Unleashing Innovation, technology and fun for transition year students
This week, 40 transition year students unleashed their creativity by conceptualising, coding and evaluating technology solutions to real-world problems at the AIT Code4Fun (The Lockdown Edition!) coding camp.
Recreating the dynamic atmosphere of leading software companies, participants experienced the fun, creativity and innovation of a rapidly evolving sector.
This was the institute’s second time running the camp virtually for aspiring coders, which kicked off on Monday, 22 February and ran for one week.
Ahead of the week’s coding challenges, participating students from Tullamore College, Marist College, Our Ladies Bower, LWETB, Portlaoise CBS, Coláiste Mhuire (Ballygar), Roscommon CBS, Moate CS, and Roscommon Community College received goodie bags complete with pocket-sized computers, known as micro: bits.
The Code4Fun participants also received a Move Motor, a robotic buggy. To create a fully featured robot, they programmed their micro: bits, popped the coded device into their Move Motor buggy and off they went!
Once they built their automated robots, students battled it out in a virtual race-off as they attempted to navigate an obstacle course using their mini computers to control direction and speed. As one attendee quipped, “It’s like the Monte Carlo of robotic racing; it takes a bit of skill!”
Karol Fitzgerald, a lecturer in software engineering and applied mathematics at AIT, explained that Code4Fun was specifically designed to give students a taste of coding while building crucial problem solving and creative thinking skills.
“This is the second Code4Fun we’ve run virtually and demand for places is ever increasing. We use a problem-based approach to challenge and expand students’ knowledge, skills and competences,” he said.
“Over the course of the week, students learn about radio comms, distance sensing and coding. They also gain an understanding of the practical application of theory and critical skills in a collaborative environment.”
Dr Enda Fallon, Head of Department of Computer and Software Engineering at AIT, added that teamwork is a core component of the Code4Fun coding camp – a skill that is essential in both college and in industry.
“Code4Fun encourages students to work as a team when brainstorming, technical conceptualisation and planning. The goal is to get students to start thinking like software engineers and figure out solutions to problems through effective teamwork and communication,” he explained.
“Group work plays an important role at third level as it does in the context of an agile software development environment. Our software engineering courses teach these principles to ensure students are industry ready upon graduating. At Code4Fun, we mimic that environment to give students a flavour of what studying software development is really like in a fun, creative way.”
Anonymised feedback from the week-long coding camp was incredibly positive with students citing it as “fun”, “informational” and “insightful”.
One transition year student said that it had inspired them to pursue computer science in the Leaving Certificate and a degree in software thereafter, while another said that the virtual camp was a great way of meeting new people and practising their coding skills.
Summing up the experience, a student said, “Coding is definitely something I would love to continue in the future and [it's] all because of this camp.”
Athlone Institute of Technology is a research-led third-level institute with an applied, industry-focused offering, world-class research and development capabilities, and state-of-the-art facilities. Winner of The Sunday Times Institute of the Year 2020 and 2018, AIT is Ireland’s top-ranked institute of technology and is on track to open its doors as the country’s third technological university in September 2021. AIT tops Ireland’s official league table for research and was listed in U-Multirank’s Top 25 Performing Universities in the World for Interdisciplinary Research in 2018 and 2019. For information relating to the institute’s undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, visit www.ait.ie.