Young Rewired State 2013

After the success of our first year being a host centre for Young Rewired State we at One KX decided to ramp it up a little. So for 2013 we had nearly double the number of young people, 15, and a whole host of new mentors, including three from the Guardian’s development team. Back for his second year was Laurie Ainley, who’d been so invaluable the first year, plus we had Send Grid’s Martyn Davies, and Gareth Griffiths.

From the very first Monday morning it was clear we had a group of young people bursting with ideas. Drawn from across London and beyond, some had rolled out of bed and strolled down the Euston road to get to us each day, others were up at dawn catching trains and buses. Aged from 10 to 18, our 15 young people had a great deal of divergent life experiences and interests and harnessing all of these things was always going to be our main challenge.

By lunch time our one group of 15 had been divided into four teams ready to get cracking on their own chosen areas of interest. At the close of play on day one we had 4 embryonic apps and websites and hardware hacks:

Mortune – a music recommendation service made by Tele Adeyemi , Gianni Araujo, Kyra Mozley , Alex North, and Jack Spence.
TrendCast – a stock market predictor made by Jovan Edwards, Alex Everitt, Conrad Lambert, Daniel Mizrachi, and Daniel Rigg.
Picycle – a turn by turn navigation system for bicycles made by Louis Brent-Carpenter and Tom Hartley.
TwitHunt – a sentiment analysis tool for twitter made by Celine Dubois-Pelerin, Sebastian Klavinsky-Whiting and Daniella Todd.

Tuesday was spent trying to find solid enough data for their purposes, mocking up designs, and coding back ends. We had a visit from Rewired State’s very own Angie (our Saturday heat compere), plus Jack from Twilio came in, and the group practised their elevator pitches, taking questions and refining their ideas.
Wednesday was the day of many mentors, blessed as we were with three Guardian digital developers, Matt Andrews, Will Franklin, and Jenny Sivapalan, as well as Martyn Davies.

“The scope and ambitiousness of the projects was really impressive,” said Will. “All of the groups had come up with really interesting and complex problems to solve. They also seemed fairly coordinated within their teams and had split the work into well defined front- and back-ends.”

“I was happy to see many of the groups use APIs to access data and use GitHub and Google Drive to work collaboratively,” said Jenny. “We use these tools every day in the industry and to see students understand their relevance was a nice surprise.”

You can read more of their thoughts on the week at the Guardian Development Blog.

Wednesday was also Sebastian’s last day with us and as lead developer on his project there was a rush to get it working in time. Which incredibly he managed. 3 days in, TwitHunt was ready.
On Thursday we welcomed back Laurie as our sole mentor for the day, and it was time to get serious. TrendCast were still trying to secure the data it needed, Mortune had started the day confidently claiming to be done before realising they were anything but, and Picycle had morphed from an interesting idea into an engineering dilemna, “do we debug it before or after fastening it to the bike?”.

There were frantic web-chats with API holders in America, various pushes to GitHub, some last minute re-programming and of course plenty of soldering by team Picycle, but as the sun set on Thursday we had almost everything in place.

Friday saw us meet for a morning of tidying up loose ends at One KX before heading en masse up to the Custard Factory. Sadly we had to say goodbye to Tele, Gianni, Jovan, Daniella and Celine who couldn’t make it to Birmingham, but in all we were 9 young coders plus mentors Gareth and Laurie who had very kindly offered to join us.

The focus now was on getting our presentations ready for the Saturday heats, for which we were up in the morning slots. One KX centre lead Neal helped Louis and Tom put together a video of Picycle in action, so as to avoid any live demo problems.

The group did, however, take some time out to enjoy some of the fireside talks from the likes of Leo Dearden (3D printing) and most took the time to throw a few shapes to the Chip Tune musicians in Space 2.

On Saturday it was about getting down to business and impressing the judges with their 3 minute pitches. Each of our three presenting hacks (TrendCast, Picycle, and Mortune) got a great reception from the audience and provoked many questions from our judges.

Following the heats we had the afternoon to ourselves. Luckily it was a sunny afternoon so we played ping-pong and made final adjustments to websites and apps.

On Sunday the anticipation and tension was palpable among the group. The announcement of who was going through to the final had been held back until 10am and we were all nervously excited about the results.

Before long Izzy Lawrence, our event compere, announced the teams going through to the final. Sadly Trendcast didn’t make it through but Mortunes was chosen for Best Design and Picycle for Best in Show.

Both teams did a brilliant job of presenting to the final judges; Aral Balkan, Conrad Wolfram, Ashley Williams, and Thomas Grassl. There was then a short deliberation period (just enough time to scoff a hot dog) and then we were back in for the final results.

by Alexi Jackson

Photo by Alexi Jackson

And we were delighted to hear both Mortune and Picycle won their categories to be crowned Best Example of Design and Best in Show respectively.

YRS 2013 was a great week to be a part of, with a great group of young people – roll on YRS 2014!

You can check out their work, and that of the other winners by going to the YRS 2013 hackspace.

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