Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mentoring @ CoderDojo

My name is Barry (or Baz to most people) and i’m a 25 year old Computer Systems graduate. I’ve been mentoring at the Limerick Dojo since I attended DojoCon last October.
I made my first webpage in 2001, it was a simple webpage with just a few html tags and probably said something like “Hello World” or “This is my first webpage” but I was excited as I rushed from notepad to Internet Explorer to click refresh and watch my webpage come to life. To me it was the coolest thing in the world. Here was something that I had created myself and I could put it on the internet! This was the start of my voyage into the world of coding. I had days when I was excited when my code compiled and days when I was pulling my hair out over a misplaced semi-colon.
Unfortunately I was never the most academically minded person and I did struggle through University. By the time I finally finished my degree in April 2012; my love of technology had waned. I wasn’t sure what I was doing anymore and had no enthusiasm to code.
But then in September of that year, I got talking to a 14 year old kid that I knew and (knowing I was a Computer guy) he started asking me questions about code.. He told me was part of something called CoderDojo and that every Saturday morning, he and some other teenagers were working on a C++ text based adventure game project called Zork (the bane of most UL Computer Students’ life in second year). I was intrigued. Like most mentors, I wished this had been around when I was a kid.
So I did a bit of searching online and found out there was a conference on in LIT. So I went along to find out more about CoderDojo and by the end of the day I volunteered to mentor. So next Saturday off I went to CoderDojo and was immediately tossed in with the “Advanced” group helping with C++. After a few minutes of observing and answering questions, I noticed one of the boys in the corner of the room throw his hands up in the air shouting “I did it, I did it”. And then I remembered why I started coding, the joy of realizing that I made the computer do that, the trill of watching your code compile and even the agony of the misplaced semi-colon.
Each week, I can’t wait for Saturday to come around again. Every week I love watching the kids overcoming their bugs and glitches and challenging themselves to improve their projects (be it a scratch game, a website or C++ application). And as the kids develop, so was I. I started going over my notes from college to keep up with the kids but soon I noticed I was learning for me. I was inspired by the kids to code again. I started making website and apps again. I started doing the CodeAcademy courses, watching the New Boston videos. I started reading techblogs again and going to community events. I’m now working as web developer and loving it.
Being a CoderDojo mentor has had such a positive effect on my life. If you have any time at all, I’d strongly recommend you get involved.