and games. It’s filling the massive gap in the IT sector and providing many of the youngsters with a job for the future, explained Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly, who brought the group to Brussels.

In the more than 200 Coder Dojo clubs now set up in 23 countries around the world inside just two years, 15,000 kids are taught to collaborate, play well in a vibrant social, free environment with the highest ideals of equality and fairness, said Bill.

Gaming, the usual introduction to coding, tends to exclude those not interested in games, especially girls. So the open, relaxed approach tends to suit many more, including girls like Ruth Whelan, 12, from Leamlara, Co Cork, who joined in February and, while she found it difficult at first, has mastered HTML and Java. “It gets easier,” she said.

As well as professionals offering their time for free during the weekly club meetings, others with very little knowledge of the internet’s workings, like Elaine Dempsey, Harry’s mother, gives her time too.

Despite her being a little afraid of doing too much on computers herself, she sees herself akin to a scout leader in the club.

Mr Kelly, a former president of the GAA, who hosted the event, said the club uses the same principles as the the GAA. “They start young, are highly motivated and it is also organised outside of school with great volunteers,” he said.

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