Youngsters to showcase their digital creations at Coolest Projects

Event at RDS returns for its seventh year with 750 projects and 15,000 visitors expected

Aoibheann Mangan, a Coolest Projects veteran “ninja” from Mayo, at the event last year

Aoibheann Mangan, a Coolest Projects veteran “ninja” from Mayo, at the event last year

 

What happens when you encourage children to create things with technology? A visit to the annual Coolest Projects Awards will give you hundreds of answers to that question. Now in its seventh year, the day-long showcase will take place in the RDS in May this year, and as ever a big day is planned for participants and visitors.

Last year Coolest Projects hosted 560 projects, with more than 20 per cent of the exhibits from outside Ireland, and this year the organisers are hoping for about 750 projects, 1,000 participants and about 15,000 visitors from the general public.

Make and show

“It’s a showcase of digital making and creativity for young people from young people,” explains Giustina Mizzoni, executive director of the CoderDojo Foundation. CoderDojo is a global network of free computing clubs for young people aged seven to 17.

“[Coolest Projects] really is a mind-blowing experience of what children from CoderDojos all around the world have been working on,” she says.

“Our vision is for Coolest Projects to become the global initiative for young people to showcase making,” says Mizzoni. “Widening participation to people outside the CoderDojo community is a first step.”

For Mizzoni, one of the privileges of being involved with Coolest Projects is to see past participants come back year after year, either building on the same project or coming up with new ones.

“Part of what we are trying to do is inspire young people to go through a cycle of innovation, to present projects and iterate them,” she says. “And I love to see people coming back and bringing their projects and creativity to the next level.”

At age 11, Aoibheann Mangan from Mayo is a Coolest Projects veteran “ninja” or participant. She built her first project, a farm safety website for kids, with a friend when she was eight. The following year she and another friend entered a technologically souped-up bilingual version of the game Twister.

Last year, Mangan’s project sought to use technology to help children in hospitals. Using conductive threads, she augmented a doll so it could be used to press buttons for an animation to explain what is going to happen when you need an injection or an X-ray.

Amazing experience

Newly announced EU digital girl of the year, Mangan describes the Coolest Projects day itself as an amazing experience. “It’s great to meet and talk to lots of other ninjas and lots of adults come and ask you questions about your project,” she says.

“You get to speak to judges which is great practice for presenting projects at school and some of my favourite parts are the blue slushies at the Openet stage [where participants can pitch their ideas] and guessing what colour T-shirts you get each year.”

Mangan’s advice for anyone thinking of taking part is to just plough ahead. “I think if you have an idea get working on it, even if you don’t get it finished you can get some great ideas on how to finish your project. I’m still working on last year’s project and I won a prize for it last year,” she says.

“Everyone on the day is so nice and you get so many opportunities to try things out at the many stands and workshops that are there. My best advice is just do it.”

Coolest Projects 2018 takes place at RDS Simmonscourt, Dublin 4, on Saturday May 26th. For information and tickets see coolestprojects.org