New scheme gives Exeter’s young people the chance to turn into tech ninjas

Devon has been selected as one of two parts of the UK to host a new initiative which will see thousands of the county’s 87,000 7-17 year-olds get together to learn to code and create with technology in a fun creative environment in Devon and Torbay Libraries.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation, has partnered with Devon-based charity Libraries Unlimited to bring nine brand new CoderDojos to libraries across Devon and Torbay in the first phase of the project. Sessions will be held in libraries in Exeter, Bideford, Braunton, Crediton, Ottery St Mary, South Molton, Teignmouth, Paignton and Totnes. CoderDojos are free, vibrant, local clubs, powered by volunteers from the local community.

Coding is increasingly being considered as an essential skill – akin to literacy and numeracy and cited as the ‘new alphabet' by experts. Yet, figures show that 94% of UK employers believe that the tech industry is facing a digital skills gap and bodies like Tech City are calling for this to be urgently addressed. Data from CoderDojo shows there’s currently a North-South divide in availability of opportunities to learn these skills at an early age, with twice as many Dojos active in Scotland and the North of England as in Southern counties. The Glasgow area alone boasts twice as many clubs as much larger cities like London.

Volunteer “dream team” needed

A recruitment drive is now underway to recruit adult volunteers local to Exeter who can spare just a few hours a month at evenings or weekends to power the new CoderDojos. The charity is inviting everyone who is passionate about inspiring young people – including their own children – to be creative with technology to sign up now to be part of its team of volunteers. Volunteering with CoderDojo gives people the chance to develop teamwork and digital skills, meet new people and give back to their community.

Mark Calleja, who is leading the CoderDojo project in Exeter for the Raspberry Pi Foundation, said; “We want to replicate CoderDojo’s success in the North of the UK – where the enthusiasm of local volunteers and libraries has spurred growth – in Exeter.  

"Dojos are powered by volunteers, so we can’t do this without the help of local people. We’ve learnt from our experiences running these clubs around the world that there’s a volunteer dream team which involves a person with some programming experience volunteering alongside people who have experience helping inspire young people – like parents or grandparents – and people who love being creative in some capacity. There are opportunities for everyone – you don’t have to be a tech expert.

“By joining CoderDojo, volunteers become a crucial part of a global movement which aims to give all young people the opportunity to be creative, constructive and actively engaged with technology. You don’t have to teach or stand up at the front. Volunteers support smaller groups of young people with projects that they lead and are excited about.”

Krupali Bhagani, 29, who currently volunteers with CoderDojo, said: “I get a huge amount out of volunteering with CoderDojo. It’s easy to do and you can sign up to get involved online. Tools and materials are available to support volunteers, but there’s no set curriculum so me and the team of volunteers I’m part of are free to choose activities for our club to focus on and that we know will fire our ninjas’ (the young attendees’) imaginations. I began volunteering because I wanted to help make a difference and inspire the next generation of coders. I am passionate about inspiring girls to take on STEM subjects, as I didn’t have the same opportunities growing up. CoderDojo is a fantastic way to encourage young people to code in a safe environment with like-minded individuals and to have fun! It has personally also helped me gain confidence in speaking about my experiences and I now conduct various talks at schools and events.”

Colin Bray, Service Development Manager for Libraries Unlimited, the charity that runs Devon Libraries and Torbay Libraries said: “We’re really thrilled to be part of this initiative and to be able to deliver CoderDojo sessions in a number of our libraries across Devon and Torbay.

"We have had enormous success over the past few years with introducing coding clubs, digital making and creative workshops in our two FabLabs and providing more access for people of all ages to learn new digital skills.

"CoderDojo is offering opportunities for even more children to get to grips with the latest technology, and our libraries are the perfect environment for people to learn and exchange new skills and knowledge. We’re looking forward to welcoming those who come to learn and explore and volunteers who will be vital in supporting this initiative.”

Key roles in a CoderDojo volunteer Dream Team:

  • Can you code? People with tech skills are hugely valuable to making CoderDojos a success and play a key role – at least one person familiar with code is needed in each team of volunteers
  • Are you creative? CoderDojo is all about making, trying new things and coming up with new ideas – volunteers who work in like creating – whether at work, in their studies or as their hobby are much in demand
  • ·Are you confident with young people? Parents and grandparents make great volunteers – if you’ve supervised a playdate you’ve got just the experience needed. People who have experience helping young people develop in a professional or personal capacity are also highly sought after

To find out more and how to volunteer with CoderDojo visit https://coderdojo.com/volunteer-Devon/.