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140 students compete in first 'Junior Hackathon'

02 June 2015

​Primary school children as young as seven will test their programming skills in a new competition at Hautlieu School on 6 June. In the first ever Junior Hackathon, sponsored by the Jersey branch of the British Computer Society, students will have just three hours to design and program a computer game using Microsoft’s Kodu Game Lab.

The event has proved so popular that 140-150 students from Years 4, 5 and 6 are taking part and others are on a waiting list for a place.

Ground breaking

The competition has been organised by the Primary Coding team at Hautlieu School, who have led a ground-breaking project to share secondary teachers’ expertise in IT with primary schools as a way of raising standards and sparking creativity in computing.

Stuart Hughes, Hautlieu Deputy Head and leader of the Primary Coding project, is keen to build on the increasing enthusiasm that is now being generated for computer science in Jersey schools: “This Junior Hackathon is the first of its kind, certainly in Jersey, possibly anywhere. It will be a great opportunity for children to show off their programming skills to a wider audience.

“The team are now working with 25 Jersey primary schools and the support that we have received from primary school colleagues has been outstanding. The children love the work that their primary teachers and the primary coding team are doing with them and have made exciting progress. We want to give them a chance to showcase their skills and are extremely grateful to the British Computer Society for supporting this event.”

Creativity and teamwork

The entries will be judged by local IT industry experts and speakers at TEDx St Helier, a conference taking place at Hautlieu on the same day. The winning team will need to have demonstrated creativity and teamwork as part of the challenge. Prizes will include laptops and tablets for the winning teams.

ESC Minister Deputy Rod Bryans said: “This is hard evidence of our new IT strategy making a real difference. The team at Hautlieu have created fresh thinking that helps our youngest students explore just how far they can go in IT and it proves that creativity is the key.”  

Kodu is a free programming tool from Microsoft, and is used in Jersey primary schools to develop pupils’ computational thinking through creating and coding games. Jason Wyatt from the primary coding team said: “Kodu allows for lots of creativity. Having seen the children develop their skills in school, I can’t wait to see what they will come up with for the Hackathon!”

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